This time of year can be a particular challenge for eating locally in this part of the world. The stores from last year’s harvest are dwindling and we can watch this year’s seedlings come up and dream of their bounty – which is not yet available. This has led to us digging into our freezer for – meat. We are not particularly carnivores, we really do eat a largely plant-based diet. Not being able to eat gluten, dairy, soy or eggs between the two of us has led us to frequently having meat be a part of our meals. I’ll set any political, social, environmental or moral rants aside at this time and embrace the abundance of really great local meat available here on the Palouse. I’ve already talked about the great ham from Omache Farm and delicious beef available from several different farmers, but I haven’t yet talked about chicken.
We were lucky enough to stumble upon the sign-up sheet, presided over by the lovely AlyssaMarie Link last winter of Link’d Hearts Ranch’s pasture-raised chicken. After claiming two chickens for each of the proposed summer slaughters, we dutifully showed up throughout the summer on the assigned Friday evenings and picked up our really fresh chickens and paid for them, based on weight, at that time. Those who are used to buying the big packs of flavorless chicken breasts at Big-Box-Store would likely balk at what we paid for each of these chickens – at $3.97/lb for birds that usually weighed in about 5 lbs, they don’t seem like a good choice for a loca-vore on a budget. However, whenever we eat them, we end up getting quite a few meals out of them. Meaning that I often use it at the core of “Sunday dinner through the week.”
(PS- if you are interested, I think they still have a few more spots open for their summer chickens, I think they recently got their first batch of chicks!)
And… there are so many reasons to buy these instead of “other chicken.” Studies are increasing showing the health benefit of the healthy fat ratio found in pasture-raised meats, they are humanely raised and if for no other reason than that they are unbelievably flavorful and the Link family is great!
Roasting the chicken is where I usually start with a whole bird and it’s pretty easy even if you’ve never done it:
Super-Simple Roast Chicken
Time: 1:20 mostly oven time Serves: 8+ Budget Value Rating: $$$/8=3 (increases with higher number of servings and broth!)
A note on Handling – food safety is a pretty big component of our industrial food system these days, I’m not going to get into all of that right now. Nevertheless, in the home kitchen, it is generally a good idea to use some “best practices” when handling raw chicken. Some guidelines: 1) Don’t wash it -it splashes bacteria all over your kitchen 2) avoid cross-contamination- chop your veggies first or use a different set-up, this includes not cross contaminating with marinades 3) Storage – bottom shelf of the fridge to avoid drips 4) Make sure it is cooked all the way – at the thickest part of the carcass, near the thigh, especially. A meat thermometer can help with this. 5) “When in doubt, throw it out” – as much as I hate food waste, this is a pretty good rule to keep in mind. After being in Peace Corps, I can promise that you don’t want food poisoning! 6) Clean-up really well afterward- hot, soapy water and your favorite disinfectant
Now that we’re all good on those points – let’s get cooking!
I’ll give a list of basic ingredients that can be embellished with other options listed, or anything you imagine!
1 whole chicken
5 cloves of garlic – smashed with the side of a knife
1/2 celery (like the celery root I got from Deep Roots Farm last month) or dehydrated from last summer
Oil (olive, canola, safflower, camelina…)
*Additional options – red pepper, mushrooms, carrots, potatoes, rosemary
Dice the onion into larger pieces and put about half of them into the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish along with 2-3 of the garlic cloves and put the chicken breast-side up on top of them
Now for the fun part – put the rest of the onion and garlic and celery (and rosemary) into “the cavity” of the chicken, I had Shane help with this part
Mist/brush the top of the (breast-side up) chicken with oil, ground pepper and dried herbs/celery – whatever you like
Then, pop into the oven at 350 for about an hour, (you can make a “tent” with aluminum foil if you want to keep the moisture in for the first part of cooking, but remove it after about 30 minutes for proper crispiness of the outside) Many people like to marinade/baste the chicken as well, I tend to keep things simple and not do it and everything seems to work out
Check on it at about 45 minutes, depending on your oven – it is done when the meat thermometer reads 165
This is delicious served with vegetables roasted along with it, and/or a salad and bread – whatever you like!
I love to use the roast chicken as a component of quick and easy lunches and dinners for the week including:
Sandwiches, salad, stir-fry, pasta, spring-rolls or just straight-up chicken dinner with sides
Often- the chicken will no longer be the “main event” but will be paired with lots of veggies or even legumes, this helps it go a bit farther through the week
Once we’ve eaten most of the meat, I throw the rest with about 10 cups of water into my crockpot, letting it simmer on low all day (adding a bay leaf here makes it extra yummy!) Then I pick the bones out and use/freeze the unbeatably delicious and rich homemade chicken broth as a base for soup or anything else that benefits from the addition of chicken broth
Using the chicken in this way helps it meet our budgetary, dietary and convenience needs, despite the initial cost. As they say: “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without”
What do you like to do with whole chicken? Do you have any great ideas to share about how to make meals with the leftovers? Who else is raising pasture-raised poultry on the Palouse? Please join the community and comment below!
With Gratitude- especially to Shane McFarland for always helping to clean up the mess I make!