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Sunday, May 27, 2012

Making the Most of Fresh, Local Chicken

The big news this week is that we can now buy fresh, local chicken at the Umpqua Valley Farmers Market.  Beth and Kerry Olson of B & K Farms in Sutherlin just had the final inspection on their new processing facility which allows them to process up to 20,000 birds a year.  They had previously been limited to 1000.

They plan to be at the market every Saturday with fresh, whole chickens for sale.  What they don't sell that day will be frozen and available for future purchase.  They also sell eggs.

Some of the chickens Kerry showed me today were in the 6 to 7 pound range and if I were going to roast a chicken for Sunday dinner I would have bought the largest one he had.  However, it's my mom's turn to do Sunday dinner this week, so I opted for a slightly smaller bird.  At $3/pound, it cost me $14.95.  Worth every penny for a hormone, antibiotic and chemical-free pastured-raised chicken that was carefully slaughtered--no need for the kind of disinfectant bath that most commercial birds are required to have.  (Click here for an eye-opening article about drugs and chemicals in factory-farmed chicken.)

I brought an insulated bag to the market with me to keep the chicken cold and to separate it from my lettuce, spinach, arugula, fresh (uncured) garlic, spring onions, and Cabruca chocolates.  When I got home, instead of just putting the whole chicken in the freezer, which seriously limits one's options in the future, I took the time to cut it up first.  (If you're rusty, check out this video tutorial on cutting up a chicken.)

We never eat the skin so I removed that.   I wrapped the two boneless, skinless chicken breasts individually for the freezer.  Each breast weighed over 10 ounces!  One breast that size will feed the three of us in a stir fry, cut into thin strips for oven-fried chicken fingers, or poached and diced for a casserole.   I packaged the two thighs and drumsticks together for another meal.  I put the neck, back, wings, and any meat scraps into a saucepan, covered them with water, added some sea salt and freshly ground pepper and set it to simmering on the back burner.

(At this point, after cleaning up and disinfecting the counters and cutting board, I left the house for several hours while the rest of my family made and bottled a huge batch of rootbeer.)

When I returned, I strained the stock and put it back on the stove over a higher flame to concentrate it while I picked every bit of meat off of the bones.  I ended up with 2 cups of cooked chicken, which I diced and mixed with mayonnaise salt, pepper, finely minced onion and snipped tarragon from my garden.  (Someday I will try making my own tarragon mayonnaise.)  I didn't have any celery or I would have added that too, but just before serving I will add some toasted pecans for texture and then make sandwiches or have a scoop atop of a bed of lettuce.  I then transferred the stock to a bowl and put it in the frig to cool overnight.  Once the fat has hardened on top it will be easy to remove and I can freeze the stock.

All in all, a pretty economical way to eat.  For more ideas on making the most of a whole chicken take a look at my Thrifty Chicken post from a few years ago.

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