Tag Archives: chicken

Breaking down a Local, Organic Chicken

26 Sep

Stephanie Backer-Bertsch, NOFA-NY Registration Coordinator, gives us a very real look at her way of celebrating local, organic poultry.  She learned how to butcher a chicken to be able to take full advantage of this well-raised and high-value food.  Note: pictures of raw chicken and meat are part of this post.  They are not bloody or particularly graphic, and show the animal being used in the most celebratory and respectful way possible.  However, we understand not everyone eats meat, and some may choose not to read on.  For those who do eat meat, learning to work with direct-from-farmer meats couldn’t be more in line with the Locavore Challenge.  Thus we present Stephanie’s adventure with the images.

Hello Locavores! In celebration of Locavore month, I decided to document breaking down a whole chicken for you all. I recently took a knife skills class at the New York Wine and Culinary Center in Canandaigua, NY and thought this would be a great opportunity to showcase what I had learned—and see whether or not I was paying attention.

It started with a bird. Not just any bird, mind you, but a gorgeous 4lb local AND organic chicken from Lakestone Family Farm located in Shortsville, NY. My plan was to break the chicken down into 8 pieces. I wasn’t sure yet what I wanted to do with the bird but the goal was to put the entire chicken to use. Since this was my first stint at this I thought it best to find an environment free of feline distraction—my parents’ house! I also secretly hoped my dad would act as a poultry advisor of some sort. The man has handled a chicken or two and is a culinary wizard in my book. Everything was coming together nicely.

Dad and me, blurry but appropriately fashioned for our chicken party.

Dad and me, blurry but appropriately fashioned for our chicken party. 

[Editor’s two cents: remember how the right tools and a special outfit make your locavore cooking adventures a bit more fun? Looks like Stephanie and her dad are on to that technique, too].

It’s important to have a good, sharp knife.  A chef’s knife is all you need, in fact.

Celebrating a beautiful bird!

Pausing in celebration of a beautiful bird!

First, I eyed the gams. I pulled the right drumstick away from the body to stretch the skin taught. There was a line of fat and I followed my knife along that keeping the incision shallow and only cutting through the skin.

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Tada!

Next, I twisted the leg in a downward motion away from the body to pop the ball joint out of the socket. I cut through the exposed joint with my sharp chef’s knife and, voila! I had the leg consisting of the drumstick and thigh! I repeated this on the other side.

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Next, I removed the backside of the bird, or the spine, by positioning the chicken vertically with the butt up. I ran the knife through the skin and cartilage between the breasts and the backside of the chicken. Cutting through the ribs proved to be a bit tricky but if you have a good sharp knife and brute strength (which it seems I do), it’s no biggie. In the spirit of not wasting, and thus capitalizing on each way the bird could feed me, I saved the backbone and made a nice stock for some homemade chicken soup down the road.  If I weren’t butchering the bird myself, think of what deliciousness I’d be missing out on!

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Splitting the breast was up next. I separated the breasts by cutting through the center and cracking the sternum with my knife. Now I had 4 very handsome cuts before me.  Amid the chicken mess (albeit an organic and local chicken mess) that was now taking over the kitchen and my electronics, I was really enjoying myself!

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To separate the chicken and thigh, I found the ball joint and cut through it for two pieces of bird yielding dark meat (my favorite!)

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I separated the wings from the breast next. Again, cutting through a joint was involved but I was so in the zone at this point I’m not sure I remember the details! The process became very intuitive as I became more intimate with the chicken’s anatomy.

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While I fixated on my butchering process my dad whisked away the chicken’s heart and liver for his breakfast the following day. He also decided we would make Chicken Fricassee featuring all the broken down parts—a favorite of my childhood. Yum! [Try this very locavore-adaptable version of a Chicken Fricassee, if you’re game.]

My dad browning the meat that had been seasoned and lightly dusted with flour!

My dad browning the meat that had been seasoned and lightly dusted with flour!

The final result:

 

Holy deliciousness!

Holy deliciousness!

In the end, I felt very accomplished to have tackled my chicken butchering goal and very grateful my Locavore challenge resulted in a fantastic meal with my family.

 

I did it all on my own!

I did it all on my own!

Thanks so much for sharing, Stephanie!  For a few more meat-prep how-to’s, we recommend the following books:

Good Meat by Deborah Krasner

Long Way on a Little and Grassfed Gourmet by Shannon Hayes

A Month of Locavore-Positive Action!

1 Sep

Today is day one of this year’s NOFA-NY Locavore Challenge!  It seemed appropriate to write our first long read on the topic of the choice to have a whole (long) month, again, to focus on supporting local and organic farms through our food, activity, and advocacy choices.  We at NOFA-NY are not expecting that everyone comes to the Locavore idea from the same experience, or even with as much enthusiasm as we do.  On the other hand, we don’t use the word “challenge” to make you worried that each decision will be hard.  “Locavore Focus Month” or “Locavore Encouragement Month” just don’t have that same ring and excitement to them as “Locavore Challenge.”

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Really, “challenge” is a verb here.  We’re challenging you to meet September’s potential by seeing your decisions from a Locavore perspective.  You can choose your own adventure, which is made up of many moments and decisions.    How many of them can you make into Locavore-positive moments?  When you add up your Locavore-positive decisions at the end of the month, you may even realize that it would have seemed a monumental task to take on if you’d made a to-do list at the outset.  It’s good to have your own rules, guidelines, and a to-try list.  That’s definitely what this month is for… motivating yourself  to support local, organic and farmer’s-pledge farms, your local economy, and perhaps your health (assuming you don’t use the Locavore prerogative to subsist on local cheeses, ice cream and wine for all of September).

grain on sieveLet’s talk about the opportunities a month-long challenge presents in terms of the small decisions we each make regularly.  Eating breakfast (and yes you should, especially with so many local goodies for this mealtime), think about what goes into it.  Each component presents a decision.  What do you normally eat, and what could you trade up for a locally-produced food?  No, don’t over-think it.  But think about it a little bit.  You can put brown sugar (not local) or maple syrup (the local stuff) on your (maybe local) bowl of oats or cooked-grain cereal.  And while you’re considering breakfast cereals, have you ever tried cooked and cooled wheat berries as a healthy breakfast cereal? They’ll never get soggy like dry cereals, and you can keep plenty of cooked grain on hand for a fast morning breakfast.  Look for locally-grown wheat, spelt, rye grains (called berries) or Freekeh (which is a roasted green spelt grain with a nutty and smoky flavor–great for bacon lovers).  Your choice, but we recommend you try it as part of the challenge.  You could eat yogurt produced by a local food artisan or a farmer themselves, or you could eat local HOMEMADE yogurt, and you could add in ONLY locally-grown fruits, put some local honey on top, and chew it all slowly while thinking appreciative thoughts about the farmers who moved fencing every 12 hours to keep the cows on fresh grass, and then who milked the cows, kept the milk clean and sanitary through its journey from cow to yogurt making to market to your breakfast bowl (wait, is that breakfast bowl made by a local potter? Okay, just kidding).

Spotted at NOFA-NY HQ: wheat berries, homemade yogurt and local fruit for an on-the-go breakfast.

Spotted at NOFA-NY HQ: wheat berries, homemade yogurt and local fruit for an on-the-go breakfast.

What other decision points are there?  Too many to name!  You probably don’t eat in the house every day.  What food do you take with you to your sit-down job?  That’s a decision and you can challenge yourself to remember to pack a local-foods-focused meal each day.  Maybe your decision is to cook extra of that recipe that uses local chicken, and you bring that for part of your lunch one or two days.  Maybe that local organic chicken is a bit out of your price range for a double recipe, so you decide that those local organic potatoes and carrots, so flavorful at the end of September, would bulk up that dish and give you enough for leftovers.  And maybe your hand hovers around your go-to-makes-everything-taste-better bottled spice blend, and then you remember you impulse-bought a blend of dried herbs from that sweet hippie at the farmers market two weeks ago.  In September, go for the local decision.

Red Jacket Orchards in Geneva, NY

Red Jacket Orchards in Geneva, NY

You just packed a whole lot of Locavore-positive decisions into one meal, one moment, and you build some great habits.  You can do that, and you can do more!  You have a whole month!  What do you normally take with you when you’ve overslept and feel a time crunch getting where you need to go?  Make a local-positive choice in September.  Locally-grown apples (maybe you picked them yourself) are just as portable as a banana.  Bananas don’t grow in New York; apples definitely do.  Why only grab one apple from your stockpile?  Take several, and keep them at work, and then that one decision will have a multiplier effect.  No need to scrounge up a granola bar or a bag of chips when you have an apple at arm’s length!  You’ll slowly train yourself to take the small steps that allow you to make the good decisions, and it really starts with simply examining some of your actions and eating decisions.

Some of our decisions fall into that presence-of-mind category and aren’t entirely visible.  These are decisions that make the food you’re eating matter a bit more, as you actually pay attention to it.  What’s the point of a great locally-sourced meal that you kind of ignore while you watch TV?  You can decide to turn off the technology that generally accompanies your morning, just try it on Tuesdays to start (turn-off Tuesdays, as a way to remember), and focus in on how thankful you are for those who crouched over the melon vines, and then found the energy to keep each melon from bursting (they’re very fragile when they’re picked ripe) in the back of a truck on the way to your farmers market.  You can even let yourself feel a little smug for passing over that plastic clamshell package of nonlocal berries in favor of that melon, even though you really wanted to make the delicious-looking strawberry shortcake recipe trending on Pinterest (don’t those pinners know what’s in season?).

A lot else, besides eating, happens in any given month, of course!  It’s easy to get Locavore-foodie fatigue, or feel like all you’re talking about is food.  When that happens, maybe you shift focus to a Locavore experience, to researching ways you can conserve farmland in New York, or to calling up a friend you haven’t seen in a while to go apple picking (the movies and coffee dates are for non-September months; picking fruit or strolling a local-focused event are September outings).  You’ve decided to do something Locavore-positive with that time, so nice work!  Soon enough (maybe not that same day), you’ll be excited to tackle that recipe substitution project to convert Aunt Sally’s famous chicken pot pie recipe into a local-foods-heavy family favorite, because your earlier activities remind you how food choices are facilitated by ALL the ways you support local food and farming.  And that connection lets you appreciate that you (okay, begrudgingly, because you wanted to watch TV) spent a drizzly, humid morning with your kids, trying to keep their hands from sneaking those berries at the farm stand (scolding them but silently grateful they’re developing a taste for fruit and not artificial flavors) while you loaded up on sweet corn that you’d eventually teach your berry-stained-fingered kids to shuck in the front yard.  If you’re making Locavore-positive decisions, and creating experiences around them, you’re doing the Locavore Challenge!

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Don’t forget to share with us–each Sunday we plan to highlight interesting comments, tweets, Facebook posts and photos from the previous week.  Yes, you also make decisions about what you share, and we challenge you to spread the Locavore love whenever you can!

Delicious Chicken!

9 Sep

From Matt Robinson.

This week, Clare and I are dining in style on Ever Green Farm chicken. Joe and Joeley, the owners of Ever Green, were kind enough to host a NOFA-NY field day last month, and man was it ever great- Hands-On On-Farm Poultry Processing. Joe and Joeley  walked us through the slaughter process step by step, talked about regulations and sanitation, and then very patiently guided each attendee through the process of slaughtering their own chicken. Everyone who attended went home with a chicken that they slaughtered themselves. For those of you not familiar with Ever Green, they’re in Rock Stream, NY (in the Finger Lakes), and you can find them at the Ithaca Farmers Market.

On Monday, we roasted our chicken on a bed of potatoes, carrots, leeks, and garlic, with a little finger lakes white wine. Local honey and some delicious Engelbert Farms butter helped the skin crisp up nicely. I butterflied the bird to help it cook a little quicker, and started it covered with foil at about 425 for 20 minutes. Turned the oven down to 350, and let it go for another 80 minutes or so, checking nervously every once in a while to see if it was done. I’ve roasted maybe 3 chickens in my life, which means that whenever I attempt this, it’s a nerve-racking experience. Happy to say that this one turned out well.

Today may be the last lunch we get out of this meal, but then we’re looking at some fantastic chicken stock for soup this weekend. Just in time for the cooler weather!

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