Tag Archives: meat

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

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Local Organic Passover and Easter

24 Mar

Feast days are great days to show your friends and family how simply you can incorporate local, seasonal and organic foods into your routine (and not-so-routine) eating.  If you aren’t so confident, especially in these winter-into-spring days, here’s some inspiration for your Passover and Holy Week gatherings.

Eggs and certain meats play heavily into a lot of these celebrations.  Luckily for you and your farmer, eggs are often available (thanks to the hens) year round, and provide some valuable income for those farmers who don’t have an abundance of vegetable and fruit crops.  For this and plenty of other reasons (note: we can’t verify how scientific the linked studies are, but seem to be well-accepted; we do notice a real taste and quality difference at the table, though), we urge you to buy your eggs from a farmer!  With eggs, you can make food for your suddenly-vegetarian cousin, nephew, whomever.  These dishes help stretch out your food dollar as well.  Try your hand at a frittata, a quiche, a savory bread pudding, or a Spanish tortilla filled with NY cheese, herbs, onion, any spring greens you’re fortunate to find locally-grown, and of course our workhorse, the potato.  And as for the meat (and dairy if you’re using it this holiday), we urge you to research how hormones and pesticides accumulate in animal tissues.  When making something like schmaltz, do you want to be concentrating untold contaminants into this rendered fat?  Besides, that chicken probably cost you a bit more than the supermarket chicken, don’t let the extra bits go to waste, make that schmaltz! The simple recipe for rendered chicken fat (schmaltz) from an NPR article tells you all you need to know.  How proud would you be if your schmaltz was local and organic schmaltz?

Spring means still-chilly weather and a feeling like we need to take a little of the heaviness out of our diet.  Perfect for broth-y spring soups that could care less that the long-stored veggies look a little less pristine and plump these days.  The classic Matzoh ball soup is locavore makeover-ready.  Find as many of the ingredients local and organic, (chicken, garlic, herbs, carrots, perhaps some other veggies too) and you’ve done a great thing without overriding your traditions.  If you’re not tied to a particular holiday soup, work with any local vegetables you can find, add plenty of chopped or crushed herbs for brightness, and you’re mostly there!  Dice up that last butternut squash or bag of potatoes and add them into the soup pot for a dainty treatment of these hefty winter staple vegetables.

Fresh recipes aside, did you preserve anything this summer or fall?  If spring holidays aren’t the right time to open those jars, is there any hope for this world?  Even I, stingy and apocalypse-ready, will be opening some jars preserves and pickles at this time of year, and cooking down the last of the frozen strawberries into something heavenly.

Honey also plays into a lot of our recipes this time of year.  While it’s definitely too cold for any new honey, there’s often a farmer or beekeeper who still has some honey from the last year.  Just like eggs, this is a crucial economic helper for the farmer in this season of transition from storage foods to fresh growth.  Of course, there are plenty of food-safety and -quality issues that would also drive you to find local honey (not to mention eggs and meats).  Can you make your charoset with local apples and honey?  We bet you can!

If you’re more flexible on your celebration dishes, may we suggest:

Carrot and beet salad with honey dressing–more beautiful than easter eggs!

Roasted carrots (instead of baby carrots in the linked recipe, just cut down regular carrots into uniform sticks or spears); find some local butter and herbs to enhance!

Dilled potato gratin (ok, the opposite of the spring broth soup idea, but filling for a crowd!)

Egg bread can use local flour and eggs (I just realized it may seem strange that I’m used to eating a Jewish traditional celebration bread for celebrations during the time of year when my Jewish friends can’t eat flour…sorry guys!)

NY wines!  Don’t forget (if you don’t need Kosher for Passover wine) to drink local if you drink with your celebrations.

Organic Matzoh? Easter chocolate/candy?  Probably can’t get these locally, but you KNOW there are fair-trade, organic options that are mighty tasty, right?  Check a natural foods store for that sort of thing.

 

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