Heirloom Meals: Savoring Yesterday's Traditions Today

Monday February 08, 2010

Heirloom Breeds & Seeds:
Big Bird - Raising Meat Chickens to Eat!

Last summer I decided it was time to really know the farmer. And that farmer was me. (On a very small scale of course.) I wanted to raise our own meat chickens for a variety of reason. I wanted to be in control of everything they ate - all organic feed, fresh spring water, grass, worms and bugs!! I wanted them to be truly pasture-raised. And I wanted to see if I could eat those adorable day-old chicks once they were ready to be harvested. Well the answer to that question is a resounding YES. Those birds were bred to grow. We jokingly called them the oven-stuffer-roasters. They were eating machines and preferred to eat, then sit.

Once they were fully-grown we brought the birds to real farmer friends, Sean Stanton and his brother Jeremy to be "harvested."  Our birds weighed about 7-8 pounds and can feed a family of six, no problem!!

I just roasted one of the chickens for dinner on Saturday.  
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
3-4 sprigs of rosemary, minced
1-2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
Mix together to form a paste and infuse under the skin. Rub any leftover on the skin of the chicken. Cut up an onion and lemon and place in cavity. Bake in oven at 375 for an hour or so - I use an instant read thermometer to be certain it is done. I roasted sweet and russett potatoes and onions along side the chicken and served some steamed broccoli as well. A yummy and delightful meal.

What's best, however, is that I have gotten more than one meal out of the big bird! For lunch the next day, I chopped up the white meat and mixed it with some chopped shallots and a dab of mayo and served it on a baguette with a spinach salad.

And today, the soup was on!!  I put the carcass in a large stock pot with 8-10 organic carrots, chopped, 2-3 onions, chopped, celeriac, peeled and chopped, 2-3 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste and a can of diced Muir Glen tomatoes.

I added some cooked rice and it was the perfect hearty soup for a cold winter weeknight meal.  And best of all - there's plenty for lunch tomorrow.

Thank you BIG BIRD!!