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Chicken

Chickens:  Spatchcock 101

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Chickens: Spatchcock 101

After a couple years hiatus from raising birds, we are back in the game and the first batch look amazing. We have done more general posts regarding chicken in the past , even one regarding the value and inputs of chicken (18.00 Chicken). This post will be focused entirely on the method of spatchcocking, a method of preparation of a whole chicken that enables you to cook a whole bird more evenly and in a shorter amount of time, 45 minutes or less in most cases.

When you prepare your bird in this way, you are essentially flattening out the bird to expose the legs to a higher heat. This is exactly what you want, as the legs will cook slightly faster than the breasts, allowing them to get up to the 165 range, while the breasts reach only about 135 - 140, resulting in juicy meat and crispier skin all the way around.

Pre-Salting

Before we begin cutting the bird— the secret to crispy skin begins 12 - 24 hours beforehand with pre-salting. Pre-salting a chicken allows the salt to penetrate entirely through the bird, ensuring that all your meat is evenly seasoned. It is worth noting, if you are going to add additional spices to the outside of the chicken, we generally just add it at the end, when we remove the bird from the fridge to come back up to room temperature before cooking. The reason for this is that salt is the only part of the seasoning rub that can truly move through the muscle of a bird, or any meat for that matter. Other spices do not penetrate more than the surface, if at all, though critically important to the flavor of your dish and meat.

In addition to evenly seasoning the meat, pre-salting also draws excess moisture out of the skin. This is exactly what you need and want for delicious, crispy skin. As you cook the bird, you’ll see it turn an enviable golden brown with an unmistakable crackle. You can thank us later.

The biggest question we get is when sharing the pre-salting step is, “ How much salt? “. The short answer, “More than you think. “. As you can see below , there is a generous amount of salt, rubbed into the bird and sprinkled into the cavity. After you pre-salt the bird, place it on a sheet pan with a rack so that the back skin doesn’t get soggy as the moisture is pulled out. Pre-salting can be done before or after the spatchcock step, but because we are limited on fridge, I salted the bird whole and broke it down before cooking, which you’ll see below.

I salted this whole, not yet cut, to save space in the fridge. If you have the space, you can split it before salting.

I salted this whole, not yet cut, to save space in the fridge. If you have the space, you can split it before salting.

Preparing The Bird

There are several ways to prepare a bird for spatchcock (most are quite similar), but this is our preferred method. You’ll simply need a pair of kitchen shears and a cutting board.

  1. Place the bird breast side down on the cutting board.

  2. Locate the spine of the bird and cut just to the right or left of the spine. You are separating the spine from the ribcage so that you can flatten the bird in step three. Here, some people cut down the other side of the back, removing the entire spine, using it to make stock or a sauce. It all depends on what we are making, whether we remove it. Below we just do a single side.

  3. Place your palms on both sides of cut and press outward spreading the bird until it’s flat. You may have to press harder on the wing joint.

And there you have it, 3 easy steps and your bird is ready to cook. Don’t worry if it’s not perfect the first few times. It’ll still taste great, and you can keep practicing until you get it right.

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We grilled our spatchcocked bird, but you can just as easily cook it in the oven. You would cook it breast side up the whole time at 450 degrees for approximately 40 minutes. You’re looking for the bird to reach around 140 at the coolest part of the breast, and 165 in the thigh. Check at 20 minutes, and then every 10 thereafter, to make sure you’re not burning the skin or overcooking the bird. If you don’t have one yet, stop what you’re doing right now and buy a good meat thermometer! Do it!

If you are cooking in an oven, we suggest cooking on a rack that will allow you to catch the fat that renders out of the bird as it cooks. These are not your supermarket birds and as you can see below, they are filled with bright yellow fat from all of the grass they consume and the local organic grain they eat. This is called schmaltz, or rendered chicken fat. That’s another post, though. The gist is, save it and use it to roast vegetables in, especially thinly sliced potatoes or potato pancakes.

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If grilling, your charcoal should be nicely ashed over so that you don’t have hot and cold spots. With the grill ready to go, we place the bird, breast side down over a medium heat. We want the breast to cook quickly at the top and begin to crisp the skin. We do not want the skin to burn, however, just crisp.

After your skin is slightly crisped, flip the bird over and cook skin side up. If you have a lid for your grill, close it and cook until the bird reaches the temperature of 140 in the coldest part of the breast and 165 in the thickest part of the thigh. Depending on your temperature, this should take approximately 35 - 40 minutes, assuming you’re running at a temperature of 450 degrees.

If you are grilling without a lid, and just on an open grate, you will still cook most of the way skin side up, but you’ll be finishing your bird skin side down for the last 5 minutes for a final crisp. The time will vary based on the hotness of your coals and distance to the grill surface, but the temperatures above are what you are shooting for. For more detailed cooking instructions for over coals, check out Kenji’s article here.

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When your bird has come to fully cooked temperature, rest the bird for approximately 10 - 15 minutes. You want all of those juices and fats to redistribute throughout the meat. If you don’t wait, the juices run back out and what makes the birds so juicy is lost. From this point forward, slice and enjoy how you wish. Just don’t forget to save the bones to use for the best chicken stock you’ll ever have! Throw them in a labeled ziplock freezer bag for a rainy day.

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Silkie Chickens & How To Cook Them

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Silkie Chickens & How To Cook Them

You read that right, how to cook Silkie chickens. While not traditionally a prized bird to eat here in the States, in Asia it's a delicacy that can be found throughout the likes of China, Vietnam and Thailand to name a few.  In the States, Silkies are kept as novelties [really they look like cotton balls with beaks], or as docile roosters, or hens known for their broody qualities.

This is traditionally a Chinese dish, with the chicken being coveted for its health benefits. It is rich in amino acids, vitamin B and protein [like any pastured animal turned into soup, but hey, ancient medicine amirite?]. It's most often found being distributed by street food vendors to locals, as well as the open-minded food driven tourists. It's sold in some Asian markets here in America and can be found throughout Asia for purchase fresh or in soup form.

© Creative Commons License

© Creative Commons License

The first thing you'll notice, undoubtably, is that the flesh, meat and bones are all a deep purple color, almost black after cooking. You'll also notice that these chickens are considerably smaller than the supermarket chickens we've all come to know commercially. It's for these reasons that Silkies make the perfect soup bird. The soup you'll be making is simple, in that there are no fancy techniques or special cutting. Even the ingredients are pretty easy to find, while you may have to do a little searching around your local Asian market. The end result, however, is far from simple. It's a rich, uniquely flavorful and unctuous dish glistening with chicken fat on the top and bright, fresh vegetables throughout. The colors set against the bold color of the chicken and you have something you, your family and most of your friends have likely never seen before. We're excited to be kicking off the 2017 CSA season with this offering and are excited to see pictures of what everyone makes.

Grace Fong’s Silkie Chicken Soup

© Lucky Peach

© Lucky Peach

 

 

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All Things Chicken

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All Things Chicken

So many folks have been waiting for chickens in the share, and this is the month! For those that are new to the CSA or to our poultry principles, we raise a few different kinds of birds that vary greatly by size and meat "color". We raise both the traditional "modern" style of chickens (Cornish cross), and more heritage-style birds. Cornish are the breast-heavy birds that grow fast, but have a much lighter-colored meat and more sweet flavor. The others, of varying breeds, have smaller breast sizes but do cook more evenly and have a larger amount of dark meat across the entire carcass. While both birds are tasty in their own right, they are quite different from each other.  Chickens, typically considered a boring bird and a vehicle for other flavors, have a significant amount of flavor when raised on pasture and with the high quality feed, as is our method of raising. The cooked meat often tends to be closer to pink, or even red, while also containing a high amount of yellow fat produced by the copious amounts of forage they consume. We wanted to cover both the various methods of cooking the birds, as well as the various methods that can be used to extend the harvest beyond a single meal.

Dry Brining

First, let's talk about how we get that perfect, crispy skin. One of the key secrets to crispy skin is a generous salting prior to grilling. This process is known as dry brining and is quickly becoming a common cooking prep method amongst all the recipes I'm seeing  around the interwebs. It's simple, effective and most of all, tasty. For my tastes, I generally pre-salt chickens 24-48 hrs before cooking, and 48-72 hrs for turkeys on Thanksgiving. The salt not only dries out the skin significantly, but penetrates throughout the bird for a more thorough salt distribution, i.e. flavor.

Quick and Dirty Guide to Brining

GRILLING WHOLE BIRDS

Grilling whole birds can be done one of two ways— trussed or spatchcock. A trussed bird is the standard way in which people have come to think about chickens. Tied up tight, stuffed with herbs and grilled on indirect heat. With this method you can also add a bit of smoke by adding some wood chips to your grill or smoker for added flavor. The perils of this are that you have a hard time keeping the various cuts cooking at the same rate.  Pick your poison with this method, so-to-speak... you can only cook one of them correctly. You'll either end up with perfect breasts and undercooked legs, or well-cooked legs and overcooked breasts. The reason for this is the cavity in the middle of the bird, which changes the rate of heat transfer to the breast area.

Trussing

Trussing is a controversial topic. Some people feel it's crucial. Some people feel it's unnecessary. I fall somewhere in the middle. I like it for a utilitarian and look purposes. It just flat our looks neat and more traditional, but it also keeps the cavity closed and all the goodness you stuff the cavity well secured in there. With respect to if it makes a difference in cooking, science says no.

Basic Roast Chicken

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Sprinkle the chicken inside and out with the salt and pepper and fold the wings akimbo to position them closer to the body. Place the chicken on its side in an oven-safe skillet, preferably cast-iron.
  2. Place the chicken in the skillet in the oven and cook for 20 minutes, then turn the chicken over and cook another 20 minutes. (By cooking the chicken on its sides, the juices stay in the breast and, since only the back is exposed, the chicken does not need constant basting.) Finally, turn the chicken onto its back, baste it with the cooking juices and continue to cook 10 minutes. It should be golden in color.
  3. When the chicken is cooked, cut it into pieces and serve, with the drippings on the side.

Jacque Pepin's Basic Roast Chicken

Spatchcock

If the cavity makes things tricky to keep even, how can we just remove that variable and ensure that everything is evenly cooked? Easy! Spatchcock the bird, essentially removing the backbone and flattening the bird so that the heat transfer and cooking times are far more even during cooking. Have no worries, you still get everyone's favorite, crispy, salty and herb-y chicken skin.  Don't be intimated if you have never butchered a chicken before, either.  Practice makes perfect.

© Serious Eats

© Serious Eats

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 large chicken, about 4 to 5 pounds
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme, rosemary, oregano, marjoram, savory, or a mix (optional)
  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and roughly chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 medium stalk celery, roughly chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup dry vermouth or sherry
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons juice from 1 lemon

DIRECTIONS

  1. Set oven rack to upper-middle position and preheat oven to 500°F. Using sharp kitchen shears, remove spine from chicken and cut spine into five to six 1-inch long pieces. Set spine aside. Flatten chicken by placing flat skin side up on cutting board and applying firm pressure to breast bone. Rub chicken on all surfaces with 1 tablespoon oil. Season generously with kosher salt and ground black pepper.
  2. Set wire rack in rimmed baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Position chicken so that breasts are aligned with center of baking sheet and legs are close to edge. Roast until thickest part of breast close to bone registers 150 degrees on an instant-read thermometer and joint between thighs and body registers at least 170°F, about 45 minutes, reducing the heat to 450°F if the chicken starts to darken too quickly.
  3. Meanwhile, heat remaining tablespoon oil in small saucepan over high heat until shimmering. Add chicken spine and cook, stirring frequently, until well browned, about 3 minutes. Add onion, carrot, and celery and cook, stirring frequently, until beginning to brown, about 3 minutes. Add bay leaf and deglaze with vermouth or sherry and 1 cup water, using wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits from bottom of pan. Reduce heat to maintain simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Strain out solids and return liquid to pan. Boil over medium-high heat until approximately 1/3 cup remains, about 7 minutes. Whisk in soy sauce, butter, and lemon juice off heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Remove chicken from oven, transfer to cutting board, tent loosely with foil, and allow to rest five minutes before carving. Serve with hot jus.

Butterflied Roasted Chicken with Quick Jus

8 OR 4 PIECING

One of the questions we get quite often is if we sell portioned-out birds. The short answer: No. The reason is simple— it costs an additional 50 cents per lb. straight from our processor to do this, and most people flatly do not want to pay the additional cost, which makes it harder for us to sell the pieced birds.  We also want to encourage people to cook more creatively with their birds. We want them to understand how to utilize the bird most effectively and how to take the bird from one or two meals to three or four. One of the ways to extend the bird's reach is by portioning out yourself, based on the cooking style you and your family prefer. In addition, you'll be able to save the bones, back and necks for stock, which you can add to the other bones after you're done cooking the rest of the bird. More on that later...

Carving

Alright, so the bird is done, cooked to a perfect 145-150 degrees internal. You've let it rest. The skin is browned and taut and the smell is taking over the room. Time to eat! Carving the bird is one of the areas that seems to intimidate folks more than most anything else. How do I portion it out? How do I get as much meat as possible? How do I cut it so it works for leftovers? All of those things and more are simple, provided you have 5 - 10 minutes and a nice, sharp knife. In case you can't tell, I'm a big fan of Jacques Pepin and the way in which he handles poultry (and most anything else culinary). In this video, you'll see how to expertly break down a bird after cooking, but also how easy it is with just a little practice.

Stock

This is where you make your money back— stock, or as the kids call it these days, "bone broth." Turning what would otherwise be wasted into gold, and additional meals. For us at HSF, we have a few freezer bags going at any given time full of bones, labeled by type. When the bag fills, we then use our remnant vegetables [which can also be frozen in a bag] and make a nice stock to use in a variety of dishes from chicken pot pie to rice, from soup to risotto. The applications are endless and just about any recipe that calls for water use stock instead. Why add water when you can add flavor, right?

One thing to consider about stock is, what kind of stock do you want?  Do you want a clear stock (consommé)? Do you want just a standard hearty stock? How about a white ramen broth? For the purposes of this blog post, lets focus on just a standard broth and maybe in another post we can get into the other kinds of broth/stock. 

Serious Eats - Rich, Flavorful, Easy Chicken Stock

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It's Officially Autumn

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It's Officially Autumn

This week has been a stern reminder that fall is here and winter is just around the corner. You can see your breathe and a sweatshirt is a requirement. Now that the days of shorts are just about over and harvest season is in sight, it's time to switch from outdoor recipes to bone sticking indoor cooking and that means braises and roasts. This share is a kickstart to fall with the inclusion of chicken and duck, both a great option for those stick-to-your-bones meals we mentioned.

Chicken in Milk

Copyright - http://www.thekitchn.com/
Copyright - http://www.thekitchn.com/

This is perhaps one of the best recipes for chicken I've ever made and, on top of that, it's dead simple. This recipe gives you an easy way to bring a roast chicken to the table, while also providing enough food to last a few days an extend the reach of the bird. If you're so inclined, we save the bones after eating and use them in stock, only furthering the use of the chicken and giving you more for the money.

Jamie Oliver's Chicken in Milk

Slow Roasted Duck

For us, duck is a beautiful meal in the fall. It's rich, it has crispy skin and the smell is just amazing. With the abundance of fat that is typically found on duck compared to chicken, roasting the duck with vegetables pretty much gives you a one-pot meal that's fit for a king. When it comes to how to cook duck, there is no one we trust more than Hank Shaw, who is not only a close friend, but also the author of Duck, Duck, Goose, veritable Bible for cooking any species of waterfowl you can think of. His recipe for slow roasted duck is a great place to start, and you won't go wrong.

Slow Roasted Duck

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September is National Fried Chicken Month

As you may have guessed from the title, we at Ham Sweet Farm have officially declared September, Fried Chicken Month. Now, no one should ever need an excuse to cook fried chicken, but this now makes you unpatriotic if you don't partake. So, why fried chicken you might ask? Why not? This month's chicken is the last batch of the season (we do still have a ton in the freezer) and represents the oldest birds we've processed for meat to date. They were approximately 16 weeks old and the breed was Speckled Sussex. They are a heritage breed that is incredibly active and were often found sprinting around the farm getting into trouble. All this activity, combined with their older age, came together to produce a supremely flavorful bird that we couldn't be happier with. These birds are smaller birds and as such make a fantastic fryer bird. You'll be getting the bird cut into 8 pieces, just how you need it for Fried Chicken Month.

Adobo Fried Chicken

 

Never made fried chicken? No problem, because we have the most amazing recipe for you. We tested this recipe a couple of weeks ago and everyone involved remarked that it was the best fried chicken they had ever had. I would have to agree, as the flavor and tenderness were superb. So, what's the secret? It's arguably sacrilegious, but the secret is par-cooking, or cooking until almost done at low temperature so that when you fry it, there is no worry of it being uncooked. The recipe comes from Ed Lee out of Kentucky and is easy peasy to follow.

Little pro tip to plus up the chicken. Heat some honey in a pan with a few berries of all spice or juniper until fragrant. When the chicken is plated and ready to serve, drizzle the honey over the top. You won't be disappointed.

In addition to the chicken, you'll have some great steaks and brats for the final months of grilling season, so make sure you enjoy the nice weather while it's still here.

Adobo Fried Chicken

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b4ZkeajFPig

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June is Chicken Time

Have you ever heard the phrase, "You're no spring chicken"? People talk often about "eating seasonally" and how important that is. The idea is typically applied to the world of produce, but people often forget about it in the context of meat. The reality is though, meat is as seasonal as any produce. This is the reason that when people ask for pork or chicken in the winter, if it's not in the freezer, we won't be able to provide it. We choose to raise and harvest our animals when they are in their optimal environments, that being pasture and/or the woods in the fall.

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Specifically though, lets talk about chicken. It's our belief that chickens need to be raised outside and eating bugs. When large enough to be less vulnerable to predators from the sky, they need to be able to range beyond their coop, consuming bugs, grass, worms, snakes or any other items they may find throughout their journeys. Allowing them to range like this and consume this variety ultimately makes for a much better tasting meat. There is more intramuscular fat, more blood movement and subsequently... and perhaps most obviously, more flavor. This is how this month's chicken, and all future chicken through the CSA will be raised, as well as your upcoming Thanksgiving turkey.

In addition to pasture-raising the birds, we're also doing something a bit unique for our members as well. Historically, most people are used to what are called Cornish Cross chickens. These are fast growing meat birds to be raised to slaughter weight in 6 - 8 weeks. The birds we typically raise, called Pioneers, are raised to slaughter weight in about 12 - 14 weeks. However, there are thousands of different chicken breeds, all with their own merits. We wanted to expose our CSA members to this variety, and have chosen to raise 4 different breeds of birds this year; Cornish Cross, Pioneers, Turkens and Speckled Sussex. Throughout the remainder of the year, you'll be able to taste the variety of different breeds and learn just how much variety and flavor there is in Chicken.

Enough with the rambling, lets get to the cooking. The first bird you'll be getting will be the Cornish X, and because of it's younger age, large breasts and mainly white meat, we're going to need to bring in some flavor. Obviously, smoke and char is an easy start for flavor, so we'll be cooking it on the grill in a style known as spatchcock. Spatchcock chicken is probably the best way to cook a chicken on a grill, and it also happens to be one of the quicker ways to do so. Essentially what you're going to do is split the bird in half and and cook it flat on the grill. This gives you great surface area for flavor and heat transfer. Breaking the bird in half sounds tricky, but it's quite easy— rather than me explain it, check out this video on how to do it with a turkey, but the same applies to any bird:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YhWf6RyT--I

Now, regardless of whether your bird is whole or split, everyone loves crispy skin and good flavor. The secret to great crispy skin is removing all the moisture you can from the skin before cooking.  Luckily, this is easy to do. 24 Hours before you plan to cook your bird, and after you've decided to split or keep your bird whole, generously salt the skin of the bird and place on a wire rack set in a cookie sheet, and place in your fridge for 24 hours. The salt will draw out all the moisture from the skin, and you'll notice that over time the skin will become dry and taut. This is exactly what you want.

Approximately 1 hour before you're ready to grill, remove your bird from the fridge so that it can come up to room temperature, and generously coat in ground fennel and sweet paprika. You can simply grind the spices together and generously coat the chicken in the spice seasoning on both sides. This is my go-to spicing for grilled chicken, especially when I'm cooking the bird spatchcock-style.

Once your grill is nice and hot, throw the bird, skin side down, directly over the heat and cook until nicely charred, usually about 12 - 15 minutes. Flip the bird and cook the remaining time with skin side up until the chicken hits an internal temp of 145. Once it hits temp, remove and let rest, as you would a steak, to allow juices to redistribute.  Cut and enjoy an amazing chicken.

One thing to note is that you may see a slight pink tone in the meat color. This is absolutely normal and typical in pasture-raised birds. Do not be put off by this and resist the temptation to keep cooking until it's gone. If you cook all the pink out, you'll be cooking the bird to 165-170 and it will most definitely become a great candidate for making stock or perhaps a new pair of shoes.

Save the bones in a ziplock freezer bag, until you're ready to make stock with them!  This is a great way to stretch your dollars, while also providing your family with excellent, hearty food.  We usually just start a gallon-sized bag, label it "chicken bones" [we always have separate bags going for chicken, pork, beef, duck and turkey bones, as you can just keep adding until they're full], and then keep it around until fall hits and we're ready to fire up the stove and make some stock.  Stock is very easy to make, good for you, and freezes well!

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A couple of other recipes for other items in your basket:

Brisket: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/texas-style-smoked-brisket-51175220

Ham Steak: https://grillinfools.com/blog/2012/12/18/grill-glazed-spiral-ham/

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