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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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Summer is here and that means grilling

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Summer is here and that means grilling

FINALLY! After a dreary spring and mild winter where mud was more prevalent that the shine of the sun. No need to dwell though, as summer is here now and it's time to fill the air with the scents of BBQ and grilled meat [and some veggies too— life is all about balance]. For our CSA members, June is the month of the grill and you'll have a great variety to play with, but we wanted to make sure you had a few ways to step up your grilling game and try some new things.

Burgers

Burgers don't just have to be patties with cheese on top [not that there's anything wrong with that!]. They can be great vehicles of flavor when different methods of cooking and seasoning are involved. Here are three tips to get you started, but feel free to add more to the comments section.

Fish Sauce

Are you crazy? Generally, the answer is yes, but in this particular case, no. Fish sauce is an umami bomb and when combined with smoke and char, it's pretty much the perfect bite. You can use any fish sauce, really, but if you're more adventurous, head to your nearest Asian market and look for some of the more obscure ones with the entire small fish packed in. You won't be disappointed. Simply drizzle some atop the burger and sit back and enjoy the umami explosion.

Clinching

  • Clinching is a method of cooking that trades the ease of a grill for the flavor of the coals. If you ever look at the traditional Argentinian-style cooking, this is a popular method of cooking all kinds of meat. What you want to do is create a nice hot bed of coals and then cook the meat directly on them. While I could go into detail explaining, this video by Adam Perry Lang describes it better than I can: http://www.weightwatchers.com/util/art/index_art.aspx?tabnum=1&art_id=214431&sc=3022   [ editors note: We are not advocates, nor haters, of Weight Watchers. We're simply using their video explain our suggestions.]

Low Temp

Low temp cooking is a new(ish) method that involves cooking meat or vegetables in water for a period of time that ensures even cooking throughout, without the risk of over- or under-done. This method allows you to take the burger and sear it hard in a hot pan or hot grill, or even with the above clinching method, and still avoid undercooking the meat. This will give you a beautiful blend of even doneness with a hard sear on the outside. Amazing flavor and texture is the result and more information on the method can be found here: ( http://anovaculinary.com/what-is-sous-vide/ ).

source:  Wikipedia  

source: Wikipedia 

 

Brats and Other Sausages

Low Heat

One of the common "issues" with cooking brats and sausages on the grill is that they break and/or split. More often than not, this is because they are placed under an extremely high heat, and the high temps cause the casing to contract to quickly and rip open. Some people are completely ok with the ripping, and if you're from the East Coast, you're well aware of "rippers" or deep-fried cased meats that "rip" open and are crispy and charred and delicious. For those that are not into the ripped casing, what you want to do is cook your meats on a low, indirect heat. A medium heat is likely fine as well, but you'll need to play around with your threshold based on the cased products you have. What you're looking for is a fully cooked-through brat that hasn't ripped. The cook time obviously varies by temperature of cooking environment, but indirect heat will give you a nice crisp, snappy casing and sausage.

Cook and Split

Growing up on the East Coast, we cooked our sausages a bit different than is typical here in Michigan, and quite frankly, most of the country. What we ended up doing was cooking our sausages half way through and then splitting them, or butterflying them, down the middle. From here you had a partially cooked and bound sausage that had these "rough" edges that were primed to take on a beautiful crispy char. So, here's how we do it. We cook the sausage over high heat for about 2 - 3 minutes per side. This allows the meat to set and bind up into something you can split without it becoming a Sloppy Joe-style mess. Once you've cooked both sides, remove from heat and slice down the middle, taking care not to slice through the other side of the casing, so that it butterflies out. At this point, flip and cook through over high heat on the exposed, split sides. This will yield a crispy and charred, albeit well done, brat that will be reminiscent of the East Coast boardwalk sausages.

Low Temp and Clinching

Low temp again. Yes, as you might guess, it's the same method as mentioned above and the benefits are exactly the same. By low temp cooking the sausages, you're cooking through, evenly, the cased meat, ensuring that the end product is an even doneness. By starting the cooking process this way, it opens up a couple of different options for finishing the cooking, one of which is any high heat method. Because you've cooked, and set, the sausages during low temp cooking, you can now sear and char over a very high heat without risk of the casing breaking into an unrecoverable mess. My preferred method of post-low temp cooking is clinching. As mentioned above, you'll be cooking directly on the cherry coals and utilizing the high heat to sear in flavor via char and smoke. With sausages, this is no different. Over hot, cherry, coals, place the low temp cooked sausage onto the coals and sear, hard, for one to one and half minutes per side. Remove from the coals, let rest and enjoy the most amazing sausage you've ever had.

All in all, cooking on the grill isn't rocket science. It is the most primitive and simplistic, of cooking methods. Wood/Coals, fire and food. It's been around since the dawn of time and our job as cooks is to leverage its inherent possibilities. Smoke, char and ash are all the elements that come to the table when cooking over fire. Hopefully we've given you some tips to take the ordinary into the extraordinary. Impress your friends with your new techniques and change the perception of what a "simple burger" or "Brat on a roll" can be.

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Where's The Beef?

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Where's The Beef?

We feel strongly that sustainable agriculture is not about trying to have all things happening on one farm, but rather, that you collaborate with fellow farmers to bring the best products to the community together. Since the start of the CSA, we've been partnering with farmers to supply beef and even some pork when needed, Schneider Organic Farm and Grandpa's Best Pork, respectively. This year, we're continuing to grow our offering through farmer partnerships for beef and lamb, and are happy to bring on Bloom Beef as another beef option for our CSA Members and farm customers. 

Why Partner With Another Beef Producer?

Why add another beef producer you might ask? The answer is simple— variety and community support. Scott Bloom is a 3rd generation farmer who's been working on developing his beef herd, through extensive bloodline crossing, for over 30 years, and has developed some of the finest beef we've ever had. He's 10 miles away, as the crow flies, and one of the most open and giving farmers we've met to date.

One of our tenets at Ham Sweet Farm is to not only provide high-quality and amazing tasting product, but to also educate our CSA Members/Customers and expose them to product variations. As part of that education and exposure, we feel it's important to bring multiple styles of beef production to our customers.

How Is The Product Different?

Schneider Organic Beef is 100% grass-fed and -finished, with no grain provided. Scott raises his cattle on grass as well, but also provides them free-choice access to all-natural grains to supplement their diet. This provides a greater distribution of marbling and a different texture than what you see in 100% grass-fed beef. Both products are 100% non-GMO and naturally-raised.

What's The Difference Between 100% Grass-Fed and Free-Access Grain Beef?

Flavor and texture. It's not a comparison of "better or worse," they are just different products with their own merits. We love both producers and rotate both producer's products for our personal consumption, and we think you will do the same.

For tips on cooking the perfect steak, refer to our post from last CSA season here: http://www.hamsweetfarm.com/blog/2015/04/meat-csa-april

bloom-steak

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Spring Is Almost Here— And The Start of the CSA Season!

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Spring Is Almost Here— And The Start of the CSA Season!

We are so excited to kick off our CSA for the 3rd year, and even more excited to be heading out of the winter months and into one of the most beautiful seasons in Michigan, Spring. We're already hearing sandhill cranes in the distance, a multitude of songbirds have been visiting our feeders, and our horses are even starting to shed. The first day of spring is just 2 weeks away, so close we can taste it.

The taste of Spring is a good segue into this month's share, as we'll be kicking it off with what we do best. Pork, pork and more pork. Warm weather isn't reliably here yet, so we're not going the grilling products just yet either.  Instead, we're going to be providing a beautiful pork roast for you to cook up for you and your family. As such, we wanted to provide you with two recipe options for the roast, both sure to be a crowd pleaser for you and your family.

Pork Roasts

Pork Roasts

 

Slow Roasted Pork

  • 2 tbsp Brown or Maple Sugar
  • 2 tbsp Salt
  • 2 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1/2 - 3/4 cup of good dijon mustard
  • 1 - (4 - 8 lb) pork roast
  1. Preheat your oven to 225 degrees
  2. Place a rack inside a roasting pan or cast iron skillet
  3. Brush pork generously with mustard.
  4. Blend or mix spices well and sprinkle generously all over pork roast
  5. Cook approximately 30 - 45 minutes per pound, until you reach an internal temperature of 130 - 135 degrees.

    * historically the FDA has suggested cooking pork to 150 to avoid trichinosis. Not only has there been no cases of trichinosis from pork in dozens of years, but that temperature absolutely destroys the meat. Our preference is to cook to the range above, allowing for some carry-over cooking to have the final temperature end at 135 - 140, slightly pink in appearance.
     
  6. Baste the roast with the released juices every hour or so.
  7. Remove from oven and let rest for 15 - 20 minutes.
  8. Serve with some roast vegetables, or better yet, creamy grits.

Whiskey Braised Pork

  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp fresh ground black pepper (or to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp coarse ground mustard seeds or dry mustard powder
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 Sprigs fresh Thyme
  • 4 Cloves Garlic, Rough Chopped
  • 3 of your favorite root vegetables, rough chopped (carrots, onions, parsnips, etc.)
  • 1-1/2 Cups Rye Whiskey
  • 2 Quarts Chicken or Pork Broth. If you don't have broth, use water and amp up seasonings a bit.
  • 1/4 cup olive or vegetable oil
  1. Generously season the pork roast with salt, pepper and brown sugar.
  2. Heat heavy-bottomed pot on medium-high heat and add in oil, as well as preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  3. Sear all sides of pork to a deep brown, taking care to not let it burn, but still develop a deep brown crust.
  4. Remove pork from pot and set aside.
  5. Add in rough chopped vegetables and sauté until caramelized, about 5 - 7 minutes.
  6. Add in garlic and thyme and stir until fragrant
  7. Remove pot from flame and add in whiskey. Stirring well to scrape up all the brown bits off the bottom of the pot. Reduce whiskey by half.
  8. Add back in pork roast along with broth or water and bay leaf, making sure to cover roast about 1/3 - 1/2 way up.
  9. Cover and roast in oven until temperature reads 130 - 135 degrees.
  10. Remove from oven and let rest for 15 - 20 minutes.
  11. While meat is resting, strain pan juices and skim off any fat. Add back to pot and reduce by half.
  12. Slice and serve with grits, rice or wilted greens. Top with reduced pan juices.

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