Within the March subject of Nation Roads, I provided some ideas about sustainable agriculture and consuming native that had come to thoughts after assembly Adam Aucoin and Cassy Kelly, a younger couple who’ve moved to St. Francisville to supply locally-raised, pastured hen to people eager to attempt a substitute for consuming industrially-raised poultry. Final week, having discovered that the couple’s first batch of a number of hundred chickens was now prepared for the desk, I bought maintain of a plump, entire hen, and introduced it residence eager to check it out for Sunday dinner.
My plan, which was to stuff this chook with rosemary, lemon halves and garlic earlier than roasting it with greens in a scorching oven, has confirmed to be a reasonably dependable method to flip the grocery store chickens we’re used to purchasing, into supper for 5 or 6 folks. However lengthy earlier than we bought anyplace close to the kitchen, it was clear that this hen was going to be completely different. The primary and most evident distinction, it must be stated, was the worth. My entire five-pound hen, priced at $3.50 per pound, got here in at about $17.50. Which, when one is used to selecting up a fryer within the frozen meat part for about six bucks, was a bit startling. Then there was Adam’s suggestion that I brine this hen previous to roasting it. Why? As a result of the method of soaking the chook in a mix of salt and sugar water (herbs and spices are elective extras) serves to drive liquid into the meat, thereby holding it moist all through the roasting course of. A good suggestion for any hen or pork roast, brining is particularly efficient when cooking a pastured hen, since these birds are inclined to have much less interstitial fats than their factory-farmed brethren-a results of their hunt-and-peck food regimen, and really attending to stroll round whereas being raised. I took Adam’s recommendation and soaked my hen for six hours in a gallon of water, by which was dissolved a cup of kosher salt and three/4 cup sugar, with garlic cloves, lemon wedges, and a handful of peppercorns.
One other factor that elevated my Coq Aucoin hen grew to become clear after I eliminated it from the bag. Its freshness was instantly apparent. The clear white of the seen fats and the agency rigidity of the breast had little in frequent with the lank flaccidity of the store-bought birds we have been extra acquainted with. After brining, I stuffed and trussed my hen, rubbed it throughout with lemon juice then olive oil, and caught it within the oven at 370 levels for slightly over an hour.
Suppertime: the second of reality. Maybe it was the decrease fats content material of the meat, or simply my impatience, however I am positive this hen took longer to cook dinner than I am used to. In any case, it emerged golden-skinned and smelling irresistible. After resting it for ten minutes I carved, and served 5 with pan gravy, roast greens and a inexperienced salad. This is what we came upon. Our pastured hen was tender, moist, and significantly the place the darkish meat was involved, decidedly extra flavorsome than the competitors. One other fascinating factor: There simply gave the impression to be extra meat on this chook. With out truly being any heavier than the chickens we’re used to roasting, the meat of this chook simply appeared in some way denser; and as soon as the desk was cleared, there was tons left over for chilly hen sandwiches or salad-far greater than we might usually have.
So let’s examine. Demonstrably contemporary. Raised with out antibiotics or progress hormones. Grazed throughout pasture, making certain a food regimen supplemented with grass, bugs, seeds and different naturally chicken-ish fodder. Extra flavorsome. Supplying meat which simply in some way goes additional. And supporting the enterprise of younger, native farmers. Within the ultimate evaluation there can solely be one actually compelling cause not to decide on these pasture-raised birds over their factory-farmed counterparts. That is the worth. Admittedly, when one is used to having the ability to purchase a hen on the grocery retailer for six or seven bucks, paying almost 3 times the quantity may be troublesome to swallow.
However now, having adopted the event of Coq Aucoin’s operation, having seen these chickens grazing board their approach throughout spring pasture, and having tasted the outcomes, I discover myself questioning a couple of meals supply system that enabled me to purchase a hen that somebody has needed to hatch, home, increase, feed, slaughter, course of, bundle and ship, for six bucks within the first place. Who may dwell on it? The value of a store-bought, industrially raised hen may be its most unnatural characteristic. And on that word, the worth for a Coq AuCoin hen did not appear that dangerous in spite of everything. Maybe we’ll simply regulate, eat hen much less however savor it extra, and console ourselves with the truth that we’ll be supporting one thing healthful, and lifelike, within the course of.
James Fox-Smith is govt editor of Nation Roads journal. Every month Nation Roads explores the area’s artwork, music, delicacies, historical past, folks, structure, out of doors adventures, hidden treasures, myths and legends and reality and fiction. It is his job to verify all of it is sensible. Born in England and raised in Australia, James has lived in Louisiana for fifteen years.