The Adventures of an 8lb Local Chicken

Four locally sourced meals feed a family of four for the better part of a week…and a few guests!

The adventure begins with a frozen bird purchased at the Plymouth Farmers’ Market at Plimoth Plantation from farmer Dave of Plato’s Harvest Organic Farm, Middleboro. I created four meals from this hefty chicken and will share the recipes I used so you too can glean the highest value from your local chicken.

Farmer Dave with his flock.

Farmer Dave with his flock.

First thing to know is that chickens purchased at the market are sold frozen. I defrosted this bird for 2 days in the refrigerator. I did not go out to a grocery store to do my ingredient shopping for these meals. Instead, I keep a healthy stock of local ingredients on hand year round which I pick up at the farmers’ market or directly from the farms. This time of year I use a lot of winter storage crops, onions, potatoes, winter squashes, root vegetables, eggs and meats; all available, locally raised, at the winter farmers’ markets.

The first meal: A simple roast chicken dinner for myself, my brother Bob, and my daughter Cora Marie. We enjoyed it with mashed sweet and white potatoes and local Brussels sprouts cooked with local nitrate free bacon. I will stick with methods surrounding the star of this piece, the chicken:

  • Heat oven to 350 degrees, rinse the defrosted chicken in cold water, pat dry, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place breast down in a baking dish with 2 inch high sides.
  • Place the chicken in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, then reduce the heat to 300 degrees and continue roasting till done. This will take about 4 hours in total for this size bird.
  • For the final 30 minutes, gently turn the bird onto its back with the breast side up in the roasting pan.
  • When the structure of the back and leg joints start to show, the bird is done, or you may check the temperature with a meat thermometer, looking for an internal reading of 160 to 180 degrees. Remove from the oven and let rest for 30 minutes before slicing and serving.

At this point I remove the meat from the bones, having cooked at this low temperature, the meat will easily slide off. Reserve all of the bones and pan drippings for stock. Enjoy your dinner and pack up the remaining chicken for another meal.

An 8-pound chicken is plenty for 4 meals, imagine an almost 40 pound turkey. Dave takes fine care of his birds.

An 8-pound chicken is plenty for 4 meals, 4 portions each. Dave takes fine care of his birds.

The second and third meals: Next day the chicken traveled with Cora Marie, packed to take to work for lunch. Dinner that evening served 2 adults, myself and Cora Marie, and 2 children, Paul and Eli. We enjoyed sliced roasted chicken, warmed in the toaster oven with a little bit of the pan drippings to keep it from drying, organic brown basmati rice, and organic frozen peas. Leftover rice and peas will go into the soup for meal #4.

The fourth and final meal: At this point, the chicken meat has been mostly eaten with enough reserved for a chicken soup. The final adventure will find the carcass in the soup pot. Chicken soup starts with making a stock by placing the chicken bones and drippings in a 7-quart pot, with space for the broth to come to a boil without overflowing.

IMG_2983LsTurkeySoupHoriz

I keep stock made of vegetable and herb trimmings in my freezer to add to meat stocks. The standard ingredients used for a vegetable broth are onion skins and ends, celery leaves and or celeriac skin, carrot peelings and ends, parsley and herb stems, and leeks. Avoid cruciferous vegetables from the broccoli and cabbage family, bell peppers, asparagus, and any strong flavors that would overpower the stock. (I do keep separate stock bags for asparagus soup, peppers for a vegetable broth for black bean soup, and cruciferous vegetables for a broccoli soup; that will be another story).

Back to the final adventure for the 8lb chicken carcass:

  • Add a cup or so of vegetable stock to the pan, cover the broken up carcass to 2” below the rim with the addition of cold water.
  • Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer and allow to simmer for 2 to 3 hours without stirring, which would make it cloudy. Add cold water if the broth reduces below 3/4th of the height of the pan.
  • Strain the stock through a fine sieve and reserve for soups and sauces. Stock freezes well.

Now for the Chicken soup recipe and where the ingredients were sourced.
Yield about 6 to 7 quarts.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons local, rendered bacon fat. Brown Boar Farm
    *save the fat into a glass jar when you cook bacon, store in freezer. It’s great for soups, gravies, and roasting potatoes.
  • 4 medium onions, small dice = 2 cups Web of Life Organic Farm
  • 4 carrots, scrubbed, unpeeled, = 1 & 3/4 cups  Skinny Dip Organic Farm
  • ¼ cup chopped loosely packed fresh parsley
  • 14 cups chicken stock
  • 4 cups cooked, diced chicken
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 2 and 3/4th cups cooked organic brown Basmati rice
  • 1-2 bay leaves crumbled =1/2 teaspoon, Holmes Farm
  • 1 teaspoon dried leaf thyme
  • 2 cups pea greens, Allen Organic Farms, Westport
  • 1 large butternut squash, peeled, cubed bite size = 8 cups cubed Plato’s Harvest Organic Farm
  • 3 tablespoons organic extra virgin olive oil, Omega Olive Oil Co.
  • salt and pepper to taste: approximately 3 teaspoons salt 1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

You can find these farmers at either the winter markets in Plymouth or Marshfield. Additional local ingredients include organic brown basmati rice, sea salt, dried organic thyme, and peppercorns from Healthy Appetites Store, Plymouth; and fresh parsley from my neighbor Quintals Produce store, Plymouth.

METHOD:

  1. Toss the cubed butternut with the 3 Tablespoons of olive oil and 1 teaspoon of salt, lay out on a sheet pan and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour untill tender, reserve this to add to the soup at the end of the cooking time.
  2. Use a 10 quart or larger stock pot to make the soup. Place over medium to low heat. Add to the stockpot the bacon fat, you may substitute butter or oil
  3. Add onions and cook until translucent and tender about 8-10 minutes, without browning
  4. Add carrots to fat and onions, stir to coat the carrots with the fat to marry the flavors, cook for an additional 8-10 minutes
  5. Add parsley to stock pot, stir to incorporate the flavors of the onion and carrot, cook about 5 minutes. This is called a Batuto in Italian which means flavor base.
  6. Add chicken broth to the stock pot followed by diced chicken, bay leaf and thyme, bring this to a boil then reduce to simmer
  7. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper
  8. Add the cooked rice, the roasted butternut and lastly the chopped pea greens
  9. Turn off the heat, taste again, adjust seasoning if needed. You are ready to serve!

The chicken soup fed my family many steaming bowls as well as a quart delivered to a friend and the rest to a South Shore Locavores* meeting to share with others who value cooking from scratch with local ingredients. For a true culinary adventure, try roasting your own locally raised bird and stretching it into several nourishing meals for your family and friends.

*South Shore Locavores meets peridically in Kingston. It is always an enjoyable and informative local foods venue hosted by The Kingston Public Library and Edible South Shore and South Coast magazine.

For an additional source of locally raised chicken contact Ben and Hannah of Skinny Dip Farm

By: Martha M. Stone is a Plymouth resident since 1988. She is passionate about using local foods and supporting local farms. Martha has owned and operated 2 restaurants in Plymouth and services private clients throughout the south shore and Boston area. You can find her on Facebook here.

About eSS&SC

The South Shore and South Coast has been home to hunting, gathering, fishing, farming––and great eating––for over 10,000 years. We are committed to identifying, devouring, and sharing all that Southeastern Massachusetts has to offer today and preserving local options for future generations.
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