Tuesday, July 20, 2010

From Farm to Fridge to Family

At Storey we are always supporting our friends and local business people. A few weeks ago my coworker Maribeth Casey organized a sign-up for people interested in buying locally raised chickens. She is friends with the farmers, Schuyler and Colby Gail at Bar None Ranch, and Maribeth knew there would be many people at the office who would be interested in purchasing meat that was raised locally, humanely, and chemical/hormone/pesticide/antibiotic/herbicide free.

Maribeth was right; we were interested — 10 people ordered a total of 39 chickens. I ordered 2 for myself. One I froze and one I cooked over the weekend. I used every bit of meat and shared my juicy and delicious chicken with family.

Before I start with how exactly I cooked my chicken, I want to let you know how fresh these chickens were. They were taken off the farm on Wednesday, processed, and delivered to us (never frozen) Thursday afternoon. I am not sure about the time it takes for all this to occur with grocery-store chicken, but I can assure you that it takes much longer than 2 days to go from the farm to your fridge!

I wanted to cook this fresh chicken but had no one at home to share it with me. So I called up my stepmom, to see what she and my dad were doing. They were hanging out by the pool and waiting for my niece to come over and were thrilled to have me come over, too, and cook my chicken. I grabbed my bathing suit, some veggies from the garden and the fridge, the chicken, my dog, and I was off to Dad's house.

On Thursday when our poultry arrived Maribeth had suggested trying beer-can chicken — she and Dan (my boss) grilled theirs beer-can style this weekend. I had always been curious to try it but never had the opportunity. My grill is not big enough, so I cannot cook beer-can chicken at home. Lucky for me, Dad's grill is a monstrosity — my opportunity had finally arrived.

Beer-can chicken slow-cooking on the grill —
notice the beer can poking out under the bird

I read basic beer-can chicken directions online, but there are various recipes to enable you to flavor your chicken uniquely. Workman Publishing even has an entire book dedicated to it: Beer-Can Chicken. I didn't have this cookbook on hand, so I improvised. I lightly coated both the outside and the cavity of the chicken with olive oil, a mildly spicy dry rub, and fresh herbs (oregano, parsley, thyme, and sage) from my garden. Given the opportunity, I would have picked a fancier beer to steam my chicken with, but I was stuck with the only canned beer my Dad had in his fridge. It was a domestic light beer — definitely not my top choice, but it didn't seem to matter all that much; the chicken was delicious anyway.

There may be some people who are unsure how this beer-can chicken grilling works. Here are the basics:
  1. Make sure the cavity of your bird is big enough to fit a beer* can into.
  2. Wash chicken inside and out.
  3. Drink several gulps of beer*, leaving the can a little more than half full.
  4. Cut the top of the beer can off with a can opener.
  5. Dress chicken with your choice of seasonings.
  6. Place chicken, cavity open, over the beer can so it stands upright like a tripod, with the two legs and the beer can.
  7. Keeping the upright position, transfer chicken to a preheated grill (375ยบ), NOT over flames. This is where the big grill comes in handy — light the two burners on far sides of the grill, and place the chicken in the center, with no burner lit directly below it.
  8. Close lid on grill and cook for 2 to 3 hours, until the internal temperature of the bird (the fattest part and not touching bone) is at 185ยบ.
*You can use any consumer-safe liquid in a can or jar (paper removed). This includes chicken or vegetable stock, wine, sake, etc.

We complemented our chicken with fresh, local veggies.

Saturday Evening's Poolside Dinner Menu:

Snack. Strawberry-Raspberry-Blueberry Smoothie was our predinner snack. I made it with some recently frozen local berries and some just bought at the farmer’s market earlier in the day. The only other ingredients were frozen pineapple chunks, orange juice, and ice.

Salad. The greens were partially from my garden and partially from the farmer's market. Also from the garden were peas, dill, and cherry tomatoes. From the farmer's market were cucumbers, string beans, and tomato wedges. I dressed the salad with a garlic herb balsamic vinaigrette.

Cherry tomatoes from my yard made an appearance
in both salads at my family dinners this weekend.

Main Course. Melt-in-your-mouth beer-can chicken — the juiciest, tenderest chicken I have ever eaten

Vegetable. Swiss chard from my garden, sauteed with garlic, olive oil, white wine, lemon juice, salt, and pepper

Side Dish. Grafton Squash Casserole (page 57) from Dishing Up Vermont. It is no secret these Dishing Up books are among my favorite cookbooks, but this was my stepmother's contribution to dinner. I think I had given her the cookbook as a Christmas gift, and she loves it as much as I do — we have yet to eat a recipe from it that we did not like! Leanne made this casserole from her home-grown summer squash. If you have squash growing in your yard, you must give this recipe a try.

The chicken was a 5-pounder, and there was plenty left over. Both dogs, Lily and Wally, were given a few bites of chicken when we finished our meal. Before leaving my dad's I made up a plate for my husband to eat and wrapped the remaining chicken and brought that home for Sunday's meal.

I knew we were going over to Ryan's parents’ house for dinner on Sunday, and I had already offered to cook. Originally, I had planned to make chicken pot pie, but when Sunday came, I just wasn't feeling it. I had once made a grilled vegetable lasagna from Food to Live By, a Workman cookbook, and loved it. I thought I would try a variation of this by substituting chicken for the eggplant along with a few other alterations.

Sunday afternoon I started to prepare my second meal with the chicken I bought from Schuyler at Bar None Ranch. I made marinara sauce using fresh peppers from my yard and carrots from the farmer’s market. I cut up and grilled zucchini, summer squash, shallots, and a portobello mushroom. I pulled all the remaining chicken from the carcass. I took the pesto I made a few weeks ago out of the freezer and heated it up in a saucepan with olive oil. I picked Swiss chard and herbs from the garden and chopped them and mixed them in with the ricotta/cottage cheese mixture and added a little pesto to this as well. Then I assembled it: marinara on the bottom of the pan, noodles, ricotta mixture, grilled veggies, noodles, ricotta, chicken brushed with pesto, noodles, marinara, and topped with fresh grated Parmesan and mozzarella. I brought the lasagna over to my parents-in-law's house and baked it there.

Swiss chard from my garden. I sautรฉed it as the
main vegetable for Saturday's dinner,
and I added it to the ricotta mixture
in the lasagna for Sunday's meal.

Menu for Sunday Dinner at the Rustays:

Main Course: Grilled vegetable and pesto chicken lasagna

Salad: Garden salad, similar to the previous evening's salad

Vegetable: Stir-fried summer squash, zucchini, green beans, shallots, and carrots with butter and garlic. Ryan's mom picked these gems up at the farmer's market on Saturday.

Bread: Corn bread with fresh corn and peppers from the farmer's market made by Ryan's mom. I bought an herb and cheese focaccia bread from Berkshire Bread at the farmer's market and brought that, too.

The five of us (Ryan’s parents, his brother, Ryan, and I) ate our dinner out on the patio, all of us enjoying the cooling evening and summer's bounty.

One chicken and two fabulous meals with family — it doesn't get any better than this!

—Kristy L. Rustay, Marketing Manager

About the Chickens:
The chickens raised at Bar None Ranch are raised in long, lush grass, out in the sunshine, and are moved daily. The birds are fed grass and locally grown grain. The folks at Bar None don't use antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, herbicides, or chemicals. They treat their animals as they would want to be treated. The chickens are processed humanely in a local family-run poultry-processing facility.

If you would like to know more about ordering Bar None Chickens, call (518) 658-0065 or email BIGBUG9@juno.com.

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