Working with Pasture Raised Chicken

Post date: Nov 08, 2011 2:45:47 AM

This past Saturday the Shire of Coppertree hosted a Cook's Collegium which was an amazing event. I'm not exactly certain how many different dishes came out of the kitchen that day, but it must have been 30-40 different dishes. There were classes as well, and I did teach my Tempering the Passions class.

But one of the most interesting parts of the day was cooking with a pasture raised chicken that one of my apprentices, Ariadne, had sent up with me in the hopes that someone would be adventurous enough to try cooking with it. When the afternoon came about and still no one had claimed it, I claimed it for myself.

According to Ariadne " The chicken was one of those Silver Rock Broilers, which are the male half of a proprietary laying breed. They take longer, and all of them had developed secondary sex characteristics by the time they were processed. That will definitely affect the cooked product, and it also makes a strong case for why caponizing birds was an art."

I choose to combine two recipes from one source Limonia & Romania as found in the manuscript Liber de coquina published in The Medieval Kitchen.

First challenge was to break down the bird into parts. Not too much difficulty separating the wings and legs from the body of the chicken, but it was noticeable that the flesh was that of a bird who walked around. I did manage to separate the drumstick from the thigh, and the back from the breast, but this was more challenging. However, I could not manage to break through the breast bone at all in order to split the breast in half. So I resorted just taking the breast from the bone meat, which was again a challenge. This Silver Rock Broiler had small breasts (unlike store bought chickens) and it the flesh was very fond of the rib cage it would seem.

I took the back and the bone bits from the breast and used them to make a stock with fresh herbs, carrots and salt. I salted and peppered the chicken pieces then browned the chicken and diced onions in some olive oil. I put the remaining ingredients in (chicken stock, orange juice, lemon juice, pomegranate seeds, freshly grated ginger and almond milk) I left it on the stove to stew away.

By the time I needed to server the dish, all the chicken was cook... but the flesh was still tougher than I expected it to be for the amount of time it was on the stove. I was really surprised how tough the breast meat seemed after that amount of time, but the thighs came out tender enough.

It would be very interesting to try cooking with the same method, side by side, a cheap store bought chicken, a store bought free range chicken, and a home pasture raised chicken in the future.