I went out to the Brown’s farm sometime in the summer, and was interested to note a number of developments: There were hogs out there, whose pens were down at the back of the field, and there were chickens pecking around.
I asked about the plans, and Billy Ray was suitably vague– he was going to see how it all worked out.
Today, I went out the the the Farmer’s Market on Old 7 and there was a gin on the door.
I immediately asked, and was shown two sizes of chickens. I bought one of each. They weren’t frozen, and looked really good and carefully slaughtered.
The small weighted out at 1 lb 13 oz. That’s bigger by about a third than a poussin, a very small chicken that’s considered to be about one good portion. The bigger was probably better than twice the size of the small (My kitchen scale maxes out at 2 lbs and I didn’t weight it at the store). One thing about these chickens: Because they are really free range (I saw these chickens pecking about on the farm out there), the bones are going to be more of the weight than grocery store chickens. The large one would just make a dinner for four, and the small ones I’m guessing will serve two.
I got one of each and brought them home.
I roasted the big one tonight. It was tightly wrapped in plastic. It was pretty carefully cleaned, although a little of the skin over the breast around the neck was gone. Inside, I found the heart but none of the other innards. I’ve reserved the heart and the wing tips for stock (which I’ll make along with the carcass from the roast chicken).
Trussing this one was interesting. It was a lot firmer meat and was more work to truss. The legs and thighs were quite dark, and all around these were clearly muscles that had been worked.
I browned the chicken in an oval enamel/castiron vessel, then put a bed of mirepoix (made of rough diced leek, celery, carrot, onion) in the pan, put the chicken back on it, then put it in a 450 degree oven for about 20 minutes. At that point, I backed the temperature back to 350 degrees, and cooked it another 45 minutes or so. I pulled it and rested it while I made a gravy.
I poured off some of the fat, then put some flour in the pan and stirred it for 4 minutes. Then I added vermouth and cooked till it was almost gone. Then I added chicken stock (about twice as much of that as the vermouth) and cooked that till the gravy was thickened, at which point I strained it.
I sliced the chicken and everyone got some dark and white meat, served with Bost Farm green beans tossed with some Brown Family Farm butter and salt and pepper, plus a curried butternut squash dish (made with a squash from my in-laws in Jackson TN) with a recipe I got from Mark Bitman, which I made as per the recipe except that I omitted the cilantro, and added a little cane sugar and milk (also from the Brown’s). The squash recipe is a wonderful one.
So how did the chicken turn out? Great flavor. The breast meat had a really nice texture– none of the mushiness characteristic of factory chickens. The dark meat was truly dark, reminding my wife of the turkeys we’ve been getting the last few years (which have been natural and free-range).
I misgauged the cooking slightly, overcooking it a little bit. Very oddly, this had more of an impact on the dark meat than the light: Everyone agreed the breast meat was perfect but the dark a little overcooked, which seems backwards. It’s possible because the breast meat is so much better on this chicken than on a store-bought one.
All in all, this is a great development in Oxford food availability, and I hope it’s not a one-off thing. Check it out! I’ll post in comments when I cook the small one.
Meanwhile, the Marie Annie Brown is also making soap as a byproduct of the dairy farm, and they’re selling that at the Farmer’s Market, too– pictured below.