I have “reserved” a few chickens from Pete and Jen’s Backyard Birds this year. (Also a rabbit or two, though we’ve passed on the pork as we are well supplied through our Meat CSA!). This weekend was the first pickup. I had to drive out to Concord (about a half hour) but it was quite a nice afternoon–right next door to Pete and Jen’s is Verrill Farm, so we visited their store and picked up some delicious rainbow carrots (deep burgundy with white cores! But even more delicious than they were beautiful) but held back from buying more plants.
Pete and Jen’s pickup was staffed by Pete and Jen themselves of course and in their lovely garden backyard–a nice atmosphere as plenty of others were there picking up their chickens as well. Little E was excited by the great backyard they have, but not having napped enough soon got pretty cranky and unfortunately we were probably a bit more memorable customers than we would have wished.
Back home I prepared the recipe I had been planning for this bird for some time: Za’atar Chicken from Sara Jenkins’ Olives and Oranges. Za’atar is “the” middle eastern spice blend, one that varies by country; my mix is from The Spice House and is made of sumac, thyme, sesame seeds, hyssop, and oregano.
The chicken recipe was simple (as some of the best recipes are); mix the spices together with butter and minced garlic, then massage this paste between the skin and the breast and thigh meat. That was a bit tricky to get the hang of (you do have to use a knife to get yourself started) but eventually you manage to work it all in. (I noticed the next day that I had an illustrated technique on how to do this in Jacques Pepin, I’ll have to remember that for “the next time” as well as figure out how to tie up the bird in a more attractive manner). Stuff half an onion, thyme and lemon rind in the central cavity and roast. (You can of course adapt this recipe to any spice/herb mixture you’d like, and travel the world based on the blend of your choosing)!
It was of course delicious–flavorful and juicy, certainly not dry. Pete and Jen had explained that this was a “single breasted” bird (not exactly, but the breast is not nearly as big as other chickens), thus it was a far cry from those industrially produced chickens that can’t even stand up (like those jokes about Barbie not being able to balance if she were an actual woman; kind of like that). Like the pork from our CSA, this is a slow maturing variety which makes it all the rarer.
I served it with a side of escarole calabrese (escarole with hot sausage and pepper flakes, loosely adapted from Urban Italian) so it was a nice “tour” of the Mediterranean (to distract us from recent Boston weather, which is anything but).
To the leftover chicken, inspired by a sandwich at Flour which marries chicken with jicama, I added sliced up hakurei salad turnips and arugula from our CSA–this was enough for four sandwiches (two days of elegant lunch fare) with even a few juicy scraps leftover for snacking!