Day 65–Roast Chicken

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Roast chicken is a great way to make the most of a whole chicken!

I love roasting foods, especially when it’s cold outside. There’s just nothing like coming inside from the cold and smelling the aroma of roast chicken wafting through the air. It’s like a big food hug. All winter vegetables seem to benefit from roasting as well–broccoli, carrots, turnips, beets, Brussel sprouts–as the roasting process brings out the inner sweetness of the vegetables. I’ve been reading about roasting whole fish and I may try that soon as well.

This week I scored not one, but two fresh, pasture-raised chickens at the farmers market. This is a big deal for me because fresh birds (chicken, turkey, duck) have a better texture when they haven’t been frozen. And pasture raised chickens just plain ol’ taste better than what you find in the grocery. Our chickens were tasty and beautiful and with two chickens, I have enough for leftovers and chicken soup later in the week.

Roasting a chicken is an easy and forgiving process. I like to roast mine at a higher temperature (400-450) because the skin gets nice and crispy. But you can roast a chicken at 350, too, it will just take a little longer. I use Herbes de Provence on my chickens, but you can use whatever you like–just salt and pepper, a fancy homemade spice blend, rosemary from your garden, etc. I don’t typically stuff my chickens with anything, but you can put some cut up onion or a lemon half if that makes you happy.

A note about washing chickens. I’ve seen people wash chickens in the sink before they prep them for cooking, but this actually doesn’t stop any possible salmonella issues. I have also read that washing the chicken could possibly contaminate other parts of your kitchen, including your faucet, as the water sprays around. So, I do not wash my chicken, but I do make sure it is cooked to a safe (but not overdone) temperature of 160 degrees.

After roasting chickens for about 20 years, I learned two new things last night. First, cooking two chickens takes a lot longer than cooking one. Not sure why I hadn’t computed that, but the longer cooking time meant I had some kitchen chaos going on for a while. I also learned that meat thermometers can apparently take on a life of their own. Mine decided to go all HAL on me, telling me the chicken was cooked, when it was clearly still mostly raw (and yes, I made sure it was not touching bone).

All was well in the end, but I do not recommend trying to cook two chickens, a pan of biscuits and a lemon pound cake simultaneously. Oi. Kudos to my loving spouse who did not gripe about the dishes and the chaos. He is awesome. Even more awesome than a fresh, roasted chicken 🙂

Roast Chicken

  • 1 whole roasting chicken (thawed if purchased frozen); giblets and neck removed
  • 1 Tbsp. butter or olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Herbes de Provence
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Prepare chicken by putting it breast side up in a shallow roasting pan.
  3. Rub the chicken with butter or olive oil.
  4. Sprinkle salt, pepper, garlic and herbs over the entire chicken.
  5. Put in the preheated oven and cook until the internal temperature is 160 degrees. I’ve found with most chickens, this is about 1.5-2 hours, depending on the weight of the chicken.
  6. When chicken reaches an internal temperature of 140 degrees, remove the roasting pan from the oven, cover the chicken with a piece of foil and let it sit for 15-20 minutes. This will allow the meat to relax and the juices will return to the bird, ensuring a more tender and juicy chicken.
  7. Carve and serve to you amazed and loving family. Or, tuck in and enjoy on your own!
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Day 61–Coon Rock Farm

Lately I have been buying produce and eggs from Coon Rock Farm, a family owned farm on the Eno River in Hillsborough. From Harukai turnips to fresh carrots and tatsoi greens, everything I’ve purchased has been delicious. At the Western Wake Farmer’s Market a few weeks ago, I tried a sample of their chorizo (it is impossible to pass their tent without trying it since you can smell it cooking and for “some reason” I am always hungry). It was amazing. I keep forgetting to add it to our rotation, but maybe next week.

Coon Rock Farm (www.coonrockfarm.com) is the epitome of “farm to fork”. The Holcomb family not only operates the farm (which dates back to the 1800s), they also operate two highly reputable restaurants, Zely & Ritz in Raleigh and Piedmont Restaurant in Durham. Both restaurants feature the vegetables, fruit, eggs, lamb, beef, pork and eggs produced on the farm.

According to the Holcombs, farm produce is all organic and mostly heirloom varieties (which explains why my carrots were unbelievably “carrot-y” in flavor). All animals are pasture-raised and grass-fed, with no hormones or antibiotics. I love that this is a family all working together to bring us good food while nurturing the young farmers who will continue to feed us into the future.

Coon Rock Farm sells at three local farmer’s markets–Midtown Farmer’s Market at North Hills, Western Wake Farmer’s Market in Cary and the Chapel Hill Farmer’s Market. They also have a CSA which you can read about on their website.

As for the name? Apparently, the name Coon Rock Farm comes from a large rock that juts into the Eno River and has the historical name of “Coon Rock”.  Regardless, the food produced by this family is wonderful, sustainable, healthy food, and I for one am looking forward to some chorizo on Saturday!

Day 41–Farmhand Foods Meatbox

Meat in a box. When we began our journey almost 7 weeks ago, I wasn’t sure what resources were available to our family other than what we could find at the farmer’s markets (and that was more than I though also!). What a wonderful coincidence that I saw a tweet from @farmhandfoods for a winter meat box. Meat in a box sounded strange, but in the spirit of adventure, we thought we would give it a try. I promised an update on our experience, so here it is!

Farmhand Foods of Durham works with NC pasture-based beef and pork producers who have a commitment to sustainable livestock production and who raise antibiotic and growth hormone free animals that are pasture-raised and pasture-fed. After doing a bit of research and reading their online protocols, I found that Farmhand Foods is a highly reputable organization with a sincere passion for improving food supply options. Founded and operated by two smart women–Tina Prevatte and Jennifer Curtis, Farmhand Foods also works with small-scale, inspected processing facilities that practice humane animal handline and care. Together with Sales and Distribution Manger Drew Brown, Farmhand Foods connects pasture-based farmers with the consumers who love their products throughout the Triangle area. I really love their business model and commitment to having a sustainable food system.

But back to the meat box. When we ordered our box in January, I wondered if it would be an affordable addition to our budget. We ordered three boxes (Jan, Feb, March) and each box worked out to $45. Each box includes three different cuts of meat–a braising cut, a grilling cut and a roasting cut. Two of the cuts are beef and one is pork. I’m not positive, but I think our first box was about 8-10 lbs of meat, which is a decent amount of food for three people!

We just finished the last of our January box for Super Bowl Sunday, and I think we all agree as a family that it was a great choice. Our January box included two meaty beef shanks, a large skirt steak and a 3 lb. mini boneless ham. The beef shanks were braised for an Italian ragu and they were, quite frankly, amazing. The skirt steak was very flavorful and surprisingly tender (I think I had confused skirt steak and flank steak, but skirt steak is much, MUCH better). And the ham, which we roasted with a local honey and mustard glaze, was so darn good that I dreamed about it. Really. I have never had ham that tasted so good.

Each cut of meat provided more than one meal for our small family (the ham alone provided at least three meals), so were able to work it into our weekly budget very easily. The meat tasted a lot better than store-bought, was healthier for us, and provided us opportunities to experiment with new recipes and cooking methods. All in all, we deem this experiment a success. And we can’t wait for our February box, which arrives next week!

This is all to say, that if you are in the Research Triangle area, Farmhand Foods is a high quality resource that we recommend. If you aren’t in this area, I would encourage you to find out if something similar exists near you and to give it a try. You just might be pleasantly surprised!

Day 35–Grain Fed or Grass Fed–Is There a Difference?

Is there a difference between grain-fed and grass-fed beef or is it just marketing?

Our family is not a statistically representative sample by any means, but in our 5 weeks of eating locally produced, grass-fed, grass finished beef and pasture-raised pork, we can say that yes, there is a definite and pronounced improvement in taste with the pasture-raised animals. So, is it just a taste issue? I recently read a wonderful article “Grass Fed vs. Feedlot Beef: Is There a Difference?” by Gail Nickel-Kailing in Good Food World (www.goodfoodworld.com) and she graciously gave me permission to share some of it with you. For the entire article, go to http://www.goodfoodworld.com/2012/01/grass-fed-vs-feedlot-beef-whats-the-difference/. Here are some interesting points:

Studies have shown that an animal’s diet can have an impact on the nutritional content of the meat on the consumer’s table. Grass-fed meat has been shown to contain less fat, more beneficial fatty acids, and more vitamins and to be a good source of a variety of nutrients. According to a study published in the Journal of Animal Science in 2009, eating grass-fed beef provides many benefits to consumers(3):

  1. Lower in total fat
  2. Higher in beta-carotene
  3. Higher in vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)
  4. Higher in the B-vitamins thiamin and riboflavin
  5. Higher in the minerals calcium, magnesium, and potassium
  6. Higher in total omega-3s
  7. A healthier ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids (1.65 vs 4.84)
  8. Higher in CLA (cis-9 trans-11), a potential cancer fighter
  9. Higher in vaccenic acid (which can be transformed into CLA)
  10. Lower in the saturated fats linked with heart disease
Lower Fat – Meat from grass-fed cattle is much lower in fat, and therefore lower in calories. A 6-ounce steak from a grass-finished animal has almost 100 fewer calories than the same sized-piece from a grain-fed animal. If, like the average American, you eat about 67 pounds of beef a year, switch to grass-fed beef and you’ll save nearly 18,000 calories a year.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids – Omega-3 fatty acids are fats that are essential to human health. Sixty percent of the fatty acids in grass is omega-3, which is formed in the chloroplasts of green leaves. Grass-fed cattle can contain as much as two-to-four times more omega-3 fatty acids than grain-fed animals.

At the same time, a high ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids has been linked with an increased risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, allergies, depression, obesity, and autoimmune disorders. A ratio of four to one or lower is considered ideal, Grain-fed beef has a much higher ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids than wild game or grass-fed beef. In grass-fed beef the ratio is approximately 2 to 1, while the ratio in grain-fed beef is more than 14 to 1.

More Vitamins – In humans vitamin E is linked with la lower risk of heart disease and cancer. Meat from grass-fed cattle is higher in vitamin E.; as much as four times higher in vitamin E than meat from feedlot cattle.(4)

Rich source of CLA – Meat from grass-fed animals is the richest known source of “conjugated linoleic acid” or CLA. Grass-fed cattle have been found to produce 2 to 5 times more CLA than cattle fed high grain feedlot diets. In laboratory animals, a  diet containing even a small amount of CLA greatly reduced cancerous growths.

The full article provides citations for her information and those are pretty interesting as well. The article and our own preference for the taste of pasture-raised beef and pork reinforce to us that we would rather eat a smaller portion of meat in our diet and have that meat be of higher quality that fill up on higher fat, cheaply produced meat. Whatever you decide for your family, it is interesting to note that even what animals eat influences how they affect our own bodies!