Friday, March 12, 2010

Return to Chicken

Last night, I decided to buy and make my own Rotisserie Chicken. Now, let me explain why this was a big decision, besides the fact that I have never roasted a chicken.

The summer before my junior year of high school--almost 8 years ago!--I decided to give up all meat besides fish. I wanted to give up fish too, but my parents were too worried that I wouldn't get enough protein. (Plus, I really liked sushi, so that made my parents' demand pretty reasonable.) I still eat fish, but in the last year or so, I've learned about how a lot of fish are over-fished, which endangers their species as well as harms the environment. Plus, there are concerns about mercury poisoning and commercial fisheries using practices that end up hurting other sea life, such as turtles and dolphins.

One reason why I ended up giving up meat was because of the meat industry's damage to the environment as well as their cruelty to animals. So I decided I couldn't keep eating fish if this was true of the fishing industry too. But rather than go full vegetarian, I decided to see if I could buy a sustainably and humanely raised chicken to eat. (This decision was mostly influenced by Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma and because Jeremy eats chicken too. Note, I do still eat fish, but I try to avoid the "bad kinds," which I will do another post on later.)

I ended up buying Mary's Organic and Free Range Chicken. Now, let me break down what these terms mean in regard to chicken. Organic means that the food the chickens ate was organic (aka not grown with pesticides, fertilizers, or other chemicals). Free Range means that chickens had access to the outdoors and were not kept in battery cages. However, I'm not really satisfied with the idea of free range. Why? Because free range means that chickens only had "access" to the outdoors. This means that chickens can be packed together in a barn, with a little doggie door opened up now and then to allow them to wander out. This door might lead to a tiny concrete porch, not necessarily a grassy pasture. Now, this is still a lot better than living in a battery cage, but I'd prefer if the chicken was pasture-raised. Pasture-raised means that the chicken was mostly raised outdoors--they actually had access to fresh grass where they could graze and stayed indoors when necessary (i.e. when they sleep and are young). Mary's Chicken didn't say "Pasture-raised," but other writing on the package indicated that the chicken was most likely pasture-raised. I also did a little research on the brand and visited their website: . I was pretty satisfied with their description of how they raise their chickens, and I was happy that the farm was fairly local. (I suggest watching their video too!)

Now, let's get to the cooking. I decided to copy this woman's recipe, which she got from Emeril, who got it from Julia Child:
(it is the roasted chicken and vegetables recipe). I basically followed her exact instructions with a few minor changes. My chicken was also just over 3 lbs, not 4.

For the vegetables, I used 3 medium yukon gold potatoes, 1 big golden sweet potato, 3 carrots, 3 celery stalks, and half an onion (no parsnips). I put the celery leaves and onion in the chicken cavity, along with salt and pepper. I seasoned the outside of the chicken with olive oil, a little butter, salt, pepper, crushed garlic, and some dried thyme I had in my pantry. Also, when I basted the chicken for a second time, I drizzled a little mix of olive oil and red wine (tempranillo) over the chicken and veggies.

I thought it turned out really good! It was delicious and healthy, and I was proud that my first time roasting a chicken wasn't a disaster. :) I think in the future, I will experiment with different seasonings. I am sure adding rosemary would be really good and maybe a bit more of the garlic or wine, as well as salt and pepper. It fed Jeremy and me well with the wings and some breast still leftover.

Finally, at the end of this long post, I want to thank the little chicken who gave up his or her life to feed Jeremy and me. And I hope that its own life was happy on Mary's farm.

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