Voracious this year is celebrating our local farmers markets with a series of poems extolling what's newly ripe and ready for sale. Each week during market season, we'll run a poem from a local poet who's found inspiration in the region's bounty. And should you find yourself feeling similarly inspired after reading their odes to romaine lettuce, nectarines, pea vines and gooseberries, the Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance has provided us with recipes featuring each of the edible muses.
Much of what's known about the urban chicken movement is anecdotal, but it appears the promise of eggs is more alluring to backyard farmers than the opportunity to slaughter fresh meat. (If you'd like to conduct your own survey, Seattle's Tilth is hosting its popular city coop tour this weekend.) In calculating how much it costs to keep a working chicken, a Mint.com blogger figures in $60 for "hiring a mobile butcher to come take care of a menopausal chicken because you just can't bring yourself to kill the poor girl."
Putting a backyard chicken on the dinner table is often viewed as a last resort: Poet Ann Spiers, who previously wrote about greens for our Producing Poetry series, here chronicles what happens when a laying hen suffers a mortal wound. But that doesn't mean backyard farmers have sworn off chicken flesh. Many coop-keepers buy local, humanely-raised poultry from their local farmers markets - served up dead, so no sharp knife or chopping block is required.
Whether your chicken meat comes from your backyard or a farmers market, it's always wise to brine. A recipe follows Spiers' poem.
by Ann Spiers
by Ann Spiers
Here in the street, our chicken--
its heart eaten out, its chest
blooming, pinky flesh and veins.
The chicken's eye is open, surprised.
A thing from the sky came down
marking him with violence.
This chicken crossed the road
to lay green eggs, lovely, mottled,
to hide them in the stickery hedge.
Who ate our Chicken Little's heart?
A seagull, all stinky with fish?
Or raven, scavenging the best part?
Our egg-layer's wound is neatly
pecked; we lift him up, not
roadkill exactly, but pot worthy.
8 c water
½ c sugar
½ c kosher salt
I lemon, sliced
1 head garlic, cut in half crosswise
1 whole chicken (about 3 lbs)
¾ c (1 ½ sticks) plus 5 T unsalted butter, at room temp
1 lemon, zested and juiced (about 2 tsp zest and 3 Tbl juice)
1 Tbl each chopped fresh thyme and chopped fresh marjoram
1 tsp each minced garlic and minced shallot
¾ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp black pepper
2 Tbl olive oil
½ c roughly chopped toasted hazelnuts
2 whole good ripe peaches, cut in half to remove pits, then each half cut in thirds
15 medium hyssop leaves (or substitute mint)
The day before serving, make a brine by bringing the water, sugar, salt, lemon, garlic, and peppercorns to a boil in a large pot. Stir to dissolve sugar and salt. Let cool to room temperature and then chill in refrigerator. When brine is chilled, add the whole chicken, making sure it is fully submerged. Leave overnight or up to 24 hours in the fridge.
To cook the chicken:
Put ¾ c butter into a medium bowl, add lemon zest, time, marjoram, garlic, shallots, salt, pepper. Combine by using a rubber spatula to smooth and work butter with the rest of the ingredients until well blended.
Preheat oven to 400°. Rinse and dry the chicken. Place the chicken breast side up on your work surface; beginning at the large cavity near the tail, use your fingers to carefully separate it not care or remove, the skin from the meat. Carefully stuffed the flavored butter under the skin of the chicken all the way into the pocket you created, getting in and around the legs and breasts. Trust the chicken with butcher twine and place it on a baking sheet. Brush the chicken all over with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast until the temperature between the body and breast reaches 155°F, about one hour. Remove the chicken from the oven and allow to rest, covered loosely with foil. It will continue cooking a little as it rests and will release some of its juices. Save these juices.
Heat the remaining 5 tablespoons butter in a sauté pan over medium heat until the butter foams, smells nutty, and turns pale golden color. Remove it from the heat and add the hazelnuts, lemon juice, and resting juices. Season to taste with more salt and pepper.
To serve, cut chicken into 2 drumsticks, 2 legs, two breasts, and cut the breasts in half widthwise. Arrange the pieces on a platter, tucking in the peach slices and anise hyssop or mint leaves. Drizzle the butter sauce all over the chicken.