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Thursday, July 08, 2010

Friday Supper: The Good and the Expensive

The good: Roasted beet salad from Sunday Suppers at Lucques. I used baby red and Chiogga beets and parsley from the market, oil-cured olives, a not-great ricotta salata (feta would've been better), and canned chickpeas. Looking at the recipe now, and not while I was actually making the salad, I realize that I changed it a bit, so that's how I'll type it out below. The instructions in the recipe were kind of fussy; I just tossed everything together with the cumin vinaigrette, then dropped chickpeas over the salad, which was quite pretty enough:

Roasted Beet Salad with Fried Chickpeas, Nyons Olives, and Ricotta Salata
Adapted and simplified from Sunday Suppers at Lucques, by Suzanne Goin with Teri Gelber

3 bunches beets, mixed colors, tops cut off, scrubbed
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil (this is less than the 3/4 cup called for; I prefer a more vinegary, less oily vinaigrette)
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1/4 cup red wine vinegar (I used sherry vinegar, and more than the 2-plus tablespoons called for)
Juice of 1 small lemon
1 cup crisp roasted chickpeas (see Note)
1/4 cup thinly sliced shallots
1/2 cup Nyons olives or other strong-tasting oil-cured black olives
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
4 ounces ricotta salata cheese, sliced 1/4 inch thick
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Rub the beets all over with some of the oil, season with salt and pepper, and put in a roasting pan with a little water. Cover with foil and roast until tender, about 40 minutes. Let cool completely, then peel and quarter the beets. Set aside.

Toast the cumin seeds in a heavy skillet over medium heat until fragrant and a shade darker. Coarsely grind them with a mortar and pestle. Put them in a large bowl with the vinegar, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste and whisk. Whisk in the remaining oil in a thin stream. Add the beets, shallots, olives, parsley, and cheese and toss gently to coat with the dressing. Taste and season with more salt and pepper if necessary. Scatter the chickpeas over the top and serve.

Note: Goin wants you to fry the chickpeas, but I roasted them for more crispness, using a great technique I learned from Kalyn's Kitchen: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Drain a can of chickpeas in a colander and rinse well under cold running water. Drain well, then dump the chickpeas onto a clean kitchen towel. Gather up the corners of the towel to enclose the chickpeas in a little "bag" and swing it around a bit (outside, perhaps, or maybe in the shower stall) to drain and dry the chickpeas really well. Toss them in a bowl with 1 tablespoon olive oil and a couple tablespoons of soy sauce, and here I also added some of the toasted ground cumin. Spread in a single layer on the foil-lined pan and roast until well browned and crisp-crunchy, about 45 minutes.

And now the expensive: Expensive in this case meaning "not good."

After having read here and there about the wonder that is the hundred-day-old pastured Poulet Rouge chicken, I went ahead and ordered one from Nature's Harmony Farm in Elberton, via Athens Locally Grown, a kind of brilliant Internet farmers' market in which members place orders on Monday and Tuesday, and pay for and pick up their stuff on Thursday evening at a central location.

Anyway, this chicken. I wanted to roast it simply, to fully appreciate its specialness, and the best way to roast chicken, I've found, is to just spatchcock it, pat it dry and season with salt and pepper and dried thyme, set it in a roasting pan on top of some sliced citrus, and roast at high heat until just about 160°F at the thigh. Then let it rest on a cutting board for a few minutes, carve, and eat. Simple.

Except this chicken was inedible. It was so tough and chewy and stringy we couldn't even get our teeth through pieces of it. People describe the texture as "firm," but that is unhelpful. No, it was like rubber bands, really, lots of rubber bands in your mouth. And it didn't really have any special chickeny flavor that I, a "normal" taster, or D., who I suspect is a better than normal taster, could discern. At all. D. wondered if it was digestible. I wondered if I could throw the whole thing in a pot and at least get some good broth for my sixteen smackers. D. wondered if this was how people in the past ate.

What should I have done differently? I suppose I could've braised. But I didn't want chicken bog, dammit, I wanted roasted chicken. If anyone can give me some seriously promising advice on this matter I might be willing to give it one more shot.


clare said...

that is hilarious! ok..maybe not to your wallet...but still! =) it reminds me of when we ate buff the was so bad...i ended up turning him into a brunswick (buffwick) stew....ish thing. 100 days....hmmm...i think we were told to eat our chickens...the broilers at 10 weeks 100 days makes that about 2x that age...i am not sure why they waited until they were elderly chickens...i'd imagine that is the problem...but i am guessing there is so speciality in the 100 day chicken...i think i'd go for the teen-agers in the future...or wait until you were really hungering for a crockpot chicken =) excited about friday!!!

clare said...

i meant next thurs!

Patty said...

no they are different from "traditional" commercial chickens and take longer to grow. They have recipes on their site about the best way to prepare their local organic grass-fed meats. And yes, it is expensive and requires some change, but we have to do something about our current system of food production, which is as untenable as our other uses of fossil fuels.

Liana Krissoff said...

Clare: The French guidelines for raising this particular breed specify the age, and Nature's Harmony is following that.

Patty: I agree, and that's why I tried this chicken. The recipes on the website don't seem especially different from recipes for "regular" chickens, so I don't really trust them to turn out a much better meal than the one we had. And our meal was expensive mainly because we couldn't eat it. Perhaps there's a middle ground, where we can eat food that's been raised in a humane way but that also tastes good. I see that Five & Ten is serving Springer Mountain chicken, for example. Of course those birds certainly don't live quite as idyllic a life as the ones in Elberton, but maybe it's close enough for a chicken?

A few people resigning themselves to a life of stewed chicken or rubbery roast chicken isn't going to change our supply system to the point where more poultry in the world is living 14 weeks than 10.

Andrew said...

The only way I could see that the chicken would roast right is Brasilian churrasco (shoo-HAHS-co) style: marinate in lime juice, garlic, black pepper, moderate rock salt; then toss a handful of salt over it and roast it two feet over coals for eight low low low. Otherwise, you might as well use it as a blunt self defense weapon.

Liana Krissoff said...

Andrew: Two feet over coals for eight hours does sound appealing. I'll try that next time. Maybe in the fall, when it cools down here a bit.

Lara Alexander said...

I like your chickpea idea. I have half a can leftover in my fridge. I will roast them in the morning for tomorrow's salad. I have plans to make more mint-sorrel pesto dressing that will go well with the crispy beans. Thanks!!

Marcy said...

Brining will definitely solve your problem, because it makes everything tender and moist. You might also start your oven on high (like 425) then turn it down as soon as you put the chicken in to 300 or so until it reaches the safe internal temp. I turn it back up to 375 when it's getting close so the skin will brown. The 'shock' at the beginning is supposed to keep it from drying out.

It's interesting though, because I've had some Poulet Rouge chickens and even when I roast them without brining they've never been tough...