An old roommate of mine and I used to like to roast a chicken for Sunday supper back in the day. This was in the innocent early 90s before most people started asking questions about exactly how free a free-range chicken was. We fell for the friendly chicken names and marketing speak that conjured up images of happy chickens pecking around in the dirt under clear blue skies.
Since I’ve come to know better, I’ve pretty much stopped eating chicken until I came across this specimen at the Temescal Farmers’ Market market last Sunday (see below for unrelated rant). I was overjoyed. Pastured chicken within my reach? I know about the meat CSAs and Marin Sun Farms and all, but if I join a meat CSA, it will just mean that I eat more meat, and I don’t want to. When I want meat I just buy it at the farmers’ markets. But nobody ever has chickens since Hoffman stopped selling at the Ferry Plaza. Sold by Prather but farmed by Soul Food Farm, these chickens just appeared at the market a couple weeks ago. Shortly thereafter there was a supply interruption due to chicken wranglers stealing a bunch of chickens. Seriously, that’s what the guy told me. Terrible…all that hard work of raising chickens gone in a puff of dust.
Our little guy pictured above cost about $12 and fed two for dinner with about 1/3 cup leftover meat for salad the next night. The breasts are small, but look more natural than those busty supermarket chickens, and we’re a dark meat family anyway. I stuffed a little sliced garlic under the skin, salt and peppered generously, rubbed a little olive oil over it all and roasted at 400 for about 50 minutes. It was wonderful. It tasted like chicken, but extra chicken-y, bordering on gamey, but in a good way. It just had a lot of flavor. We quickly took to calling it our feral chicken. I can tell by the taste that this chicken is the real deal, but, for the skeptics, here are two articles about Soul Food Farm by two different reporters who visited the farm and saw for themselves the pastures the chickens are raised on: SF Gate, Sept 2007, Edible East Bay, Fall 2007.
Accompaniments: salad (a few leaves from our garden even) and braised baby artichokes and potatoes with shelling peas, mint, and lemon–all from River Dog Farm (except the mint and lemon).
Promised Unrelated Rant: When shopping at the Temescal Farmers' Market, you have to carefully vet the suppliers on your own. Many of the farms are great, but the avocados last Sunday had Dole stickers on them! I'm not sure how that got by the seller/producer rules. (I'm sure Prather has a different license that allows them to sell other producers goods) I find any East Bay market run by The Ecology Center is different. I feel I can trust that they check out the farmers carefully.