Whole Foods Lifestyle - ..... and a free chicken... need yardbird cooking advice

08-20-2008, 08:01 PM
Hubby and I were doing some errands and shopping today, and before we went out, hubby attached my pedometer to my shoe (clipped over the toe side laces). Supposedly a pedometer is more accurate on the shoes than on the waist (and definitely more comfortable) but I just finally got around to buying a pedometer with a small enough clip.

So, I've almost got a mile in already (which for my disabled, self is pretty good). If I can get in a mile and a quarter in every day, I'll be able to meet the Dec 31 deadline of 168 miles for my United Way walk I joined. I think I will be able to make it, and if I can't I'll still get alot of walking in.

Anyway, we stopped at our favorite Thai/Hmong restaurant, and we ordered. And the owner asked me if I wanted an asian chicken. On a previous visit, I had told her how I had missed the flavor of family farm-raised chickens, especially older chickens for stewing and soups - because grocery chicken is too young to have any flavor. And that the old-fashioned "yard bird" chickens had so much more flavor. Well, she brought me out a frozen chicken, her mother had brought her from the farm (Her parents raise chickens for meat and eggs, and sell mostly to other asians and the few europeans who appreciate and want a "real" tasting chicken.

She warned me that it wasn't a particularly "old" chicken, but a "regular" asian chicken. It's an asian breed of chicken, but when she gave me the chicken, it's a good-sized adult chicken, so I think it is exactly what my mom and grandma were always talking about.

I don't know that I even remember having "farm chicken," so I'm really looking forward to this food adventure. I figure that the crockpot is probably the best treatment for this bird (it's dressed already, so thankfully I don't have to pluck or do much cleaning)

but.... anyone with experience cooking a mature small farm-raised bird - is there anything I should know about cooking it differently than a standard whole grocery store bird?

08-20-2008, 08:45 PM
Hi Kaplods! We used to raise chickens for meat, as well as eggs. The meat birds were intensely flavored, as compared to store bought. As I don't know how old the bird was when it went from barnyard to freezer, I would use the crockpot, with a dry rub and not too much liquid (wine, or low salt broth). Keep the temp lower, and slow cooking. The broth will be very yummy, and if you reduce it in a small saucepan, it will be de-lish over the meat. Let us know how it comes out!

08-20-2008, 10:39 PM
Thanks Judi,

I was so young when my mom and grandma used farm-raised chicken, that I don't really remember much of the cooking process at all or how it changed over the years as they used grocery birds (and I think, I thik I remember the taste difference). Mostly I remember them complaining through the years how grocery store chickens have less and less taste (so much so that I carry on the complaint, without knowing the true difference).

Although sadly, I have noticed that it seems they continue to have less and less flavor. Even when I was first on my own and cooking for myself (in the late 80's), you could still get stewing hens in the grocery store. I can't tell you when I last saw a stewing hen in the grocery (or any chicken that had any color to the skin or fat).

I'm really excited. It'll probably be at least a week before I have a chance to get to the bird, but I'll try to remember this thread to get back to it. I imagine the experience will be enough inspiration.

08-20-2008, 10:49 PM
My dear Aunt and Uncle in Saskatchewan raise chickens and sell them only to family at the BARGAIN price of $10. They have lists of us waiting for our chickens every year. I have always baked my farm chickens in a slow oven 315 for 2 - 2.5 hours.. They're so big, they're like a small turkey. I never thought of stewing.....hmm.

08-20-2008, 11:56 PM
Right now, in our area, there's a really big market for "free range" meat and poultry, and farmer's market and CSA produce. I think more people are starting to realize what the grocery store has taken away from us (it's given us variety and convenience, but at a price).

I think my husband and I have found an untapped market in the asian community. The asian grocery stores sell the frozen "brand name" asian chickens and ducks (head and feet still attached) for crazy prices (up to $30 for a rather skinny bird), but the going price (I've been told) of a Hmong yardbird (relatively small family farms) is about $6 for a chicken that you pick out alive (they pluck and dress for you).

Meanwhile, the "white" farmers are selling free range eggs and meat at up to twice the price. There's still a cultural barrier to an extent. You'll see it at the farmers' markets where some "white folk" won't even browse the Hmong stalls, giving them a wide berth and only stopping at the white vendors. While many of the Hmong shoppers do the same. Although since the Hmong prices are cheaper, I'm not sure if the Hmong shoppers are being culturally loyal, or just savvy shoppers.

There's one elderly Hmong lady, who has been so nice to us. We ask her about everything we don't recognize, and she does her best to explain, and she always throws in something free for us to try or as an extra gift. Today she had two varieties of peppers that looked almost identical (green, skinny, but wrinkly, sort of like scotch bonnets wringle, but they're long not round peppers). The larger variety was sweet, she said not hot, and she got out a knife and sliced off pieces (showing me the best way to cut the pepper, so that it was easy to keep the seeds out of the dish) which makes a lot of sense in a wrinkly pepper as seeding them could be a pain otherwise. And she gave us pieces to try (it was sweet, with only the slight hint of spice - almost unnoticeable unless you compared it to a bell pepper). We also bought some miniature or baby cauliflowers (the whole head, still surrounded by the outer leaves, was only about 2.5 to 3.5 inches across). They seem new this year, and while she usually grows peppers, there's a new variety every year.

It's just amazing to know that your food was in the ground less than a day before you buy it (ALL of the vendors seem to tell you when the items were picked "just last night" or "first thing this morning," or even "picked Monday evening" (for a Wednesday morning market, this is always said in a rather embarassed "want you to know it's not the freshest" way). Yes, when would a grocer appologize for the food being more than 24 hours out of the ground (I don't know if you can even get anything in a supermarket that's been out of the ground LESS than a week).

08-25-2008, 08:36 PM
If anybody finds stewing hens...let me know. Man, how I miss those...

09-22-2008, 09:39 PM
I finally got around to cooking the yardbird. I opted for the crockpot, 12 hours on low, with a dry rub (actually a damp rub, of garlic and seasonings) and a can of chicken broth and dry soup base.

I think the bird probably did qualify as a stewing hen, by the way the meat came off the bone in long fibers. Too tender, with the low and slow cooking to be called stringy, but I was taught that meat coming off the bone like that was a sign of an older bird (or could just be a bird that had the space to walk around).

The bird even smelled different cooking. Hubby called it "super chicken." It was really, really good, and I don't know if it was real "memory" or just nostalgia, but it made me think of grandma's kitchen (my grandparents moved in with us before I was 10, but memories of her kitchen are very vivid).

I had been procrastinating the cooking process, because I hate cleaning whole chickens. I anticipated (I don't know why) that there would be more cleaning to do, but when I defrosted the chicken, it was the cleanest bird I've ever dealt with.

The breastbone had been split, and the liver and heart was still attached, but it was so clean inside, I was shocked. I've never gotten a grocery store whole chicken that clean inside the cavity. I felt kind of like an old time "witch" examining the innards, but I was struck by how much different they looked than in grocery chickens, and it made me kind of nervous about what that said about the health of grocery chickens. This chickens heart was much smaller, and the liver was darker in color and "perfect" looking - like biology textbook perfect.

I did discard the innards, because I don't care for the flavoring they add to the cooking liquid in cooking chicken (I don't like heart, but I love chicken livers, but I wasn't going to saute one chicken liver), but I was shocked at how pristine they look.

Now I have to consider whether I will ever buy grocery store chicken, ever again.

09-23-2008, 08:02 PM
Your description got me drooling...it's been too long since I've had a home-grown chicken...too danged long...{deep sigh}

Glad to hear how good it was!