Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Chicken with Flowering Chives

I've taken to calling my charges, the eleven egg-laying chickens I'm care-taking, "Girls."

It's surprisingly easy to feel fond of chickens. Each morning when I let the girls out of their coop into the yard (pic below), they gather about me clucking as though I'm their new best friend!

Obviously it's food they're after; not my friendship. But they are in fact quite comfortable in close proximity to me, so long as I don't behave in an aggressive manner.

Tracy, whose property I'm house sitting, told me that because she eats chicken, she thought it important to have the experience of butchering one of her own.

So with the help of a friend, she did just that. I didn't ask details; I didn't want them. Though I do think it's admirable that she butchered one of her own.

We're alienated from the process of growing and butchering meat, pork and poultry for our personal consumption and I don't think that's a good thing.

We'd probably eat a lot less of it if we had to kill the animal or the bird ourselves.

Back in January I posted an entry for a minimal-meat meal idea and linked to Julie Powell's new book, her follow up to the best selling, Julie and Julia.

I did so because her new book, Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat and Obsession, is both a challenging but eye-opening read about butchering (and other stuff, like the breakdown of her marriage).

Because I pursued further reading on the environmental and health woes of factory farming animals, I'm more conscious of the meat and poultry I buy at the grocery store now, checking it for the Animal Welfare Approved stamp or the Certified Humane stamp.

However, in all honesty, I'm still not having any luck finding chicken labeled with either of those stamps.

I bought Maverick Farm chicken breasts at Vitamin Cottage this past weekend and though the label says "All Natural" labels can be deceiving.

According to the Eat Humane site, in addition to the AWA and Certified Humane labels, "pasture raised" or "USDA Organic" are good options for poultry; "All Natural" doesn't rate a mention.

Eat Humane also rates grocery stores according to how animal-welfare friendly their meat and poultry is. Not surprisingly, Whole Foods ranks highest, though I have found Vitamin Cottage to have a good range of buffalo, pork, and eggs labeled with the Certified Humane Stamp.

If searching for humanely-farmed poultry items at the store leaves you feeling frustrated, and if you have the yard space and the inclination, I came across a great resource, The City Chicken, a colorful site created to inspire budding chicken-keepers to take the plunge!

And despite that I could only find "All Natural"chicken, I did make a rather yummy meal with the breast.

Chicken with Flowering Chives
1) Slice chicken breast into chunks. Toss into a hot skillet lined with olive oil.
2) Into the skillet toss chunks of red and yellow organic bell peppers, and pieces of bottled or tinned artichoke hearts.
4) If you have any spinach or kale or broccoli, you might like to toss in some green stuff too.
5) And If you have an opened bottle of white wine, add half a cup, turn heat down, and then put the lid on the skillet and cook for about 5-7 mins. or until chicken is cooked through.
6) To finish the dish, pour in a couple tablespoons of cream, and stir through to create a creamy white wine sauce. Add seasoning and test taste.
Note: If you don't have wine, use a splash of water and a squeeze of lemon juice. Or simply put the lid on the skillet and turn the hot plate to low, allowing the chicken and veggies to cook in their own juices -- though if you do this, finish the dish with a splash of balsamic vinegar or lemon juice to taste.

To Serve: You might light to serve the chicken over pasta or rice, especially if you have white wine and cream sauce to mop up. On the other hand, you could eat it as is, decorating the edge of the plate with chunks of avocado, and sprinkling the lot with chopped chives or parsley.

To garnish, I added edible chive flowers from the garden; they look so beautiful atop this dish and they're strong garlic-flavor is a delicious accompaniment to any chicken dish.

If you don't have access to flowering chives, you could also garnish this dish with black or green olives or even capers.

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