I love coming home from vacation because there are usually little ‘presents’ waiting to welcome me home – a couple of cookbooks from Amazon, magazine subscriptions, and my new favorite…my CSA shares. I was lucky enough to have people pick them up while I was out of town so they were all ready and waiting for me when I returned. This week was a particular gold mine because in addition to my weekly produce share from Silverbrook Farm I also had my first month’s meat share from Stillman’s at the Turkey Farm. I actually signed up back in April but the CSA is so popular that my start date wasn’t until July. While I love vegetables I was most excited about this meat share. I realize this sounds odd for someone who eats very little meat, but bear with me.
While I enjoy eating meat, my consumption is low for a couple of reasons. The first is that my attitude towards it varies from the standard American diet. For me it’s more of a treat or a condiment. I’ve never really felt like meat needs to be the center of my plate and usually only eat it when I’m really craving it or when it is a fantastic cut that adds a lot of flavor. I get a lot of my protein from beans and tofu (both of which I absolutely love) so when I eat meat it’s usually related to flavor, not a need for protein. The second reason is that I struggle to make meat a part of my diet while honoring my philosophy towards food. Even though I’m an omnivore I feel very passionately that animals raised food should be treat conscienciously in a way that honors the animal and the environment. Unfortunately this makes buying food at conventional grocery stores and even Whole Foods tough because there is often little information about the conditions under which the animal is raised or the philosophy of the farmer. Even when there is information available I’ve learned through reading great books like The Way We Eat that it can be misleading. Because of this I was thrilled when I learned that not only could you get a CSA share for vegetables but also for meat to. I happened to stumble upon Stillman’s and felt like we had a similar philosophy when it came to treatment of animals so I signed up for a 6-month quarter share. My quarter share gets me five pounds of meat a month plus 20% off all meat purchases at the farmer’s market. It’s not the best choice up for everyone because you have to pay up front and it’s pricey (My share works out to a little over $9 a pound, but half and quarter shares work out cheaper per pound. This is substantially more than most grocery store meats, but only a little more expensive than or equal to mail order free range/pasture raised meats.) but for me it’s the best choice to satisfy my ethics and my palate. I always debate back and forth about whether I could go vegetarian or vegan but right now this is the best choice that I can feel good about and live with. I like to think doing something, even if small, is doing better than nothing.
Anyway, on to the goods. This week my meat share included ground beef, chicken breast, leg of lamb, and some Italian pork sausage. Since this is meant to last me a month I figure I will make one meal each week with the meat and go meat-free the rest. For my produce share this week I got blueberry ginger jam, a pint of bluberries, carrots, beets, summer squash, and peaches. I’m especially excited about the peaches because I look forward to peach season each year and find that having an abundance of fruit has gotten me to try new recipes ranging from quick breads to clafouti to cobbler. You’ll just have to wait and see what I whip up this time.
This week I decided to try the chicken breasts, which were two HUGE bone-in, skin on breasts. I started going through my recipes and was immediately drawn to Michael Chiarello’s Chicken alla Vendemia, which called for a spice rubbed chicken to be roasted and served with a lovely pan sauce. I varied the recipe a bit, as usual. For my chicken I seared it first in some leftover duck fat. Let me tell you, this stuff really lives up to its name of liquid gold. It added an indulgent flavor to the pan sauce and the crust of the chicken itself. I also switched up the pan sauce using white wine instead of the recommended grape juice so the resulting sauce had white wine, chicken stock, rosemary, and shallots along with my favorite ingredient – red grapes. The red grapes were what made this more interesting than a typical pan sauce. They add a nice pop of sweetness and a textural contrast to the crispy-crusted chicken. They also add a nice pop of freshness that is appreciated against the richness of the sauce. The resulting dish was really fantastic and was the perfect balance of earth, sweet, salty, savory. I am typically not a chicken breast fan because I find them to be the most bland of all meat but this recipe really dressed them up in their weekend’s finest. I served it with Cooking Light’s Green Beans with Toasted Lemon-Hazelnut Butter made with green beans left from last week’s CSA share. This recipe is pretty much as simple as it gets: green beans plus butter, toasted hazelnuts, salt, and citrus zest. I love the pop the citrus brings and the crunch of the nuts. Delicious, but then again I love fresh green beans so much that a little butter or olive oil and salt is all it takes to make them heavenly for me. Try out this meal for yourself.
Adapted from Michael Chiarello
Serves 2 with leftovers
-1 tablespoon whole fennel seeds
-1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
-1/2 teaspoons sea salt
-2 bone-in chicken breast halves, skin and visible fat removed
-1 tablespoon rendered duck fat or olive oil
-1/3 cup sliced shallots
-1 tablespoon freshly chopped rosemary leaves, plus sprigs for garnish
-2 cups white wine (I used Sauvignon Blanc)
-2 cups chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth
-1 cup halved seedless red grapes
-Salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Toast fennel seed and peppercorns in a dry pan until fragrant. Let cool and then add to a spice grinder with the sea salt. Process until a powder has been achieved. Season the chicken with the spice mixture, pressing it into the meat.
In a deep-sided oven-proof skillet, heat the duck fat or olive oil. Add the chicken, top side down, and cook for 3 minutes to brown. Place the pan in the oven, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
Remove from the oven and turn the chicken over and place skin side up on a baking sheet. Return chicken to the oven until cooked through, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the pieces to a platter.
Using the same pan used for the chicken, add the shallot to the fat in the pan. Cook for 2 minutes. Add the chopped rosemary and let sweat for 1 minute, then add the wine. Reduce by half and add the chicken stock. Reduce the sauce by half again, for about 1 cup of sauce. Add the grapes and cook just to heat through, about 1 minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper.