I can’t ever remember roasting so many chickens in such a short period of time. I’ve done roast chicken Sunday Dinner style, and I’ve done a smart and sophisticated lemon butter basil preparation for my West coast friends. When my third pastured chicken becomes available at Restoration Farm, I decide the style will be rustic bistro food.
I spot Tricia Hardgrove jumping into the truck as I arrive at the farm to pick up my share. Tricia is overseeing the Hardscrabble Chicken project and she has promised that batch number three should be good. Chickens, like field workers appreciate the absence of 90 plus degree heat, she says.
“Don’t forget your chicken!” she calls out with a wave. Chicken #18 is lean and lovely, tipping the scales at 4 and a quarter pounds.
Again, I look to “A Bird in the Oven and Then Some,” by Mindy Fox for expert guidance. A lifelong Dijon addict, I am immediately drawn to the recipe “Roast Chicken with Mustard Butter” (recipe found here) which features butter, shallots, Dijon mustard, sage and lemons.
The ingredients are combined into a compound butter and slipped under the skin. This time, the skin loosens easily, and I quickly slather the bird with the savory spread, smoothing it across the breast and thighs. Practice makes perfect, and I’m getting pretty good at trussing the bird, but sometimes I’m still not sure which side is which.
This time, there’s a little smoking in the kitchen, as all that rich butter crackles and pops. But with a quick adjustment to the oven temperature, there are no major disasters and the chicken emerges from the oven a stunning, glossy, deep copper shade.
The flavor is extraordinary. The buttery Dijon and sage permeates the perfect tender white flesh of the farm-raised chicken.
The bird is served with sautéed collard greens and roasted zucchini and summer squash. My guests for this third celebration of pastured chicken are my parents, and we dine on the 101st birth anniversary of my grandmother Hilda. I remember many a delicious family dinner prepared by Grandma. She, too, would have enjoyed Chicken #18.
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