Eatin’ for the Earf

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April 23, 2013 by productoverprocessed

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Local food advocates often go for the gross-out when trying to convince more folks to forgo the industrial food chain in favor of farm-to-table eating.  They love to hit you with the image of hundreds of cows standing in knee-high piles of their own shit, or of hogs, hanging by one leg, being raced down a conveyor belt toward their own gruesome and certainly unsanitary demise.  And don’t get me wrong–when I get tempted to break my “no feedlot meat” rule and eat a burger from the dive bar down the street, those are the images I conjure up to keep me from going astray.  

Honestly, though, what is perhaps the most important statistic in favor of local eating is also, at first read, one of the mildest: the average supermarket banana, apple, bunch of kale, etc. travels 1500 miles from the farm to your plate (the veracity of that figure has been challenged, but the exact number is hardly the point).  Although certainly “wow” or at least “huh!” inducing, it doesn’t exactly make your stomach churn.  But if you think about just how much energy is consumed shipping all of those little boxes of not-all-that-great strawberries across the country, it’s hard not to feel at least a little woozy.  Especially when you consider how much delicious food is being grown in your own backyard.

Combined with the desire to support local farms, to keep our money in and around Nashville, and to eat local ingredients, this stat has been enough to get us to out of bed and to the farmers market on recent Saturday mornings.  In fact, we went to a new farmers’ market at the beginning of this month to get some ingredients for our six month anniversary dinner.  Let me tell you, though–if you can pick a time to start eating locally and seasonally, early April is not ideal.  By that time, you’ve had enough kale, sweet potatoes, and butternut squash to feed a small village, and you’re not itching to fill up your car with more of it.  So you go to Trader Joe’s, buy some broccoli and asparagus, and ease your guilt by reminding yourself it’s organic (although, as Michael Pollan points out, this means very little in terms of the amount of energy spent transporting the food from its, albeit pesticide-free, industrial farm to your table).  

But don’t give up.  Go back to that farmers market in late April, when your parents are visiting and are willing to subsidize (or pay completely for) your indulgences, and you’ll find it’s a lot easier to keep everything on your plate local.  You might find a local aged gouda, some creamy chèvre, a dozen fresh eggs, radishes, parsley, asparagus (in season!), crackers, cookies, and a whole chicken, none of which has travelled much more than 30 miles from its source to your bag.  So when Earth Day rolls around two days later and fills you with guilt for your urban lifestyle and accompanying carbon footprint, you can take solace in the fact that the contents of your refrigerator traveled a shorter distance on their way to your table than most people do on their way to work.

And in celebration of that fact, you might cook something like this.

Scott’s earth-friendly roast chicken w/ pan sauce (adapted from Martha Holmberg’s Modern Sauces and Michael Ruhlman’s Ruhlman’s 20)

INGREDIENTS

3-4 lb pasture-raised whole chicken

Kosher salt

1 shallot, minced

1/4 cup local beer (I used Fat Bottom’s Rhonda, a rye ale)

3/4 cup water

1 tsp mustard, plus more for serving (I used Bertman’s ballpark mustard)

1 tbsp unsalted butter

1 tbsp parsley

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 450.

2. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels.  The dryer the skin, the crisper it will be.

3. Truss the chicken.  This is important because it closes off the cavity and ensures even cooking of the breast and thighs. A great demo can be found here.

4. Sprinkle the chicken with about a tablespoon of salt, giving it a nice, uniform crust.

5. Place chicken in a stainless steel saute pan and slide pan into oven.

6. Roast chicken until internal temperature reaches 160.  The skin should be a deep golden brown, and the juices should run clear.

7. Remove chicken to plate.  Pour off all but a spoonful of the rendered fat (or don’t, if you like to live dangerously), and place pan over high heat.  But BE CAREFUL!  The pan has been sitting in a hot oven for an hour and is, duh, super hot.  Put a towel on the handle.

8. Add shallot to pan, and cook until fragrant but not browned, about 30 seconds.

9. Add 1/4 cup beer to deglaze, scraping up the tasty browned bits from the bottom of the pan with a flat-edged wooden spoon.  Reduce this liquid to about a spoonful.

10. Add 3/4 cup water, again scraping up the tasty bits.  Reduce by about two thirds.

11. Turn heat to low.  Add mustard and any additional flavorings.  

12. Stir in butter.  Remove from heat, stir in parsley, and pour over chicken breast, served airline style (with wing attached).

Serve chicken and pan sauce with ballpark mustard, grilled local asparagus, roasted local sweet potato wedges, and a pint of a local rye ale.  Feel good about yourself and the choices you’ve made.

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