A few weeks ago, I mentioned that Matt had helped out slaughtering chickens on Katie and Greg's farm, and I think he'd like to post about the experience. So you may find out about that in about seven months, after he's collected his thoughts and arranged and rearranged the words into the precise order he'd like them.
He's making this face right now as he reads that:
So you'll have to wait a little for Matt's thoughts on the act of killing something you intend to eat. In the meantime, though, I can tell you the second half of the story...
In the interests of perfect honesty, Matt didn't kill this particular bird. But it did spend its years on Katie and Greg's farm, enjoying the chickeny good life. Katie doesn't eat "unhappy" meat, so you'd better believe that anyone she's involved in raising is living a humane, comfortable, natural life.
And I can assure you, first-hand, that a humane, comfortable, natural life translates into a pretty incredible meal.
Matt tweaked our favorite roast chicken recipe a little, stuffing this guy with a whole head of garlic and a lemon, surrounding it with chopped zucchini, carrots, and red onions. He also poured a lemony beer over the top (Leinenkugel's "Summer Shandy") for added moisture and richness.
We then simply baked it, as per usual, at 350. This one was a little bigger than our usual, so I think we left it in for almost two hours while we prepped everything else. And when it came out, OH HOLY GOD:
Did you want another photo of that? Maybe from another angle?
I know. That's how we all felt.
Mom had also made a cheesy casserole with some green vegetable that I can't remember off the top of my head (asparagus? more zucchini?) that came in her CSA bag. We heated a loaf of take-n-bake that contains just flour, yeast, water, salt. And after the red wine you see above, we popped a celebratory bottle of Summers Vineyard un-oaked chardonnay.
(No relation that we know of. But the wine is great! )
The bird was, needless to say, flawless. The meat fell off the bone, to the point that Matt had to give up on trying to carve it; it was simply too juicy and tender to hold up in large slices. Each bite -- even the white meat, usually too dry for me -- was dripping with lemony, garlicky, fatty, chickeny goodness. I've had some happy birds before who were a little too tough and stringy (often animals raised the right way are leaner than their feedlot-stuffed counterparts), but this was absolutely perfect. Exactly what a chicken ought to be.
The vegetables that roasted with the chicken were phenomenal: perfectly tender and completely infused with the lemon, garlic, and chicken jus that filled the bottom of the pan as the chicken cooked.
Our friend Karen had come over for the feast, and Matt said a grace he'd composed for the occasion. I can't completely remember, but it called on us to be thoughtful about and grateful for the food on our plates, and the way it reached our table. As we ate, I think we were very aware of every piece of the meal, where it came from, and how eating it tied us into that chain.
Better yet, eating it together tied us to one another. Every time you share a meal, I think you're making connections with your fellow diners in a fundamentally human way. With friends and family around a table spread with thoughtfully raised and prepared food, we were engaging in a daily ritual that people have enjoyed, and which has set us apart from other animals, for centuries.
The following photo is a terrible one of everyone involved, but I like it because you can see how happy we are to be enjoying each other's company:
Slash how happy we are that Karen brought a pie.
Strawberry rhubarb (rhubarb from her garden, I think): the perfect end to the perfect meal.
I don't think I'm thoughtful enough about my food on a daily basis as I would like to be, and meals like this one provide a terrific reminder of all I have to be grateful for.