Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Pollo Buono from Epicurean Farms

The most delicious chicken I have ever cooked was one that I bought from Whole Foods a year or two ago.  I haven't seen them at the market recently, until my shopping trip there today. I'm not sure if the market hasn't been carrying them, or if they are simply sold out by the time I get there, but I was so excited to see them today.  I snatched up a nice sized bird around three and a half pounds.

Since it's on the pricey side at $15, it will be good to stretch it as far as possible.  I'll be carving it up and roasting the breasts on the bone.  The flavorful dark meat will go into a hearty cassoulet with salt pork and lentils.  The wings and spine will go into a stock for soup and maybe a risotto later this week.  The joy of buying whole chickens is how versatile the bird is and how many meals you can get from it!

The Pollo Buono birds are raised by Epicurean Farms, a joint project between Rob Saglio and the Hain Celestial Group, an organic food company.  Saglio discovered the chickens on a trip to Italy when he ate one at a small Roman restaurant.  He raises them according to the same methods of the Roman farmer allowing to them to naturally grow ten to thirteen weeks without the use of growth hormones or antibiotics since the birds have a naturally strong immune system.

What I like about this chicken is its richness of flavor and it's firm meaty texture.  It also tends to roast a bit more evenly when cooked whole because the breasts are smaller.  If you're used to supermarket chickens that don't have much flavor, these delicious birds will be a revelation to you.  The first time I cooked it, it was like I'd never had chicken before.  There is so much more depth and dimension to the meat than the usual roaster.

Epicurean Farms also raises Muscovy ducks which I have yet to see at my local Whole Foods, and Cornish hens which they call Petit Poulet.  I'm eager to try the hens, which I usually cook with a honey and poppy seed glaze.  Maybe I will pick a couple up on my next shopping trip for dinner.  Recipes to come!

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