Spring Chickens

When Smarter Means Better

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My favorite local grocery store features Smart Chickens, organically grown, uncaged birds that have been fed a balanced, nutritious diet and allowed to roam freely. Unlike most commercially grown chickens, these are plump without being watery and don’t yield a lot of grease. The flavor is amazingly good, lending itself to many simple variations without needing much help.

If your family appreciates crispy skin, they’ll enjoy a golden, fragrant Roast Chicken With Fennel and Oranges. Accompanied by roasted fennel and a fresh orange sauce, this beautiful dish cooks while you entertain your guests or relax with a glass of wine. Turning the roasting bird allows it to cook evenly, so the breast meat doesn’t dry out before the dark meat is cooked through.

Roast Chicken With Fennel and Oranges

1 Smart Chicken (4-5 pounds)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large bulbs fennel, cut in quarters, greens reserved
2 organic oranges, juiced, rind grated
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
3 cloves garlic, chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Rinse chicken inside and out, pat dry. Rub skin lightly with 1 teaspoon oil and arrange wing-side-up (sideways) in a roasting rack set in a deep roasting pan. Rub fennel with 1 teaspoon oil and arrange under rack. Sprinkle fennel and chicken with 1 teaspoon orange zest each and bake at 400 for 25 minutes. With tongs, turn chicken so other wing side is up and roast for 25 minutes. Turn breast-side up, reduce heat to 350 and roast until evenly golden (15-20 minutes). Place chicken and fennel on a serving platter and cover loosely with foil. Place roasting pan over a burner on medium high heat and add remaining zest and garlic. Cook, stirring, until garlic is soft (4-5 minutes), then deglaze pan with orange juice. Serve portions of chicken and fennel with orange sauce, garnished with chopped fennel greens. Serves 4.

Twice As Nice

If you are feeding several people, consider cooking two chickens at once so you can make a marvelous entree salad with the leftovers. Spunky with spring greens, Strawberry Chicken Salad has a piquant dressing of white balsamic vinegar and shredded basil that’s also terrific over steamed young kale or grilled asparagus.

Strawberry Chicken Salad

2 cups Nappa cabbage, shredded
2 cups young local greens
1 cup baby kale, stemmed and shredded
1 cup mache or young spinach, stemmed and shredded
1 cup fresh strawberries, stemmed and sliced
4 green onions, finely chopped
2 cups cooked chicken, cut in bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup basil, stemmed and shredded

Combine all ingredients in a serving bowl and toss gently. Serve at room temperature, accompanied by Balsamic Basil Dressing (see below). Serves four.

Balsamic Basil Dressing

3 tablespoons virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh basil, minced

Combine all ingredients in a jar and stir well. Makes about 1/2 cup. Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Chipotle On The Side

Spring Chicken Salad With Pan Roasted Asparagus has a smoky bite, thanks to a dash of chipotle-flavored tabasco sauce in the tangy-sweet dressing. Roasted almonds and shredded Savoy cabbage add crunch, while grated Rainbow carrots add a balancing sweetness.

Spring Chicken Salad With Pan Roasted Asparagus

1/8 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
12 spears asparagus, ends trimmed, cut in 1-inch pieces
4 cups young local greens
2 cups savoy cabbage, finely shredded
1 cup Rainbow carrots, peeled and grated
2 tablespoons red onion, finely chopped
2 cups cooked chicken, cut in bite-sized pieces
2 tablespoons roasted almonds, chopped

Sprinkle salt in a heavy frying pan over medium high heat. Add asparagus and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly charred (4-5 minutes). Cover pan, reduce heat to low and cook until barely tender (1-2 minutes). Combine with remaining ingredients in a serving bowl and toss gently. Serve at room temperature, accompanied by Chipotle Dressing (see below). Serves four.

Chipotle Dressing

1/4 cup olive oil
1-2 tablespoons sweet rice vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
1/8 teaspoon chipotle tabasco sauce

Combine all ingredients in a jar, starting with 1 tablespoon rice vinegar and adding more to taste. Makes about 1/2 cup. Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Simply Super Sandwiches

The same dressing makes a splendidly zippy chicken salad to serve with greens or in Chipotle Chicken Salad Sandwiches.

Chipotle Chicken Salad Sandwiches

4 crusty rolls, split and toasted
1/2 cup Chipotle Dressing (see above)
2 tablespoons red onion, finely chopped
1 cup cooked chicken, cut in bite-sized pieces
2 tablespoons roasted almonds, finely chopped
1/2 cup savoy cabbage, finely shredded

Place split rolls on four plates. Combine remaining ingredients, toss gently and place a scoop (about 1/4 cup) of salad on one half of each bun.  Serves four.

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