Tag Archives: pastured chickens

Asopao de pollo (Soupy Chicken and Rice) with Pastured Bird!

23 Jun

Sooooo, I managed to get to Restoration Farm in time to see the very tail end of the first processing (meaning when the birds are killed, plucked and eviscerated, lest I be accused of euphemism).

I did NOT take Leandro; I wanted to see things for myself and not have to focus on keeping him out of trouble. More on his reaction to the chicken in a moment.

First I want to say that the atmosphere at this first round of chicken processing was so calm and cooperative and lovely. The team of Trisha, Lucille, Steve, Brian, Denis, Dan and Caroline was tired, but elated, but not  giddy or punchy, after seven hours of chicken guts under the trees. Dan and Caroline’s two kids were there; two-year-old Ada was calm as could be in the face of all the activity.

My first bird

The chickens — all 35 made it to processing! – weighed in between 4. 16 and 6.65 lbs. As a note, these are not certified organic birds (that’s a whole ‘nother process), but they have been raised according to organic practices – from their feed to their pasture; they just don’t have the stamp.

I also forgot my bloody camera! I wanted to shoot myself (since I couldn’t shoot pictures). So you will have to wait and see whether someone is able to send me photos; then again, perhaps you don’t care to see the goings on. Anyhoo, it was clean and well-organized.

So I brought home bird #22, weighing 5.75 lbs. I picked up the necessary ingredients for asopao from the Compare (Latino) supermarket in Farmingdale on the way home. My dad, Pedro, roused himself from the NYTimes crossword puzzle to separate the bird (we saved the breasts for another meal cause this bird was so big!) and I went to work while Leandro was still across the street at a playdate. It was beautiful to work with. So clean.

Asopao isn’t really Hot, Cheap & Easy, except for the hot, sweaty work if you want to do it right (and I did). Perhaps I will invent a shortcut version one day, but not with this special bird. And really, my mom and dad were taken back to the days of my great-aunts cooking all day long…I really got it right. The chicken gave so much real flavor; it is certainly not as tender as factory-farmed, but it is really good. In the next few posts I’ll talk about some of the more unusual ingredients here and what to do if you can’t find them.

Leandro sat down to eat and said, “These are the little chickens that got big?”

and I said “Yes, Trisha and everyone killed them today so we could eat.”

“Oh. You went to see?” he said, and I said yes.

He stuck a big bite in his mouth and said, “Delicious.”

I forgot to tell him not to speak with his mouth full.

Asopao de Pollo (Soupy Chicken and Rice) Serves 6-8

Dedicated to my tía-abuelas

A – Three pounds chicken (may be whole chicken or, if you have a big bird, reserve the breasts for another meal. MUST HAVE BONES!!! Should have neck, heart and liver as well) cleaned and separated into drumsticks, thighs, wings (separated and tips cut off and reserved for stock), backbone, etc.

B – ADOBO (pound all ingredients in B in a mortar and pestle into a smooth paste)

  1. 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  2. 2 black peppercorns
  3. 1 tsp dry oregano
  4. 2.5 tsp salt
  5. 1 pinch (1/8 tsp) turmeric or sweet paprika (Turmeric stains, so beware!)
  6. 1.5 tsp olive oil
  7. ½ tsp vinegar

C – 2 Cups white rice (less if you want soupier soup.Sometimes the rice takes over.)

D – 9 Cups water and 1 Tbs salt


  1. 3 Tbs olive oil
  2. 3 oz ham steak or jamón para cocinar, diced
  3. 1 oz bacon, chopped rustically
  4. 1 green cooking pepper (cubanelle or Italian pepper), diced
  5. 1 large onion, peeled and diced
  6. 6 culantro leaves (recao), minced
  7. 4 sweet small peppers called ají dulce in Hispanic markets (do NOT purchase Jamaican ají or scotch bonnet! They look the same but the Jamaican/scotch bonnet are HABANEROS, deadly hot and inappropriate for this dish!) seeded and minced
  8. ½ Cup cilantro leaves, minced
  9. 2 Tbs vegetable oil (seasoned with achiote, for the more expert criollo cook)


  1. 1 Tbs capers, drained indifferently
  2. 1 tomato, seeded and diced
  3. 1  8 oz can Spanish-style tomato sauce
  4. 4 oz roasted red pepper, drained indifferently and diced
  5. 10 pimiento stuffed green olives
  6. 4 oz Spanish dry, cured chorizo sausage

G – ½ Cup light red wine

H –  OPTIONAL – in Puerto Rico we decorate and cool off the soup by topping with a can of petit pois or asparagus. Today’s foodies are not so hip to those particular vegetables in their mushy canned form. I leave it up to you.


  1. Separate chicken parts into two large bowls. The back bone, neck, wingtips, liver, heart, and kidneys go in one for the stock. The meatier drumsticks, wings, thighs, and breasts (if using) go in the other. I remove most of the skin and cut off much of the fat. Season all pieces with the ingredients in B. (Adobo).
  2. Soak the rice in abundant water while doing the rest of the prep and cooking.
  3. Place the ingredients in D in a large (6 qt) saucepan. Add the stock chicken pieces, cover, bring to a boil at medium high, boil for 15 minutes, then reduce heat and simmer for an additional 30 minutes, covered.
  4. In an even larger pot, place all the ingredients in E (Sofrito 1), and sauté at medium high until vegetables begin to wilt. Add all the ingredients in F (Sofrito 2) and continue stirring until combined and beginning to stick. Add wine and scrape bottom of pot. Add the meaty chicken pieces and cook at medium, turning frequently to coat well. Cover and cook for 30 minutes on medium low.
  5. When the stock and chicken sofrito are ready, drain stock into chicken. From the stock, reserve the back and wings and get as much meat off them as you can, adding to the soup, discarding the bones. You may add heart and liver to the soup as well.
  6. Bring to a boil.
  7. Drain the rice, stir into the soup, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook, covered until rice is cooked (start checking in 10-15 minutes). Serve with roasted red pepper, peas or asparagus garnish. If the rice takes over, just add water.

What Produce to Buy Organic (and Chicken Update)

21 Jun

If, like me, you are concerned about chemicals in  food, but don’t have the cash to buy all organic, you need to look at the Environmental Working Group’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce (http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary/). The 2011 guide has just been posted. It includes a short list of the Dirty Dozen most pesticide laden produce (so you should buy them organic) and The Clean 15 (15 fruits and vegetables that are conventionally grown yet low in pesticides). You can print out a small version to carry in your wallet!

If you don’t have the time to click on the link: Top three dirty products: 3) strawberries 2) celery and 1) apples!


And on chickens: Tomorrow is processing day for the first round of Trisha’s pastured chicken project at Restoration Farm. Dan and his merry band of volunteers and assistants were busy with the tractors, clearing space for the processing, while Trisha went over each step she’ll take in the processing of more than 30 birds. Very exciting stuff; I will try to witness some of it tomorrow, but will draw the line at having Leandro there, at least this time! I want to watch the process, not have to mind him!

Shout out to the folks from Whole Foods who had a team building thing at the farm today and in the process cleared out the weeds that were choking the asparagus beds!

Meanwhile, just to show you how nicely we farm people clean up, I include a picture of Trisha and Lesly, purtied up for the gorgeous potluck on Sunday.

Trisha (left) and Lesly

Farm and chicken update (and new poll!)

7 Jun



We headed over to Restoration Farm, our CSA, today to put in a little work and visit the chickens.

Leandro was a champion snap pea picker (he remembered his skills from last year) on this bright sunny day that showed hints of what a sweltering hazy, hot and humid Long Island summer can be.

Many peas didn’t make it to the basket, as they ended up in his mouth. He won’t yet eat the pods, preferring to open them up and eat the tiny peas inside, edamame-style. It’s a start. And at least he knows they grow on vines, not exclusively in the frozen food section! Mommy gets the pods, which are wonderfully crunchy and bright.

The boy was also introduced to the delights of picking strawberries, but won’t get a chance to pick his own quart until our pick-up day, later this week. Whether any berries he picks will actually end up getting home is doubtful. I will have to make sure he doesn’t get out of hand. He can devour a pound of strawberries at a sitting and since they are amongst the most chemical-laden of fruits when conventionally-grown (see http://ewg.org/) and very expensive to buy organic, I hope this is a good year for strawberries in our neighborhood!

We visited the chickens, of course. He still loves Donna’s future egg-layers and their roving chicken coop (now painted a proper barnyard red), but the now five-week-old eating birds, not so much.

“Ew! Stinky!” is all I got out of him today, as he ran away to see what he could spirit out of the berry patch. As we get closer to our first installment of locally pastured chickens, I am starting to think about what irresistible dish to concoct for him….


Child Meets Chicken Dinner (Update)

27 May

Dinner at Three Weeks

Leandro thus far seems to have no problem with his exalted position at the top of the food chain.

He likes the laying hens and during this week’s trip to Restoration Farm, pestered Donna (Mother Hen) to no end until she took him over to visit the girls. The fact that they refused to come out from under the hen house was transformed into an exciting lesson in the predator vs. prey relationship when a pair of hungry hawks soared overhead. Chickens aren’t as dumb as they look!

He’s not as fond of Trisha’s chicks – the ones destined to become meals. He pronounced them stinky and boring. “One of them is going to be dinner for you one day soon,” I said, while we weeded the strawberry patch. “Dinner? What!?!” he responded. And then he sort of nodded, said, “Okay,” and went on with the business of sorting the good insects from the bad (and stompable).

"They're stinky!"

There are 30-odd chicks. They have just turned three weeks old, and they are still cute, if a bit pink in spots rather than feathered. They don’t stink, by the way. They are now out in the fields in a pasture box, fertilizing and weeding the berry patch with great enthusiasm, while Trish visits other farms and learns the art of slaughter. We volunteers can talk of nothing else but how to kill a chicken during lunch break, which might not be everyone’s idea of appropriate mealtime conversation, but I like it.

More on the chicken project as we move forward into the Hazy, Hot, and Humid Long Island summer.

Pastured Chickens: Should a 4-year-old meet his future dinner in the coop?

15 May

I'll be eating one of these in a few weeks

So we were down at Restoration Farm C.S.A. doing some work (or I was supposed to be doing some work, but we were chatting more than anything, what with the little guy wanting to run around). We’ve bought a chicken share; Trish Hardgrove, one of the growers, has initiated a pastured chicken project: $125, five months, five chickens. I was in, of course, but this brings the question of my son to bear.

A few generations back, it would be quite normal for kids to look at farm animals as a future meal. But today, it is a bit less usual. I am all for Leandro knowing where his meals come from and plan for us to follow the chicks’ progress from farm to (our) table. I figure, if it puts him off animal products for the rest of his life, is that such a terrible consequence?

Looking forward to hearing your opinions on the topic! If you clicked directly to this post, please note that there is a poll in the next post. Click the right hand arrow at the bottom of this post!

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