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'Tastes like chicken'.

Byline: KAREN McCOWAN The Register-Guard

IT'S STILL a short life for the chickens at Noti's Greener Pastures Poultry.

But at least it's a happy one.

Greener Pastures birds don't face the usual poultry industry horrors. They don't spend their entire lives in crowded cages, eating only hormone-infused feed or having their beaks snipped off so they don't peck one another in their understandable neurosis.

In fact, Greener Pastures fowl enjoy far more freedom than typical "free-range" birds, which keep their beaks and have more room to roam, but still may live in light-controlled warehouses where they never breathe fresh air, eat fresh grass or rest in the sun.

And that makes a world of difference in the taste of this chicken, say four local chefs who are so enthusiastic about this meat that they are sharing recipes for it from their restaurants' menus.

"It's firmer, it's denser, it's richer," says Michael Thieme, executive chef at SweetWaters in the Valley River Inn.

"It's the chicken our grandparents ate when they lived on farms. It just tastes healthy."

Joe Hallinan, head chef at Cafe Soriah, likens a Greener Pastures chicken to "a bird you'd get from the French countryside."

Greener Pastures has adopted the slogan "Tastes Like Chicken!" The goal is to redeem the phrase from its modern connotation: A bland meat owing any flavor to the sauce in which it was prepared.

"This chicken has a different taste even a regular consumer can recognize immediately," Hallinan said. "It's just more flavorful."

So flavorful, it was a hit even when he did nothing more than roast it in the oven.

"People just loved it," he said.

The Soriah chef could see a difference in the chicken even as he processed it.

"There's much larger meat-to-bone ratio," he said. "And the fat in this chicken is yellow, which is much more natural for a bird. That tells you it has been raised in a natural setting."

That setting was developed over seven years by Greener Pastures manager Aaron Silverman and several other local organic farmers. Last year, they expanded their operation to include retail sales at the Lane County Farmers' Market (Saturdays only); Long's Meat Market in Eugene; and First Alternative Co-op in Corvallis.

Silverman demonstrated the unique farming method one recent morning on leased land just off Poodle Creek Road.

Portable mesh fencing divided the 1,000-bird flock into rectangular pastures by age group.

Inside each large rectangle stood a moveable shelter - resembling a bottomless tent - where the birds can always find water, shade and organic feed. But they are also free to forage for grass, clover or insects in the surrounding pasture.

At least once a week, the shelters are moved to an ungrazed section of pasture.

The breed itself is different from the standard Cornish Cross chickens, created for "super-fast growth in a super-confined, super-controlled environment," Silverman said.

"We buy our chicks from a family hatchery in Iowa," he explained over the soft, chirping clucks of the gangly, adolescent 4-week-olds at his feet.

"They are Hy-Y, a white meat breed that grows more slowly in the first few weeks, though they put on a lot of growth at the end."

A new shipment of chicks arrives each Thursday morning at the Noti Post Office.

Silverman got into the poultry business as an offshoot of Creative Growers, the 30-acre organic produce and herb farm he runs with his wife, Kelly, west of Noti. Other Greener Pastures growers include Laughing Stock Farm in Crow, Gathering Together Farm near Philomath and Sweet Leaf Farm south of Junction City.

Last year, the Silvermans opened their own licensed processing plant in Noti, where they do their own kosher butchering. This makes even fresher meat available to local restaurants and consumers.

It's been an interesting progression for the longtime vegetarian who graduated from the University of Vermont in 1993 with a degree in plant and soil science.

"Both my wife and I were vegetarians for a long time, mainly because we didn't agree with meat industry production practices," Silverman said. "But my college adviser was a pasture management specialist, and I did a lot of work with him on grass-based seasonal dairies."

He went on to work at farms where he observed more natural and respectful treatment of animals, and his objections began to evaporate.

His answer to "I don't eat anything with a face" vegetarians?

"It's a lot easier to make that case when it comes to mammals," Silverman said. "If you spend time with chickens, you realize pretty quickly that they don't have feelings and emotions the way horses or dogs do. I've even had pigs that pout, but I have never seen a chicken pout."

While he doesn't condone cruel conditions practiced in the conventional poultry industry, Silverman notes it has played an important role in "producing cheap protein for the masses."

"But our chicken is a more artisanal product that focuses on quality protein," he said.

Accordingly, Greener Pastures chicken costs more.

A fresh, whole chicken sells retail for $2.70 a pound, versus $2.49 a pound for a fresh, organic chicken at the supermarket.

Boneless breasts sell for $7.40 a pound, versus $2.32 a pound for a bulk bag of frozen chicken breasts at Costco.

But the difference in freshness and flavor is worth it, said Rocky Maselli, chef de cuisine at Marche.

"It's the only chicken produced in Oregon that's free-range quality," he said. "You can taste the difference, from the flavor of the meat to the crispness of the skin."

Jack Strong, co-executive chef at Adam's Place, agreed:

"By just roasting off a whole chicken, the average person can make a fantastic meal."

Grilled Greener Pastures Chicken With Wild Blackberry Mustard Sauce

From Rocky Maselli, chef de cuisine at Marche.

1 chicken, cut up

1/2 cup olive oil

3 large cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons total of a combination of fresh herbs, finely chopped (marjoram, oregano, thyme, tarragon or rosemary)

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Wild Blackberry Mustard Sauce (recipe follows)

Rinse chicken in cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Set aside. Mix the oil, garlic and spices. Pour over chicken and turn to coat pieces. Cover and refrigerate several hours or overnight.

About an hour before grilling, season chicken liberally with salt and pepper. Grill, skin side down, over a slow fire for 25 minutes for the white meat (remove to a warm spot) and 30 minutes for the leg, or until the thigh juices run clear.

Arrange on a platter and serve with Wild Blackberry Mustard Sauce.

Wild Blackberry Mustard Sauce

1 shallot, minced

1/4 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

1 bay leaf

1 cup dry white wine

1 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 pint blackberries

3 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Combine the shallot, peppercorns, bay leaf and wine in a nonreactive saucepan and simmer rapidly to reduce the liquid to syrup consistency. Add the cream, butter and berries and reduce liquid by half. Strain the sauce into a small pan and return to heat. Whisk in mustard and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Served at Marche with a salad of mesclun greens and roasted potatoes and corn.

Roasted Greener Pastures Chicken

By Michael Thieme and Paul Martin, SweetWaters at the Valley River Inn. This recipe serves 1.

1 breast with skin and wing bone attached (Frenched)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup reduced brown chicken stock

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Sear the breast skin side down in olive oil on high heat until brown, then turn and sear well on opposite side.

Place chicken in pan in a 400-degree oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until juices run clear.

Remove chicken, deglaze pan with the stock, then swirl in the butter and mustard to create sauce for the chicken.

Served at SweetWaters with Yukon gold whipped potates with fresh thyme and garlic, haricot vert (French green beans) and roasted tomatoes.

Chicken Piccata a la Milanese

By Jack Strong, Adam's Place restaurant.

4 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

3 tablespoons chopped chives

4 chicken breasts with bone and skin removed

1 cup flour

Cooking oil

2 tablespoons chopped shallots

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/2 cup white wine

1 cup heavy cream

8 ounces butter

2 tablespoons sliced caperberries

1 package (16 ounces) linguine, cooked

Combine the eggs, Parmesan cheese and chives, then mix to form a batter. Dip the chicken into the flour, dust off excess flour, then dip into the egg batter.

Oil a pan on medium-low heat and place the chicken in the pan. Brown on both sides. Finish the chicken by roasting in a 350-degree oven for about 15 minutes or until firm to the touch.

While the chicken cooks, heat a saucepan to medium heat and add the shallots, lemon juice and wine to reduce. When the liquid is half gone, add the cream and reduce to thicken.

Finish the sauce by whisking in the butter and last but not least, add the caperberries.

When the chicken is done, place on top of cooked linguine and spoon the sauce over it.

Confit Chicken Salad With Caramelized Pecans

By Joe Hallinan from Cafe Soriah. Hallinan admits this is a very involved recipe, but says it's worth the effort.

1 whole Greener Pastures Chicken

Salt, pepper and thyme to taste

1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cup vegetable oil

Dijon Mustard Marinade (recipe follows)

Dijon Mustard Vinaigrette (recipe follows)

Caramelized Pecans (recipe follows)

Salad greens

Parmesan cheese for topping

Start by removing legs and thigh from chicken, conserving breasts for another use. Season to taste with salt, pepper and thyme. Place in oven-proof dish and pour 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups oil over chicken to cover. Cook in oven preheated to 250 degrees (225 degrees for convection oven) about 2 hours until chicken is falling off the bone. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, make Dijon Mustard Marinade.

Dijon Mustard Marinade

1 chopped shallot

1 tablespoon fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 cup Dijon mustard

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

1 cup vegetable oil

Mix chopped shallot, thyme, mustard and vinegar in a blender or bowl, adding salt and pepper to taste. Slowly drizzle in oil. Set aside and also make Dijon Mustard Vinaigrette.

Dijon Mustard Vinaigrette

1 chopped shallot

1 tablespoon fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon sugar

1/3 cup red wine vinegar

1 cup pure olive oil

Mix chopped shallot, thyme, mustard, sugar and vinegar in a blender or bowl. Slowly drizzle in oil. Set aside and make Caramelized Pecans.

Caramelized Pecans

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 to 2 tablespoons water

3/4 to 1 cup pecans

Salt and cayenne pepper to taste

2 tablespoons butter

Melt sugar in saucepan over low heat with enough water to moisten sugar. Toss pecans in a bowl with salt and cayenne pepper to taste.

After sugar boils 5 minutes, slowly add in pecans, then blend in butter.

Turn out onto oiled cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

After chicken has cooled, carefully take it out of oil and place in a dish, saving oil for later uses.

Pour marinade over chicken and refrigerate at least 2 to 4 hours.

Prepare salad greens for 3 entree size or 6 appetizer salads.

Once chicken is marinaded, pull it out and reheat in oven 2 to 3 minutes or until it easily pulls from bones.

Pull bite-sized pieces of meat off chicken. Toss greens with vinaigrette, chicken and pecans.

Place on chilled plates and top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Features reporter Karen McCowan can be reached by phone at 338-2422 and by e-mail at kmccowan@guardnet.com.

CAPTION(S):

Chickens from Greener Pastures near Noti roam near their moveable pen. The chickens can forage for clover as well as eat their organic feed. Greener Pastures manager Aaron Silverman moves a chicken shelter.
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Title Annotation:Local chefs praise the flavor of poultry raised on a farm near Noti; Food
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Recipe
Date:Aug 21, 2002
Words:2019
Previous Article:Business Digest.
Next Article:Go Italian: Bring on the tomatoes.


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