First, get a chicken……
Believe it or not, we don’t eat dinner out every day, just a few times a week. We usually entertain on Saturday night, and those dinners tend to be “driveway parties” with friends and neighbors and too many courses and too much wine. (Everyone can walk home so we tend to get carried away.) During the week it’s a different story. After a full day at the office the last thing anyone wants to do is prepare an elaborate meal. More often than not, we bake a chicken.
Not any old chicken, but an organic, farm fresh, pasture raised bird, preferably from a local producer. Tonight’s bird came from Quattro’s in Pleasant Valley. I always buy my duck from Quattro’s and on my last trip there for confit fixins I also picked up a chicken. It gave me an opportunity to compare it to my favorite chicken, which comes from a farm in Putnam Station, NY, run by John and Mary Anne Smith.
Usually when I bake a chicken, I don’t get fancy, especially during the week. I rub the whole bird with a few pats of room temperature butter, stuff the cavity with sprigs of fresh sage and thyme, and add lots of salt and pepper. Nothing else. Bake in a 425F oven for one hour 15 minutes (till golden brown) with some potatoes, let stand for ten minutes, slice, and serve. Done. It couldn’t be easier and it couldn’t taste any better, if – and I stress “if” – you start with decent bird.
Over the years I think we have tried most the commercial chickens available in local markets. As we started to pay attention to what they were being fed, and whether or not they were treated with antibiotics, and how they were raised, we started experimenting with farm raised chickens from local producers. For the most part they are all organically raised, with no antibiotics, and are not penned up all of the time. Another thing they have in common is that they are more expensive than your typical Shop Rite or Perdue chicken, some times twice the price. Since its usually just two of us for dinner during the week, one bird will do, and we feel the expense is justified – particularly if you find a bird that tastes as good as the ones we get from our favorite supplier – Maple Grove Farm in Putnam Station. Their chickens sell for $4.50 per pound, and they also sell Cornish game hens for $8 – $10 each Their birds are without question the best I have ever tasted. The Smith family sell their birds at a few North Country summer farmers markets – North Creek on Thursdays, Schroon Lake on Mondays, and Bolton Landing (Lake George) on Fridays. I will warn you that if you go to the North Creek market on Thursday you must get there before Anna Bowers from Bar Vino because she has been known to buy ALL of the chicken. The rest of the year the Smith’s sell directly from the farm, which is on Rte 22 in Putnam Station, south of Ticonderoga. In addition to the chickens, they sell eggs and raise Tamworth pigs, so their sales flyer includes bacon and sausage and country style ribs, in addition to cuts of lamb and of course – rustic log furniture. Go figure. You can get more information here:
Maple Grove Farm Website
16297 State Route 22
Putnam Station, NY