Spring Chicken

Dave took this super sexy sorrel photo. It's about the only thing we've been harvesting at the farm so far this season and I've been trying to eat as much of it as I can.

I really like sorrel - it's got a delightful surprisingly tart taste due to the high levels of oxalic acid in its leaves. Oxalic acid is a funny compound. Lots of vegetables have a high concentration of it: spinach, chard, beets, rhubarb......too much of it can be a bad thing, fatal even if you eat WAY too much. I've gotten a weird scratchy raw throat reaction from raw beet greens that I think can be attributed to oxalic acid. It's really quite good in small doses though.

Sorrel is one of those things that I'm never quite sure how to use. It's got the intense flavor of an herb, but the leaves of a salad or cooking green. We had the family over to our house for Easter dinner, so I decided to experiment.....

This is a chicken from the farm I'm working at this season. They do pasture raised chickens that are oh so delicious and chickeny, and best of all, the staff get one free bird per week of work! This one was frozen from last fall - they haven't even started getting chicks yet this spring, but I don't think it will be long. The first step was to cut it up into pieces (drumsticks, thighs, breasts, and wings).

I covered the rest of the carcass with water and started boiling it for stock.

Once the stock pot was on, I started readying the potatoes. These little spuds are from Igl Farms in Antigo. I had the opportunity to meet Brian Igl back when I was a produce buyer for Willy Street Co-op - it's always fun to eat food grown by people you know! These are little C sized roasters from last fall's harvest. They're surprisingly nice and firm despite the long storage.

They're really beautiful in fact! As I was washing them, I couldn't help but think how fitting they are for Easter - like little bright Easter eggs! I simply coated them with olive oil and put them in a hot 425 degree oven while I concentrated on the chicken.

The first step was to brown the chicken in butter. In retrospect, I think I could have browned it a little more, but I didn't want to burn it so I was maybe a little too conservative with the cooking time.

I browned all the chicken on both sides. I like this shot because you can see the chicken in it's two forms: frying in the big pot, and boiling for stock in the little one. I really like to use the whole bird!

Next, I took the chicken out and let it rest while I cooked up some onions (also from the farm.) in the drippings from the chicken. When they were nice and brown, I added the stock and let it come to a boil. Since the stock had only been cooking for a half hour or so, I figured there was still some good stuff on the carcass and I added more water to the saucepan and let it simmer on low overnight. I got a quart of nice stock out of it that we can use in a later recipe.

Unfortunately, this is the last picture I got of the chicken. Once family members arrived, we sort of forgot about taking pictures....that happens all too often, especially with really good food. It just tastes so good, it's hard to stop eating to take pictures! I added the chicken pieces back in with the stock and the onions and mixed in some chopped sorrel. I really wanted to sorrel flavor to dominate, so I didn't add any more herbs and spices (except salt and pepper of course!) I let it cook on low for about an hour, until the chicken was really well done and almost melting off the bone.

Meanwhile, I prepared this beautiful local salad. We're getting into the salad time of year, finally! This has last year's local carrots (still going strong!), spinach from Snug Haven Farm, sorrel, and some super expensive but delicious local microgreens from Willy Street. Microgreens are basically overgrown sprouts that are grown in soil instead of just rinsed with water. They're really good, but the cost prohibits me from getting them for anything other than a special occasion.

Here are the finished potatoes. They were really really sweet and cooked to perfection! They got lots of compliments, and couldn't have been easier to prepare. It's all about starting with a high quality potato......they were delicious with some of the sauce from the chicken. The chicken turned out awesome too, by the way. Super tender. The sorrel mellowed out a bit with cooking, but still gave it a really nice subtle tang. A successfully dinner no doubt!

I just had to add this picture of Dave shaking the whipped cream for desert. My hand blender wasn't charged, and we don't have a beater, so we put whipped cream in a canning jar and just shook it. It was done in a surprisingly short time, perhaps because we use unhomoginized, low temp pasteurized cream from Blue Marble Family Farm. It's really good cream, and seems to congeal faster than average.

It went with this beautiful pear tart that my sister in law, Erica made. She did such a nice job! It was the perfect ending to a wonderful family meal. It made me really appreciate being back in Wisconsin and close to all my family!

Spring Sorrel Chicken

1 Whole chicken (preferably pasture raised)
2-3 Tablespoons butter
2-3 Medium yellow onions
2-3 Cups chopped sorrel leaves
Salt and pepper

Cut chicken into pieces. Put leftover carcass into a saucepan, cover with water, and simmer over medium heat for at least and hour. Melt butter in a large pot. Add chicken pieces, skin side down and brown the skin for about 4 or 5 minutes. Flip over and brown the other side. Repeat with the rest of the chicken pieces. Remove chicken from pot. Chop onions and add to pot. Cook onions in chicken drippings over medium heat until brown. Add stock from chicken carcass. Bring to a boil, and then add chicken pieces and chopped sorrel. Stir to combine everything, put a lid on it, and let cook over low heat for at least an hour. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with new potatoes and a green salad.

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