BaltimOregon to Maine

Locavore Cooking with Southern Efficiency and Northern Charm

Posts Tagged ‘Afton Field Farm

Chicken Feet

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It's so carnal to chop the claws off the parboiled human-like feet. And use a paring knife to cut off the black claw pads.

Leg of lamb apparently isn’t kosher. I learned so much while bragging to my husband’s grandmother that I was making her grandson lamb for a seder. I thought the whole lamb was fair game for Passover. Apparently, the leg is too close to the hoof. But chicken feet are sound? I’ll never understand that logic. Don’t even get me started on the prohibitions against bugs on organic produce.

I wanted to make from-scratch chicken stock for matzo ball soup, so what better time to finally try making stock from chicken feet. I turned to a local source of pastured poultry, Afton Field Farm. They only had one bag of the feet left from last year’s processing. Restaurants buy them up for chicken broth. Unfortunately, the feet were freezer-burned because their claws ripped through their plastic bag. That’s why they’re hard to store. I’ll have to go back for fresh ones when chicken slaughtering begins end of May.Prepping the feet is a bit of a potschke. You must par-boil them, chop off the claws at the joint and, with a paring knife, remove any blackish remaining claw pad. The process gets you in touch with your carnivorous–almost cannibal-like–side, given that peeled chicken feet somehow resemble human hands.

But the collagen-rich broth was delicious and as gelatinous as Jello when refrigerated (is that Manischevitz suspends its jarred gefilte in?). I diluted it with peppery chicken-back stock so nothing tasted out of the ordinary. Chicken backs are another great cheap source of stock.

Simmer the prepared feet for several hours.

Strain the stock, and snack on the feet if that's your pleasure. Apparently, babies like them.










The chicken feet stock reminded me so much of wonton soup broth. I had always thought that broth got its richness from  the pork wontons. But now I know it must be from the chicken feet many Chinese restaurants use for broth. If you are eating chicken feet stock out already at restaurants, shouldn’t you try this frugal culinary secret at home? The process does infuse one’s kitchen, hands and clothes with chicken essence, as if you’d doused yourself with chicken oil. Just how braised a ham hock makes one feel you’re sweating pork. It’s all about becoming one with your food.

See, Mikey likes it.

Written by baltimoregon

April 10, 2012 at 10:27 pm

Wasted Wild Duck

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The hunter hadn't even removed the guts or head

Unfortunately the tiny breast had already atrophied.

But of course we’d want a hunter’s spare wild duck, I said, as visions of the seared red breast, with a crisp layer of fat, danced in my head. But this was not your standard Long Island duck. This was a small wild one (maybe a wigeon), feathers and all. Apparently the breast is the only part worth cooking and rather than pluck each feather, you’re just advised to pull off the feathered skin in one piece,  like a glove (I hear you do rabbits the same way). This was the duck Dan had smoked on his fly-out here that so enchanted me.

We tried to cut it up, though something wasn’t right. The breast seemed to have started to decay, with some sort of necrosis. I heard you were supposed to gut game right away, so perhaps the intact insides contributed to the problem? I flipped out. Granted, we had the hairy waterfowl in the fridge a day or two before tackling it, so maybe that was the problem? It felt ominous to have the feathered friend in the fridge. Why did this bother me when I handled (with assistance, of course) the turkey at Afton Field Farm with no problem?

I feel guilty we failed. It was a tiny bird, but it especially feels bad to waste food when people are starving and scrambling to survive in Haiti. In fact, just thinking and writing about food has felt vacuous and out-of-touch this week with all that suffering there. And of course, the situation was dire there far before this tragedy. But it’s not until catastrophe forces a neglected nation into the news that we remember those people subsisting on dirt and less than $2 a day. I keep thinking of the Haitian Women’s Program folks I befriended in Flatbush while reporting on HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean community. We’ve made our donations to Doctors Without Borders and Portland-based Mercy Corps. Shouldn’t we do more? We’re at least trying to be thankful for each precious meal.

Written by baltimoregon

January 19, 2010 at 1:35 am

Luscious Lamb Ragu

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Lamb Ragu

Already defrosting-ground lamb, bought on a whim from Afton Field Farm at rainy closing time at the Saturday market, inspired this simple, stick-to-your-ribs meal. Beef, pork, or even rabbit, yes, but you might not think to put lamb in your meat sauce. But it’s delicious, albeit with that slightly gamey, lanloiny, earthy lamb flavor. We had Mark Bittman’s vote of confidence in this endeavor. We used leek instead of onion, added garlic and fresh oregano to the mix and used milk because we didn’t have cream on hand. Pecorino Romano would have been nice–keep the lamb in the sheep’s milk of its mother, or something–but our Parmigiano-Reggiano had to do. Dan loved it. Meat and tomatoes, over pasta. Nothing makes that boy happier. And after a rain-soaked day, it was just what I needed.


Paints and raincoat soaked through.


Will it ever be dry and sunny again?

Written by baltimoregon

November 9, 2009 at 6:50 pm

Before & After Turkey: From Farm to Slaughter to Oven to Table

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I was especially thankful for turkey this year, because I hand-selected our bird at a local farm and participated in its slaughter and butchering in a visceral, almost spiritual way. Why would I subject myself to the blood and gore? And how could that not make you go vegetarian and swear off poultry forever?

But I am increasingly convinced the more we know about our food — where it was cultivated, who tended it and under what conditions — the more it fully nourishes us as we humbly accept our place in the web of life. Our massive tom turkey came from Afton Field Farm on the rural outskirts of Corvallis. Little did I know I could take part in the butchering when we ordered it at the farmers’ market in October.

But the farm’s young proprietor Tyler Jones invited us out and so I went.dsc01202 The Corvallis native and OSU grad learned how to run a small-scale sustainable livestock operation while interning with Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm in Virginia, which featured in Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

Afton Field Farm raised about 55 turkeys this year, slaughtering, cleaning and packaging them on the Friday before Thanksgiving on the grounds of Jones’ wooded childhood home near Bald Hill Park.

The first bird I pointed out seemed too wimpy, but little did I know the next one I selected was a whopping 26.8 pounds, the second biggest the farm sold. We’ll be eating turkey tacos, soups and casseroles for the next year!


Then its neck is slit in a pain-minimizing kosher-style way that people have used to slaughter their meat for thousands of years. It just felt right. These turkeys had a good life at Afton Farm and are hopefully meeting a relatively painless end.

Thank goodness we didn’t have to pluck the feathers by hand. Instead, the birds were scalded in hot water and choppily spun around in an open washing machine.DSC01224

Feeling and learning about the turkey’s internal organs were another treat (and the warm cavity felt good to the hands on the briskly cold day). I helped them rip the head off, cut the feet, remove the esophagus and wind pipe and gut the bird. I also cut open the giblet gizzard (what’s the difference between the two, again?) to remove the sack of grass and rocks and other debris turkey and chickens ingest when they peck at their food.


Though trying, the experience didn’t gross me out. I came to the Thanksgiving table with a renewed sense of reverence. And the turkey, which we gave a salt rub the night before, tasted better than ever this year.


Written by baltimoregon

November 28, 2008 at 2:38 am

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