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#1112 - Exotic Poultry: Part 1
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December 11, 2012 #1112 Exotic Poultry: Part 1
During the holiday season, we ordinarily try to do something a little special when it comes to our big dinners. Ordinarily that means a turkey, or maybe a ham, or a spectacular effort with roast beef. But there are a number of other choices out there that are, well, truly exotic and truly delicious.
We asked our colleagues at Friends and Farms for a little guidance. They are very good at keeping track of locally produced food, and they told us about a nearby place called Eberly Poultry Farms who produce an amazing assortment of birds…and other items.
Here is a list of possibilities that you might want to consider:
~Cornish Game Hens: small chickens ideal for two people to share, and great for creative stuffing.
~Muscovy Ducks Not from Moscow, or anywhere near it. These ducks are much larger than the ordinary duck we see. The males can be as much as 6 pounds, and even the 3 pound females have a lot of meat on them...and they have substantially less fat.
~Heritage Chickens are worthy of a show all their own. Suffice it to say, the term "heritage breed chicken" has specific legal connotations that protect the consumer. Examples include the celebrated New Hampshire, which gained fame as a superb broiler; the White Jersey Giant, noted for its generous size; the legendary Buff Orpington, a tasty mainstay of your great grandfather's table; and the equally legendary Rhode Island Red, a heavy tasty bird with great lineage.
~Pekin Ducks, an exotic name suggestive of Chinese restaurants, the Pekin Duck is in fact the most commonly raised domestic duck, some estimates peg the Pekin as the source of 95% of all the duck eaten in this country.
~Geese are a Christmas tradition, and they are at their best if properly fattened. Cooking geese is a little challenging: you'll need to render all that goose fat (which they say is extremely useful in cooking) and cut it up to cook the leg quarters longer than the breasts. Despite their apparent size, a goose is not a particularly meaty bird. A 12 lb. goose will feed 4 people, and that's about all.
~Guinea Hens are among the most flavorful of all poultry. Some people are briefly put off by their very dark meat, but once they taste it, they develop a craving for it. Simply roasted, it is at its best, with all of its rich intense flavors coming to the fore.
~Pheasants are beautiful birds, and in old times, the coat of feathers was preserved to garb the roasted bird as it came to table. Pheasants, particularly older birds, are notoriously dry, so you need a method of cooking that will keep them moist. Bacon comes into play quite often, as do rich braising sauces, low oven temperatures, and frequent basting.
~Partridges, which are rather small, face many of the same challenges as pheasant. But they do cook quickly, especially if they are cut up. Devotees of partridge (or ruffled grouse as they are known) say it has a unique, delicate flavor reminiscent of lemon chicken.
~Squabs are actually a breed of domestic pigeons, raised for their meat. The smallish squab doesn't have much meat, beyond the breast, but what there is, is tender, moist and rich, with very little gaminess.
~Quail is a game bird par excellence. The Eastern Shore was for generations a haven for quail, and hunters would go there to shoot on private farms. The quail is a small bird, and easily over-cooked. Try butterflying the bird, and sautéing it very briefly (about 10 minutes).
~Silkies are about the most exotic thing you can think of. They are small, very fluffy chickens with a very docile temperament. Their flesh is grey-black, and in American-European traditions, unpalatable for that reason. However in Chinese cuisine, they are valued, and many uses are found for them. According to Wikipedia, silkies are making small inroads into American and French cooking, but they are far from mainstream.
One of our fine local farms is a purveyor of exotic poultry. Eberly Poultry Farms in nearby Stevens, Pennsylvania run a certified organic operation. Their birds are 100% free-range, and are antibiotic and growth hormone free. The grain they produce to feed their birds is grown without herbicides or pesticides.
Eberly Poultry Farms are suppliers for Friends and Farms, the dynamic new Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) that provides members with a weekly market basket of high quality, locally sourced food all year round. Meat, poultry and fish are standard offerings in their market baskets. Memberships run for 13 weeks and are renewable.
If you are interested in obtaining some of these fabulous exotic birds, there are two ways to go about it. CSA Members can order exotic poultry from Eberly as a "special order" which Friends and Farms will be delighted to carry out. Non-members can go online to order directly from Eberly themselves.
Contact info: friendsandfarms.com Phone (240) 842-9121 for information about joining the CSA.
Eberly Poultry Farms can be found on-line at eberlypoultry.com Phone: (717) 336-6440 for information on ordering directly.