Prather Ranch (SF) – Heritage Chickens are the new Hoffman
There was a small crisis in the SF food community earlier this year – Hoffman opted to stop selling their chickens at the Saturday Farmer’s Market. If I were prone to waking up before 11am, I would have been sounding the alarms too. Unfortunately, Hoffman was always sold out of chickens before I arrived and the Hoffman lady wasn’t too keen (nor consistent) with saving a chicken for this late sleeper.
And they were pretty good chickens. Their best feature was the ease with which they cooked – plop them into the oven for any reasonable time and you were guaranteed a juicy roast chicken. So consistent these chickens were, I failed to see why any native would spend $40 on a Zuni chicken – you could do it yourself for $8. The taste was better than your average supermarket variety but they did fail to come close to a Bresse chicken from France.
No doubt sensing a market opportunity, Prather Ranch began carrying Heritage Chickens. The chickens are Dark Cornish Chickens, shipped frozen from Kansas. They are a tad pricey at $5.99/lb but they are also quite small – these are not mass-produced chickens from calculated breeding techniques that consider yield the most important attribute of a breed. They are humanely raised and organic – a happy chicken is a tastier chicken; a happy chicken eating good food should be tastier yet.
Ethics aside, how do the birds taste?
Remarkable, for an American chicken.
The first thing one notices is the texture – it’s not unlike a Bresse chicken – the meat is firm and toothesome. The chicken does not flake apart with a fork – it takes a bit of effort to cut it. And then you notice the taste – it actually tastes like something – “chicken” for lack of a better adjective. It’s a slightly gamier taste but, really, it’s just a more concentrated chicken flavor. The skin crisps rather nicely when roasted.
No contest – I actually get a bit upset when I miss a shipment of these birds. Far better than the Hoffman birds ever were.
I use a pretty basic recipe:
- Massively salt the exterior the night before
- Pour olive oil between the breast meat and its skin; stick rosemary in there if I have any
- Stick an orange in its cavity (I’ve found this tastes better than a lemon)
- Salt, pepper, and olive oil the outside again
- Cook @ 425 for 45 minutes
Go buy one now. For more information, you can read the following articles: