Organic vs. Regular Chicken
Whenever I shop at Whole Foods, my brother tells me organic farming is a scam. He contends that any farmer and their mother can call a plot of land “organic,” meanwhile the other 98% of non-organic crops growing in the same field get sprayed with pesticide, which often drifts towards the organic section. It’s a legitimate point and, like anything that becomes trendy in pop culture, “going green” requires more scrutiny and responsibility than just buying a reusable shopping bag. And as much as it pains me to say this, my brother has a point here. Everyone jumped on the organic bandwagon, but most people don’t care enough to understand what this really means. I don’t want to get into a lesson in organics 101 (you can read that here), but I do think it’s important to know about.Realistically, I know that most people will not sit down and research organic farming before going grocery shopping, and part of me thinks that’s ok too. Support of fresh, locally grown ingredients cultivated without chemicals and other pesticides is always a good thing. Besides, Whole Foods is such a satisfying place to shop and their cheese section makes me happy.
But the reason for this short tirade is not because of cheese (although I could go on and on!), it is about chicken. Recently, R and I saw our favorite Food Network maven make a butterflied chicken recipe on the grill. Seeing as the temperature was below freezing and it was sleeting in Chicago, outdoor grilling was not an option, but we adapted the recipe and thought we could make do in the oven. So out we went – in the freezing rain/sleet/snow – to Whole Foods.
The recipe called for a whole chicken, deboned, but that was way too much food for the two of us., so we bought one giant boneless chicken breast with the skin on that weighed in at a whopping pound and a half! The recipe is quite simple; the most important part was to allow the chicken enough time to marinate in with the herb mixture before cooking. When we put that behemoth of a breast into the oven, I assumed it would be a tasty chicken dish – how could it not be with rosemary, lemon and garlic? – but nothing spectacular.
I could not have been more wrong. Every bite of that chicken was tender, juicy, flavorful and aromatic. Chicken isn’t usually one of those proteins that “wows” you, but this truly was fantastic. I attribute much of the success to the basic ingredients and fantastic recipe creator, but honestly, I think the element that elevated it from “yum” to “MMMM!” was the chicken. When we bought the organic chicken breast at Whole Foods, I didn’t mind paying a little extra because I knew it was high quality, but I couldn’t have expected how enormously it would impact the taste of the dish. I was amazed that it actually tasted like chicken! When was the last time you had chicken that tasted like something other than what it was cooked with?
So to return to my original musings on all things organic, I must say I support buying organic wholeheartedly; for the political reasons, for the economic reasons and for the environmental reasons, but also for the TASTE! Sadly, I think we often forget what food is supposed to taste like and settle for the watered-down version. Even eggs, which I had never really considered, seem to be lacking, judging by the color of Monsieur Lebovitz’s. And so I implore you, please, if you make this recipe, use organic chicken. I promise your tastebuds will thank you.
1/4 C. chopped fresh rosemary leaves, plus 1 sprig
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp. lemon zest
1 1/2 Tbs. lemon juice
Good olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1 boneless chicken breast with skin, about 1-2 lb.
1/2 lemon, thinly sliced
Mix the chopped rosemary, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, 1 Tbs. olive oil, 2 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper together in a small bowl to make a paste.
Place the chicken on a sheet pan, skin side up, and loosen the skin from the meat with your fingers. Place 1/2 of the paste under the skin of each chicken. Rub any remaining paste on the outside and underside of the chicken.
Turn the chicken skin side down and scatter the lemon slices and sprigs of rosemary. Season with salt and pepper. Fold chicken over, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
OVEN: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake chicken for 45 minutes – 1 hour or until juices run clear.
GRILLING: Heat a grill with coals. Spread the coals out in 1 dense layer and brush the grill with oil. Unroll the chickens, place them on the grill and cook for 12 minutes on each side.