The Local Food Report: on pig

I drew you all a picture. Don't laugh—I'm not much of an artist—but for today's purposes, I think it will do. I want to talk about pork, and all the different cuts of meat that come from the various limbs and layers and parts of a pig—and in order to do that, we're going to need a visual. So here it is: my rendition of the cuts of a pig:

I got the idea for this from Aidan Davin, a hog farmer from Rutland who sells his meat at the Provincetown Farmers Market. He has a big poster in front of his stand with a diagram of cuts on it, and almost everyone stops to wonder, ask questions, stare. I was there doing interviews for my radio show, and so when he caught me staring, we talked through the sections and the cuts that come from each one. So here you go—the primal cuts of a pig, and the fabricated, or retail, cuts that come from each one:

1. The Jowl

The jowl is the loose, lower, drooping part of a pig's cheeks. The animal has no bones in this area, and the flesh—which has a fair amount of fat—is generally cured and made into jowl bacon.

2. The Shoulder

The shoulder is generally broken down into two cuts: the shoulder butt, which contains the shoulder blade bone, and the picnic shoulder, which contains the shoulder (arm) bone and shank bone. The shoulder butt is also called the Boston Butt and can either be cooked as a roast, cured to make smoked daisy butt—similar to ham—or further broken down into butt steaks, ground pork, or sausage.

3. Fat Back

Fat back is a layer of fat about an inch thick that lines the animal's back. If the skin is left on, it can be fried into cracklings or pork rind. Without the skin, it is often rendered into lard for cooking, or made into salt pork.

4. The Loin

The loin contains the upper portions of the rib bones, the backbone, and the hip bone. It is the source of all sorts of familiar cuts, including Canadian bacon, country style ribs, boneless loin, loin and rib chops, baby back ribs, pork tenderloin, and crown roast.

5. The Ribs

Beneath the loin is the home of the spare ribs. This cut comes from the lower portion of the ribs, and also contains the breastbone.

6. The Belly

Arguably the most delicious part of the big, the belly is a fairly fatty area free of bones. It is either cut into slabs and left uncured—pork belly—or cut into strips, cured, and smoked to make bacon.

7. The Ham

The ham comprises the thigh and rump area of the pig. It contains the leg bone and the hind shank bone, and is generally cured and smoked to make what we think of as ham, although it can also be cooked fresh.

8. The Hock

The hock is the cut right above the hoof, between the tibia/fibula and the metatarsals of the foot. Also known as a pork knuckle, it doesn't have enough meat to be served on it's own. Instead, it's generally throw into soups or braising pots to lend flavor to vegetables.

So, there you have it. The cuts of a pig. If you want to hear my conversation with Aidan, click on over to the podcast—he goes into a bit more depth, and I think it will be worth your while. Otherwise, have a wonderful weekend, filled, I hope—if you're into that kind of thing—with plenty of bacon. I'll see you Monday, everyone.


Roasted beet, corn & basil salad

Monday, July 26th: lunchtime, at home

Something—a robin, maybe? a ghost?—ate every last green plum in the middle of the night. They are gone from the tree out back without a trace—no flesh, no pits, not so much on the ground as a twig.

Inside, the fridge is full: corn in its husk, fresh bluefish, arugula, broccoli. I can't concentrate on cooking—where are those plums? who stole them from me?—but I turn on the oven without thinking, then decide to roast the basket of beets.

When they come out—steaming, piping hot—I trim them, skin them, slice them into half tears, orange and ruddy. I husk the corn and cut the kernels from the cob; it's so sticky, milky when it's this sweet. I tear a handful of basil and arugula and toss them in a salad bowl, then squeeze a lime in, and a bit of vinegar, and olive oil. The corn and the beets go on top, still hot enough to fog up my face. I toss everything and then add a pinch of salt—mourn the plums and sit down to eat.


This salad is as simple as it is good. If you prefer your corn cooked, go ahead, but at this time of year, I eat mine straight from the cob, raw and milky. With the addition of cheese and a good slice of toast, this easily makes a meal.

4 beets
olive oil
4 ears corn
1 cup packed basil leaves
1 cup packed arugula leaves, torn
juice of 1 lime
1-2 tablespoons white vinegar (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan, for shaving

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Place the beets—scrubbed but with about an inch of their top greens and their tails still on—on a baking sheet, drizzle with a bit of olive oil, and cover with tinfoil. Roast for 45 minutes to an hour, or until tender when pierced with a fork.

Husk the corn and cut the kernels from the cob. Put the kernels in a large bowl with the basil and arugula. When the beets have cooled down enough that you can handle them, cut off the tops and tails and peel off the skin. Then cut the beets in half, and then into thin half moon slices the way you would an apple. Add the beets to the bowl with the corn and greens.

Squeeze the lime juice over the vegetables and drizzle the salad with olive oil. Toss well, and taste for acid and oil. If you think it needs more acid, add the white vinegar one tablespoon at a time, tasting after each addition. If you think it needs more oil, drizzle with a bit more olive oil. (How much you add of both are really a matter of personal taste.) Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve while the beets are still warm, with shaved Parmesan over top.


The Local Food Report: the nectar progression

The other day, I walked into a conversation at the farmers' market that stopped me in my tracks. Gretel was standing behind her table, selling those skinny yellow carrots and sugar snap peas that she does so well, and Barbara Dean was next door, selling her Little Caesar's and Rediculous and chatting about the heat. Someone asked Barbara about her honey, and why it was so light in color, and suddenly, Gretel was on red ribbons and Barbara was talking about loosestrife and neither one could stop praising spring nectar. I knew a lot more about local honey when I left.

As it turns out, Barbara's honey was so light because it was spring honey. Bees around here go for the light colored flowers in the spring—the roses and the locusts and all those other first blooms—and the nectar they bring back to the hive is light colored, too. Most years, because of the wet and the cold we seem to bring in May and June, people around here don't get much of a spring harvest. But this year, in Barbara's hives at least, there was a boon.

She took two supers—a super is the wooden box beekeepers put on the hive to collect excess honey, and then grab when it's full—for a total of 45 pounds. She poured the honey, so clear it looks almost like lemon water, or maybe a weak ginger tea, into jars, and shoppers have been wondering after it ever since.

Gretel didn't have any at her stand, but apparently, years ago, she took second place for her spring honey at the Barnstable County Fair. She says she thinks she might have gotten first, a blue ribbon, if she'd properly filled the jars, but she didn't and they docked her and so she took home the red instead.

All of this is to say, of course, Did you ever realize honeys could be so different?

I did not. I had no idea that in the fall, honey gets dark and spicy and even a little cedary toward the end. I had no idea that commercial honey was mixed—from different hives and states and seasons into a monotone, amber blend. I'd never heard of buckwheat honey—dark black, with a taste almost like molasses—or thyme honey from Greece, or locust honey, the kind Barbara harvested this spring. I did not know that there are controversial blossoms for honey production—things like loosestrife, which some people love for honey and others can't stand—or that at certain times of summer, there's almost no nectar for the bees at all.

I talked with several beekeepers besides Gretel and Barbara, and from what I can gather, the nectar progression on the Cape goes like this: In May and June it's black locust and oak and roses and autumn olive, then cranberry blossoms if there's a bog around. Mid summer it's wildflowers and garden blooms like thyme and loosestrife, then in the fall, aster and goldenrod. The locust and roses and cranberry blossoms all give the honey a light, floral flavor, while the aster and goldenrod turn it spicy and dark.

When I got home, I searched through my cupboards to see what sort of honey we had kicking around. I'd gotten a spring bottle from Barbara, we had one mid-season blend from E & T Farms, and there was an old jar that we got from Mel Hammond down the street in Wellfleet last fall. We did a taste test, and the beekeepers were right: there was a huge difference. I couldn't pick a favorite, but I see now how different seasons of honey could be better for different uses and recipes.

Where ever you get your honey—there's a list of local producers over here—I highly recommend you stock up and get it into the kitchen as soon as you can. Because the peaches are ripe and honey—for a batch of summer peaches spiced and chilled in white wine—is all you need to make dessert, and dig in.


Cool, marinated peaches are one of my favorite things on a very hot day. They make an equally excellent dessert plain or over vanilla ice cream—we had them with vanilla ice cream that we made with a batch of Mel Hammond's fall honey left over from last year, and the more spicy fall honey flavor of the ice cream perfectly complemented the lighter, more floral flavor Barbara's spring honey lent the fruit. For the wine, I used a half bottle of Botani—a light, fruity moscatel.

1/2 bottle (about 2 cups) dry, fruity white wine
2 tablespoons honey
a pinch of nutmeg
a pinch of cinnamon
4 very ripe peaches

Heat up the wine, honey, nutmeg, and cinnamon in a saucepan over low heat, stirring until the honey dissolves. Turn off the heat and set aside.

Slice the peaches very thin, and add the slices to the hot wine. Cool to room temperature, then chill for several hours. When you're ready to eat the peaches, serve them either on their own, with a little bit of the wine, or strain them out and use them as a topping for vanilla ice cream.


Of another Sunday

Picture this:

You're sitting on your porch, in cotton shorts and a t-shirt, curled up at the blue iron table with a glass of Muscadel. Your husband is sitting across from you, in his white undershirt and plaid pajama bottoms, piling up bow tie pasta with melted Hannahbells and basil from the garden and Dorris's big heirloom tomatoes on toast. The pasta is tossed with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and it's still hot, fresh from the pot.

Arts & Ideas wafts in through the screens: Eygptian youth, bad banking, Roosevelt. You take a bite and the basil breaks, suddenly fragrant. The tomato is still warm from its spot on the window sill—it has never seen a fridge, cold weather, the inside of a store. The cheese is sharp, gooey, distinctive—all muddled together with oil and starch.

The recipe is one you pulled out from a Martha Stewart magazine—the one you were reading at twilight, drinking iced tea, your legs draped over the leather arm rest of the couch. No one had volunteered to make dinner yet—after the beach, the sun, the salt. All either one of you wanted to do was read—first books, then magazines, then newspapers. When the energy for that ran out, it was just the radio.

When you came across the recipe—tomato and basil pasta—it was more of a reminder than a jolt. You'd been to the farmers' market yesterday where the tomatoes were ripe, and the basil was ready in the garden. Someone had brought bow tie pasta home from the marketplace the other day, and there were all sorts of cheeses still in the fridge from last week. All that was left to do was pick and chop and boil, season with salt and pepper, pour the wine, cut a few slices of toast.

So you did and now dinner is done. Your plates are clean and the sky is pink, blue, then dark. You sit for a while, silent, then finish your wine, walk inside, turn the kitchen lights out. It's time for more books—another chapter of The Time Traveler's Wife, maybe, or The Food of a Younger Land—then the end of another Sunday, and bed.


This is so simple, it's more of a recommendation than a recipe. So do this: get some good tomatoes, some fresh basil, and some good cheese (I recommend either Hannahbells from Shy Brothers Farm or the mozzarella with gorgonzola dolce from Fromage à Trois), and toss them together with some hot pasta, olive oil, and salt. Crack black pepper on top, pour yourself a glass of white wine or iced tea, and sit down to one of the easiest—and tastiest—summer meals around.

1/2 pound cooked pasta—something small like Penne or bow tie—still hot
2 large heirloom tomatoes, cut into bite size chunks
1/2 cup basil leaves, packed
8 ounces soft cheese—such as Hannahbells or mozzarella
1/8 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
optional: balsamic glaze, for drizzling

Toss together the warm pasta, tomatoes, basil leaves, cheese, and olive oil in a large bowl. Continue mixing until the cheese melts into the pasta, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm—and if you like, drizzle each serving with a tiny bit of balsamic glaze.


The Local Food Report: cloves in droves

Forgive the pun, but it's true. Cape Cod farmers are growing garlic cloves in droves, and I, for one, am fascinated. Following is a list of who's growing garlic, and what varieties they have. Enjoy!

Barbara Purdy, Forbidden Fruit Farm in Dartmouth:

Purdy says she's saved her garlic seed for so many years she is no longer certain of its parentage. She thinks it was a Russian variety, soft neck and braidable, with red stripes, that started her crop. This year, the strain has been so prolific that she has over 1200 bulbs for sale at the farm.

Ben Chung, Caroline's Corner in East Orleans:

Chung is new to garlic, but he's hooked. Last year he grew a few varieties for fun, and this year he's expanded in an effort to have garlic for sale at the Orleans Farmers Market all season long. He started with a softneck, Chinese Pink, in late May, and these days, he's on to Music and Elephant, an incredibly large variety that's actually more closely related to leeks. This fall, he's looking forward to a harvest of Russian Red and German White.

Clare Bergh, Bon Terra Nursery in Brewster:

Bergh is officially obsessed. She grows 43 varieties of garlic—everything from Brown Rose to French Germinador to Hokkaido Zai Tai. (She is also, not so coincidentally, the woman who grew 150 varieties of tomatoes last year. She has a thing for collections, you could say.) She sells at the farmers markets in Hyannis and Orleans, and she's always happy to tell you about what varieties she's growing, and why. If you're looking for a spicy head or a mild head or one that lasts well or one with a sweet, lingering taste—or anything in between—she's your woman.

Weston Lant, Lucky Field Organics in Rochester:

Lant grows one variety—German White, a hard neck that he's had good success with over the years—at farmers' markets in Plymouth, Falmouth, and Provincetown. He says that on a farm as busy as his, they discovered the hard way that the different varieties simply got mixed up, so he decided to stick with the one that's performed best.

Ron Backer of Surrey Farms in Brewster:

Ron was stuck in Florida, delayed by storms when I tried to get in touch, but he says he's growing two varieties, an organic Italian hardneck that he bought in oregon, and a German hardneck, for sale at the farmers market in Orleans. He was on a golf course when I called, and he couldn't remember the names, but he promised to get them to me just as soon as he makes his way home.

P.S. If you have any farmers or varieties to add to the list, please let me know!


Higher callings

First off, Andrea, you were right:

Black raspberries have two higher callings, and one is definitely, without-a-doubt, ice cream. Embarrassingly enough, I was actually very surprised to discover that when you make your usual ice cream recipe and add black raspberries, it tastes like black raspberry ice cream. This might not sound like a revelation, but somehow, it never occured to me that the purple color and distinctive flavor you find when you get black raspberry ice cream at the store might have actually come from a plant once upon a time. I always assumed it was sort of like blue raspberry popsicles—completely made up—not a rare, delicious find.

At any rate, now that I know, I have made two batches. Two! I will never doubt black raspberries again, or ice cream flavors, or any of you.

And speaking of you, I have something else to thank you for today. Thanks to your suggestions about how to make a homemade hummus, I've been spending a lot of time recently working on my black bean dip. The peppers are in, and the celery, and the carrots, and when they're this pretty, it only seems right to have something properly homemade to dip them into.

And so I'm proud to announce that based on your suggestions, I think I've finally come up with something worthy of the title Black Bean Hummus. The version I made today—the third version of a turtle bean, garlic, and sesame oil riff—I'm pretty sure is it. It's the simplest I've tried, and also the best. The key is the ingredients: good, cooked-to-creamy-mush black turtle beans from our CSA, fresh roasted garlic, chives from the back deck, and a glug of top quality sesame oil. That's it.

I've been eating it on carrots, and those lovely, sweet, purple-with-a-tinge-of-green peppers you see up there (from Matt's Organic Garden in Dennis). It's been magnificent. If I were you, instead of trying to turn on a burner or a stove—as a sort of survival tactic to Beat The Heat!—I would make a batch right now. And maybe some black raspberry ice cream, too.

I hope you're enjoying summer, everyone.


The base for this ice cream uses no eggs, which I like because it means you hardly have to turn on the stove. Also, with the exception of the vanilla, this can be an all-local ice cream. I got our milk and cream from Paskamansett Farms, the honey from Mel Hammond down the street, and the black raspberries from our very own yard. Hip-hip, hooray!

1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup honey
2 cups heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups black raspberries, crushed
chocolate chips (optional)

Heat the milk and honey up over low heat in a small pot, stirring constantly. They don't need to get hot—just warm them up enough that the honey melts into the milk. Pour the mixture into a small bowl along with the vanilla and the cream, and chill for at least 2 hours. When the mixture is cool, pour it along with the black raspberries into an ice cream machine, and freeze/churn as directed. If you like, at the very last minute, stir in a cup or so of good, dark chocolate chips. Spoon the ice cream into a container and freeze for several hours before serving—the ice cream will be very soft when you first make it, and it needs this time to set.


This is not so much a hummus as a black bean dip, but since black bean dips are usually more of a nacho/football thing and this is much more of a carrot/green pepper recipe, I think the hummus deserves its place in the name. This should last for at least a few weeks in the fridge, and is perfect as a summer veggie dip.

2 cups cooked black beans
1/4 cup sesame oil
1/4 cup chives, chopped fine
3 big heads garlic, roasted (that's a link to a roasting technique that works just as well with a toaster oven, so that you don't have to warm the whole house up)
salt to taste

Put the black beans, sesame oil, and chives into a food processor. Squeeze the soft roasted garlic cloves from the heads in, too, and puree. Season with salt to taste, and refrigerate.


The Local Food Report: like poetry

Lettuce varieties are like poetry:

There's Tango and Lolla Rossa, Tom's Thumb and Tennis Ball. There's Optima and Sylvesta, Cardinale and Sweet Valentine, Oscarde and Little Caesar bursting red, new spring green. There's Green Deer Tongue stooping down and Butterking standing tall, Formidana bunched into a tight little ball.

Some are looseleafs and never form a head. Others are Romaines, from the island of Cos, or sweet Butterheads—the Bostons and the Bibbs. Others still—the Buttercos—are a cross between the two, half heart and half crunch, in varieties like Rouge D'Hiver and Sucrine. Lastly there are the icebergs (or the crispheads), curled on themselves into tight, compact balls.

Recently, it's Little Caesar who's stolen me. He's a miniature Romaine, crisp and sweet with dark ruffled leaves and a light green heart bundled underneath. When you cut him in half he feeds two perfectly—touched on the grill, drizzled with dressing, Parmesan ribbons and chunks of garlic bread strewn over top and alongside.

I found him sitting proud with Barbara Dean of Orleans—and I'll be back for more at 8 a.m. sharp this Saturday on the green.


As implied by the name, this delightful summer salad requires a grill. If you don't have one, you can also sear the lettuce over very high heat in a cast iron skillet, but I'd recommend cooking over at a friend's house that does have a grill instead—the smoky flavor is key. Plus, if you're grilling lettuce, it's an excellent excuse to grill something else: marinated chicken? burgers? steak? shish kabobs? All, in my book, are a very good thing.

1 head garlic, top 1/4 sliced off
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1/8 cup buttermilk
1 and 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 heart Little Caesar or other Romaine, halved
2 slices rustic bread
3 ounces shaved Parmesan

Turn the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the garlic in a piece of tinfoil and drizzle it with garlic. Scrunch the tinfoil together at the top to wrap it up, and put it in the oven to roast until the cloves are soft, 45 minutes to an hour.

Light a grill. (Woo!) Squeeze half of the soft garlic cloves into a mixing bowl or blender along with the buttermilk and lemon juice. Using an electric mixer or the blender, beat these into a puree. With your engines running (read: the mixer or blender on and moving), add the olive oil in a slow, slow stream. When it's blended, season with salt and pepper to taste.

When the grill is hot, drizzle the bread slices and the cut sides of the Little Caesar hearts with olive oil and season lightly with salt and pepper. Place the bread on the grill to toast. This should take about a minute per side.

Next put on the lettuces, cut side down, and sear for about 20 seconds. Flip and grill another 20 seconds, then place the hearts cut side up on two plates. Drizzle with the roasted garlic dressing and sprinkle with the shaved Parmesan. Spread the remaining roasted garlic onto the pieces of toasted bread, and serve alongside. Enjoy at once.


Suddenly, abruptly

I left for a few days and like that—!—the black raspberries are in. Six foot high plants are reaching dark crowns toward the sky, plants that just last spring were transplants. They came from our friend Tracy's yard, from the patch that was overflowing from Dotty's yard into hers over the fence. We planted them in a neat, orderly patch with the goldens and the reds, and all summer long they struggled just to send out leaves, put down roots. They looked so scraggly I was going to pull them this year—and then—when I got home from Maine, they were suddenly, abruptly overflowing with fruit.

Funnily enough, I'd never had a black raspberry before the other day. I'd had black raspberry candies, of course, and black raspberry popsicles, but I'd never tasted the real, fresh thing. Once I did, I understood why: secretly, black raspberries straight from the plant aren't really our thing.

I have a feeling other people would agree. Black raspberries are different from the reds and the goldens—sweeter, with less flavor, and more artificial tasting somehow. The first day the bumper crop came in, Alex picked a quart, brought them inside, and then promptly declined to sprinkle them on his breakfast cereal. And so although my mother and I had just finished sealing the lids on 43 pints of strawberry jam, I waited a day, picked another two cups and a handful of lemon-thyme, and started again.

As it turns out, black raspberries are perfectly suited to jam. They crush easily, soak up the sugar, brighten with lemon-thyme and lemon juice, and thicken up fast. Like red raspberries they have a good amount of pectin, so you don't need to add chunks of apple the way you do with blackberries in order to get them to set. Their flavor deepens, mellows somehow, into something real, something solid, something good.

I think in fact, that if you were to look into it, you'd find that the higher purpose of black raspberries is jam. I think you'd find they're intended to be grown with lemon-thyme in sandy soil, and to move from the back yard to the kitchen together, under a hot, sticky July sun, filling quart after quart and jar after jar, again and again and again.


I made this recipe up, inspired by the lemon-thyme growing crazily, happily underneath the black raspberry patch. The two seemed like natural partners—and the finished jam confirmed that they do, indeed, go handsomely together. [One note: don't substitute regular thyme; it is a completely different beast.] This jam is all at once tart, flavorful, and sweet. It's the kind of thing you want to eat on toast, over yogurt, or maybe even folded into a batch of sweet corn ice cream. We'll see.

6 cups fresh black raspberries
1 tablespoon fresh lemon-thyme
4 cups granulated sugar
juice of 1 lemon

Combine the black raspberries and lemon-thyme in a large, non-reactive pot. Crush the berries using a potato masher and add the sugar and the lemon juice. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Turn the heat down to medium low and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes, or until the jam sheets off the spoon.

(When you first start cooking the jam, pull your spoon out and watch the way the liquid drips off of it. The drops will be light and syrupy at first. As the jam continues to boil, the drops will get heavier, and eventually, they will come together to form a fluid sheet as they come off the spoon. This is the setting point.

Another good way to keep an eye on the consistency is to put a small spoonful of jam on a plate every few minutes. It will cool quickly, and when it does, you'll be able to see how the jam, at this stage, will set.)

Keep watching or testing until you get the consistency you like, then turn the heat off. If you want to put up the jam, pour it into sterile jars and seal. Screw the lids on tightly and leave the jars upside down to cool overnight; be sure to check the seals in the morning before putting them in a cool, dark place.

Otherwise, put your jars in the fridge or give them away to very nice friends, and enjoy the jam at once, however you please.

Yield: about 4 cups plus a little bit of extra for eating fresh.


The Local Food Report: the chickens are in

Remember this picture?

I took it in January, and it was the beginning of a dream. A big dream—my friend Drew's dream—one that he came up with in his last semester at the Stockbridge Ag program in Amherst. He read a few books, watched a few documentaries, and made a decision. He was going to try to bring chickens back to his family's farm. Not just any chickens, but chickens raised right—on grass, outside, clucking and pecking and running around.

When I first talked to him, in January, there were still a lot of obstacles. He had to choose breeds and save up enough money to buy an electric fence and get a permit and order the hens and the feed they would need for the first few weeks. He had to make sure that he could use the Mobile Poultry Processing Unit and set up dates and make sure that his birds were ready when the time came. He had to build a customer base and get the word out and decide on a price.

He did all that, and fast. He picked two breeds: Red Bro, which is an heirloom bird, bred through generations to have plump, tasty meat, and the Cornish Rock Hen, a more modern breed created through gene splicing. He settled on June 23rd and 24th, July 14th and 15th, August 4th and 5th, and August 25th and 26th. And last week, he slaughtered over a hundred Truro-raised birds—the first birds at Hillside Farm in over 30 years.

We got two Red Bros raised on organic feed and pasture, and we ate both of them—I repeat, we have now eaten two chickens—in one week.

They were amazing—juicy and tender and tasty and absolutely fresh. We ate them roasted, stuffed with asparagus and peas and spring onions and garlic and rubbed down with rosemary and butter. We put a handful of baby carrots in the pan around the bird to soak up the juices as they cooked, and a cup of peas, too. We let it roast slowly, on low heat, and then cranked the oven up at the end to crisp the skin. We feasted and made chicken salad and chicken stock and then started all over and feasted again.

It was exciting, not just to eat a bird raised five miles down the road, but to eat a bird raised by a peer, and a friend. It was the kind of feeling that makes you happy to be alive, in this place, right now. I have a feeling that all summer we'll be doing it again, and again, and that on each slaughter date to come, we'll also freeze a bird.

There are other local poultry operations on the Cape—Miss Scarlett's and Paskamansett Farms and Ocean Song Farms and First Light Organic Farm even raises birds every now and again—and they're all excellent. Wherever you live, and whichever farmer you support, I think it's high time for a chicken roast with a fresh, Cape Cod bird.


Roasting a chicken is one of the easiest ways to make a whole-meal feast. I made this stuffing up based on what we had in the fridge leftover from the markets last week, but it will change as the season progresses. Whatever you use, be sure to put some veggies around the chicken in the pan—they are a true treat.

one 4-5 pound chicken
4 sprigs rosemary
2 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper
1 slice stale bread or a handful of crackers, crumbled
1 and 1/2 cups English peas, divided
1/2 pound asparagus, cut into 2-inch pieces
3 cloves garlic, peeled
4 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
1/2 pound baby carrots, whole, with tops trimmed to leave 1/2-inch of greens

Preheat the oven to 150 degrees F.

Rinse the chicken, pat dry with a dishcloth, and arrange in a roasting dish. Working from the skin flap over the back of the bird, use your fingers to separate the skin from the meat. Slip the rosemary sprigs and butter under the skin, spreading out the herbs and rubbing the butter into the meat. Rub the outside skin of the bird generously all over with salt and pepper.

In a large bowl, toss together the crumbled bread, 1/2 cup of the peas, the asparagus, the garlic, and the scallions. Season lightly with salt and pepper and stuff as much of the mixture as you can into the cavity of the bird. Set any extra aside.

Tent the roasting pan with tinfoil and put the chicken in to bake. After two hours, pull the bird out of the oven and turn the heat up to 375 degrees F. Arrange the remaining stuffing, remaining peas, and baby carrots around the bird in the roasting pan. Rub the skin of the bird with more butter if it's dry, cover everything back up loosely with tinfoil, and return the roasting pan to the oven. Bake for 30 minutes; then take off the tinfoil and turn the oven to broil. In about 15 minutes, the bird's interior temperature should reach 160 degrees F and the skin will be golden brown and crispy; it's done.

Turn off the oven, take the roasting pan out, and let the bird rest for 15 minutes. Carve and serve with pan roasted veggies and stuffing, and maybe a nice green salad alongside.


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All text, photographs, and other original material copyright 2008-2010 by Elspeth Hay unless otherwise noted.