Back in 1973, my family and I settled on the North Fork primarily because it was such as excellent source of delicious foods.
The fish, shellfish, ducks, fruits and vegetables were some of the best I had ever seen. Serving good food at my restaurant for all those years was just a matter of finding as many local ingredients as possible. Now, 41 years later, the North Fork has blossomed into a foodies’ paradise: shiitake mushrooms, micro-greens, miniature vegetables, heirloom tomatoes, farmed oysters, many varieties of pumpkins and squash, super-sweet corn and excellent wine, to name a few of our local products.
And recently, we are seeing the addition of meat-, milk- and egg-producing animals. Goats, sheep, pigs, cattle and chickens have joined ducks as locally available livestock. The pioneers who are raising these animals are pasturing them in an effort to produce healthy, sustainable food.
The growth of chicken farming is especially important, as chicken and eggs are such a big component of our diet. We are suddenly aware that the mass-produced chickens and eggs found in our supermarkets may not be the best thing for us — or for our environment. The high-density confinement method used by the large chicken producers is not only cruel to the chickens, but it can be unhealthy for the consumer as well. Here are some recipes that feature these newly local chickens.
North Fork Char-Grilled
Purchase a 4-pound chicken from a local farm. Rinse the chicken and pat dry with paper towels. Make a cut along the backbone with a stiff-bladed boning knife. Cut along the other side of the backbone to remove it altogether. Lay the chicken flat, skin side down on a cutting board, and make a notch in the breast bone. Remove the hard cartilage with your fingers. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon cHarissa spice rub (a locally produced, cumin-based seasoning available at local shops and farmers markets) on the chicken and refrigerate.
Bring 1 package of dried chickpeas to a boil in 2 quarts of water. Remove from the heat, cover and let rest for 1 hour. Put the chickpeas back on the stove and cook until tender, about 45 minutes, then drain.
Brush the chicken with olive oil and grill it at high heat, skin side down, until well marked. Turn the chicken over and move it to a cooler part of the grill and cook until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.
While the chicken cooks, prepare the vegetables. Pour 1/2 cup olive oil in a large bowl and add 1 tablespoon cHarissa spice rub. Cut 1 green and 1 red pepper in half and remove the seeds; peel and cut 1 red onion into quarters; cut 1 head of cauliflower in half and then into flowerettes; peel and cut 2 carrots into sticks; and cut 1 green and 1 yellow zucchini in half and then in quarters.
Toss all the vegetables in the seasoned oil and place them on the grill to cook, cooking in batches if necessary. Remove them to a cutting board and cut into bite-sized pieces.
Remove the meat from the cooked chicken and cut it into bite-sized pieces, leaving the skin on if desired.
Heat a Dutch oven and melt 2 tablespoons butter. Add 1 tablespoon minced garlic and stir in 1/4 cup flour to make a roux. Whisk in 1 cup chicken stock and 1 small can of chopped tomatoes with their juice. Add 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots and 1/2 cup currants. Bring back to a boil, reduce the heat and add the chicken, chickpeas and vegetables. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and place in a 300-degree oven for 30 minutes.
Stir in 1/2 cup chopped cilantro and serve with couscous or brown rice.
Chicken and Dumplings
Rinse a 4-pound local chicken under cold water and dry with paper towels.
Soften 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter and add to it 1 tablespoon each of thyme, rosemary and chopped parsley. Add the juice and zest from 1 lemon, reserving the lemon halves. Rub this mixture over the chicken and under the skin.
Place the lemon halves, 2 cloves of smashed garlic and 1 teaspoon each of coarse salt and pepper in the cavity. Tie the chicken with string to hold the legs together.
Chop 2 carrots, 2 stalks of celery and 1 onion. Place them in a roasting pan and put the trussed chicken on top.
Roast in a 350-degree oven for about 1 1/2 hours or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165. Remove the chicken and set it aside to cool.
Transfer the contents of the roasting pan to a soup pot and deglaze the roasting pan with hot water, adding all the juices to the saucepan. Pull all the meat off the chicken and cut into bite-sized pieces. Place the bones in the pot with the drippings and vegetables. Add 4 cups water and simmer for 1 hour.
Prepare the dumplings by combining 2 cups flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder and 1 teaspoon salt. Beat 2 eggs and 1 1/4 cups buttermilk and add to the flour mixture. You will have a stiff batter.
Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a Dutch oven and add 1 finely chopped carrot, 1 chopped stalk of celery and 1/2 cup chopped onion. When soft, stir in 1/4 cup flour and continue cooking. Strain the simmering stock into the Dutch oven and add 1/2 cup heavy cream. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the cooked chicken and bring to a simmer. Spoon in the dumpling batter one spoonful at a time and continue simmering for 15 minutes.
Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve over mashed potatoes.
John Ross, a chef and author, has been an active part of the North Fork food and wine community for more than 35 years. Email: [email protected].