Chef Nicky is an acclaimed food stylist for photography and video shoots. Contact: chefnicky@chefnicky.com

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Black Chicken

January 18, 2016

What an experience!

For years, Mitzi and I raised our own chickens. We raised some for meat, but we raised them mostly for the eggs. You really can’t beat fresh chicken or eggs. The egg yolk color would be determined by the chicken’s diet. If it was winter, and we had to supplement the chicken’s food, the yolk would be more yellow than the summer when the chickens got out of the coop everyday to eat grass, bugs, etc... In the summer, the yolk was pretty much orange.

The chickens we raised for meat were good, but not the best I had ever cooked. We bought the chicks at a store. The chicks were labeled “broilers”. It seemed to be the standard for what everyone was growing at the time. They take about 6 weeks from the time they are hatched until they are ready for the skillet. (I know that kind of sounds funny... that’s why I say it that way.)

I remember mom cooking chicken when I was a kid. It was great! Of course my mom is a great cook, but the chicken was also a little different 40 years ago. The breast was not as big, the skin was maybe a little thinner, etc... I'm pretty sure it was just a different breed than what people are used to now. I’ve been looking for a minimum of that flavor for years.

 

Anyway, I thought I would try and find the best tasting chicken. After talking to many people and doing lots of research, it's my understanding the Blue-Foot Chicken (poulet de Bresse) in France is the king of birds.

 

In my research, I found that there are companies in Canada and California who kind of duplicated France’s best. At the time we were raising chickens, the California company would sell only female chicks and they were about $55 each. So, I knew if I bought them to raise, I could not breed them because I would never get a male. Yes, that’s a lot of money for a baby chick, but if I could breed them for our dinner table I thought it would be worth the investment. To make a long story short, we ended up selling our farm and moving to a neighborhood in California (for now!). Needless to say, we are not raising chickens at this point in our lives.

​​Since we moved to California, I have been trying to get my bearings of where to shop for a variety of ingredients. I met someone who told me they shop at a place called Saba Live Poultry in Oakland for their poultry and other meats. They said you can’t buy fresher meat because all Saba’s animals are live. This person said they usually buy their poultry live and take it home to process, but if you like, Saba will process the birds for you while you wait.  

 

I went to Saba yesterday to check the whole process. In one room, they had a pen where you could choose a lamb or a goat for them to process. Another room had bunch of cages with the live birds for you to pick from. They had it all- pigeons, ducks, chickens, quail etc... It’s kind of weird picking out your own animal, but at the same time it is nice. I tried to pick out the healthiest looking birds I could find. You may think a place like this could possibly have a blue foot chicken, but no luck. Don’t worry... I will get one!

 

 

​I ended up getting a Pekin duck and a couple chickens. When I was picking out the chickens, I asked the guy helping me for a certain chicken. He said “no- you don’t want that one... only the Chinese people eat that one”. I asked why. He said it is a black chicken, and the Chinese people say they eat it for health reasons. I asked him if the chicken tasted good. He said he had no idea, he had never eaten one. I told him I felt healthier just deciding to buy the chicken, so I would take one. What a great choice!

 

 

I don’t know if you are in or out on this decision, but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. I decided to simply roast it with just a little olive oil to help crisp the skin, garlic, salt and pepper. I did baste the chicken a few times while it was cooking. I wanted to get the true taste of the meat. It is the closest tasting chicken to the one mom cooked when I was a kid. There is not much fat on the chicken, the flavor is wonderful, the meat has a nice chew and is still tender and the skin gets nice and crispy. Yes!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scraping the pan drippings when I was a kid with mom was a must. It was maybe better than eating the chicken itself. The drippings contain so much flavor. The black chicken also makes that great caramelized goodness on the bottom of the pan.

 


Like I mentioned before, I am still going to get my tastebuds on the blue-foot chicken, but until then, the black chicken is tops.

 

Until next time, I wish everyone the best.

 

Enjoy!

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