Next Hot Ingredient: Heirloom Chicken

By Kristin Donnelly Posted March 16, 2007

“Organic” and “free-range” soon won’t be the only qualifiers to indicate a bird led a happier and healthier life—breed names will be just as important. Chefs are already obsessing over some of the heirloom breeds of chicken now available. Last year, Blue Foot chicken captivated their attention. Now, Heritage Foods carries a pure-bred Indian Game chicken and D’Artagnan is introducing Poulet Noir Barre, a bird so juicy and rich that it’s hard for me to go back to my usual organic chicken. At Stone Barns, his farm in Tarrytown, New York, chef Dan Barber used to raise the same crossbreed of chicken that industrial giants like Tyson do, but after experimenting with several alternatives, he prefers an heirloom breed called the Bard Silver. “It tastes so much more like chicken. Like a heightened chicken,” he says. Why? Heirloom breeds take longer to reach market weight, thus having more time to develop better, more deeply-flavored meat. If you want to try the Bard Silver at Barber’s restaurants, Blue Hill in Manhattan and Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Tarrytown, you’ll probably have to wait a month or two, until spring truly arrives—Barber only believes in raising chickens when they can be outside on pasture.

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