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Posts from the ‘Bits & Bites’ Category

What is Air-Chilled Chicken?

Why does air-chilled chicken taste so much better than the average bird? Here are a few of the key reasons.

Chill Out

Since the mid-1990s the USDA has required that the temperature of a chicken carcass be lowered to at least 40 degrees within four hours of slaughter. Most processors cool chickens in vats of ice cold water, a technique that does the trick, but allows the chicken carcass to absorb water—mostly in the skin (the last place you want it!).

Studies have shown that water-chilled chicken absorbs anywhere from 2 to 12 percent of its weight in water on average. While it might superficially appear that added moisture would be a good thing in a chicken, in fact it dilutes the flesh and flavor, makes it soggy and prevents the skin from crisping when roasted. There is also an increased risk of cross-contamination, since many chickens are dunked in the same water.

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A Better Way

In the air-chilling process, chickens are suspended separately from a track that moves through several chambers. In the first, cold, purified air is run over each bird, which quickly reduces its body temperature. Then, depending on the system used, the chickens will cycle through one or two more chilled chambers for anywhere up to 3 ½ hours. The air-chilling process takes longer than the water bath, and the facility is more expensive to set up, but many feel the results are worth the time.

While air chilling chicken and poultry has been in practice in Europe since the 1960s, it was only introduced in the U.S. in 1998.

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Our organic and air-chilled chicken wings

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The Glorious Twelfth

Every August 12th grouse hunting season begins in Scotland – the day is called the Glorious Twelfth. In the United Kingdom, the start of the red grouse season is much anticipated, and since the Game Act passed in 1831, it has been diligently celebrated with much shooting and chasing of grouse (the season ends December 10). This is the earliest of the hunts in the season, so it was determined by law that no grouse would be had before August 12th.

It’s always a competition among chefs to be the first to serve grouse. This has been taken too far, as in London at the end of the 19th century, when the famous chef, Louis Eustach Ude, was hauled into court for serving grouse at Crockford’s Club before August 12th and was fined and reprimanded. The Scottish lord who had tattled on him came back to the Club to make sure grouse was no longer on the menu. Satisfied it was not, he ordered salmi de fruit defendu (salmi of forbidden fruit). The forbidden fruit was, of course, GROUSE!

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The red grouse is endemic to the British Isles, developing, as most island species in complete isolation. The red grouse is sometimes called “moorbird” in Scotland, since it lives in the moors amidst the heather. Grouse eat the shoots, seed, and flowers of the heather, will eat berries and insects, and have been known to cruise newly mown oat fields to pick up leftovers and fatten themselves for winter.

The male grouse is larger than the female, for whom the males will perform rather extravagant courtship dances that have been translated to folk dances imitating the male bird’s moves in both the Alps, and on the American prairies (winters must be very long for this to have become a tradition).

Many grouse habitats in the UK are managed by gamekeepers who burn small patches of heather in late winter to create new shoots for the grouse and manage predators to give the birds a chance of survival before hunting season begins. The hunt begins with dozens of “grouse beaters” crashing in the brush to frighten the birds into taking flight so they can be shot by sportsmen. Dining on pheasant, quail and grouse served from giant silver-domed dishes from sideboards the size of airplane runways has come to represent a certain country lifestyle of the British ruling class that is fading in the 21st century.

Grouse

Red grouse average 10 to 12 ounces dressed weight, and might be considered an acquired taste. The meat is dark, reddish and quite unlike its relative the chicken. There’s no other way to say it: grouse is gamey. Although grouse is popular in Europe and the UK, it is a taste shared primarily by the hunting community in the U.S., but is not common on America’s supper tables. That should be changed. The problem is, it’s illegal in the U.S. to sell shot game, and grouse don’t respond well to farming so they are not as available as they might be.

But never fear! D’Artagnan imports red grouse from Scotland during the hunting season. The birds are hunted on controlled preserves, where the balance of the moors and the grouse population are carefully managed. Wild, heather-eating and delicious, the little birds are remarkable when prepared well. Care must be taken when eating wild grouse, as there will be actual shot in the meat—not good for the teeth.

Although grouse is usually roasted and served whole, Queen Victoria’s beloved Prince Albert was fond of famous chef Alexis Soyer’s Grouse Salad. This was made with hard boiled eggs, anchovies and pickled vegetables (beets and gherkins), tarragon chervil, shallots, chili vinegar and sugar in a cream enhanced mayonnaise and roasted grouse (either the cut up whole bird or just the breast) on a bed of lettuce. The chef warned the shallots might be too much for the ladies and that this was a salad better for the gentlemen.

Grouse may be for the adventurous palate, but if you are game to try, Deana Sidney, who recreates and interprets historic recipes on her blog Lost Past Remembered, has a recipe for grouse using an aged Madeira. And Hank Shaw at Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook has many grouse recipes, and he actually hunts his own in California.

Deana Sidney Grouse Recipe

A short art film by Zachary Heinzerling called “Hugh the Hunter,” is about the grouse hunt on Scotland, and on this particular Glorious Twelfth, will be screened at Postmasters Gallery in New York City. In fact, it’s dinner and a movie; we provided quail and Ghetto Gastro is cooking them for a game repast.

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What is the Paleo Diet?

The Paleo diet has been coming out of the cave and into the mainstream over the past few years. This return to pre-agricultural eating has its detractors and supporters, like any dietary trend. But in a world where people seem to be eating themselves to death with processed foods, the Paleo Diet encourages a return to real foods that our primal ancestors would have eaten. If it’s a trend, it’s the oldest one around.

Dr. Loren Cordain, Phd., who is the founder of the Paleolithic movement, and in fact coined the term “Paleo Diet,” explains the simple premise of the Paleo lifestyle.

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At the most basic, a Paleo lifestyle returns us to our ancestral diet – what we would have hunted and gathered: meats, fish, greens, fruits, seeds and nuts. It’s an unusual diet in that it bucks many established verities, such as the dangers of saturated fats and the desirability of grains. Humans in the Paleolithic era would not have counted calories, or found any low-fat, processed diet foods in the store. Intent on survival, they would have eaten all the saturated fats and nutrient-dense foods they could get their hands on.

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Father’s Day Special – Includes Chicken Wings!

Along with juicy wagyu patties, rack of lamb, giant steaks,  all kinds of sausage and Berkshire pork (ribs and chops!), our favorites for Father’s Day are now 20% off –  but only until Wednesday, 6/17.

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And we are introducing a new product just in time for Dad’s day: organic, air-chilled chicken wings!

Our fabulous, organic whole chicken has always been a popular bird, and we know you will love the parts. After all, everyone loves nibbling on wings. Even some of our French chef friends serve an homage to the classic recipe, complete with hot sauce and blue cheese.

We like to make “truffalo” wings – our oven-baked version of the famous Buffalo chicken wings, by swapping black truffle butter for regular butter. We think Frank’s Red Hot Sauce is a must for the sauce (some things are sacred), and recommend that you be generous with the butter.

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Those black specks are bits of truffle, not black pepper.

But you don’t have to stop there. We whipped up two more recipes for those who want to try something different. This harissa-honey chicken wing recipe starts on the grill for a smoky, spicy kick. The sauce goes on last, to keep the honey from burning on the grates.

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Serve with yogurt sauce and other Middle Eastern favorites to make a meal.

Our fried Asian-style wings recipe has sweet chili sauce to balance the heat of sambal oelek (or your favorite chile sauce). One of the benefits of making wings at home is that you control all the ingredients. If you want to eat “fast food,” we think it’s best to make it yourself.

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Crispy, crunchy, sweet and spicy, these wings have it all.

Try our organic chicken wings, available in 1-pound tray packs (in a case of 4) or in bulk (2 bags, 5 pounds each) for a simple home treat, or your next gathering, whether for the game or a backyard party. And save 20% right now in our Father’s Day special.

 

Signs of Spring: Ramps

We are sure that spring is here when the ramps arrive. We’ve had them for a little while now, in limited quantities, and they have been selling out quickly to our chef clients.

These fragrant wild leeks are the hottest thing on spring menus. Among the very first green to appear in the dead woods, they are a potent reminder of the power of plants and the changing of the season.

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A field of ramps makes a fresh green splash on the drab forest floor.

Wonderful with bacon, egg dishes, casseroles, potatoes, in pesto and anywhere you might use scallions or leeks, wild foraged ramps (they are not grown on farms) are a joyful and flavorful way to celebrate spring.

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Muddy and damp, like the springtime woods.

As the season progresses and availability increases the prices will come down. If you want to buy a 5 lb bag of ramps, you may call our customer service department to order: 800-327-8246.

 

 

 

Praise the Braise with 15% Off!

With the winter chill there’s only one thing to do: get in the kitchen and braise! Now is the time for comfort foods like slow-cooked short ribs that fall of the bone. Simmering foreshanks of wild boar. Succulent osso buco … you get the idea.

Now through February 24 save 15% off all the cuts we like to braise, and few other items that might help in your braising efforts. Like bacon. A true braise begins with rendering some bacon fat into a pan – but you knew that. Because you’ve got to brown the meat in something, and it might as well be bacon fat.

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Victory! CA Foie Gras Ban Lifted!

A judge today ruled that the ban on foie gras in California goes too far. And so the ban is lifted! It’s now legal to enjoy foie gras again!

To celebrate we are offering 20% off all foie gras at dartagnan.com. Break out the Champagne and the Sauternes, because it’s going to be a wild party.

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National Cassoulet Day … and a SALE!

We’ve always celebrated cassoulet. Sometimes in October, sometimes in January. Last year we even had a Cassoulet War in February, with chefs competing against each other for trophies!  To us, winter is cassoulet season. Or at least it’s an excuse to eat lots of cassoulet.

That’s why we are so excited about National Cassoulet Day.  This year Chase’s Calendar of Events is recognizing it as an official holiday on January 9, thanks to our friend Chef Philippe Bertineau and the team at Benoit in NYC. Check the hashtag #NationalCassouletDay on social media to follow al the action. Join D’Artagnan and over 30 restaurants in New York City as we celebrate this iconic dish together.

Cassoulet Day Chase's Calendar

For our part, we are offering 15% off our cassoulet kit this week (January 5 – 9, 2015).  Get yours soon and discover the true joys of making a cassoulet at home. It’s not as complicated as you think. If you can sear sausages in a pan, and cook beans, you are pretty well set with the necessary skills. Scan the recipe here.

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Read this earlier post to earn more about the history of the cassoulet and the fierce competitiveness between the towns of Southwest France for the one true version of cassoulet. You can also listen to a cassoulet-themed song, and join in the general cassoulet mania!

Throw a cassoulet party for up to 12 friends and family with our kit that includes the ingredients you need…you can even purchase our exclusive clay bowl imported from France if you want to keep it truly authentic.

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After the cassoulet feast …

 

 

New Year’s Eve with Ariane

The Epoch Times has reported Ariane’s official New Year’s Eve plans. She’s going to ring in 2015 quietly, at home with a few friends. Those friends include Chef Hélène Darroze and Chef Bernard Liberatore, so the food needs to be great.

Fantastic Four!

L – R: Helene Darroze, Gabrielle Hamilton, Barbara Lynch, Ariane Daguin.

You know it will be.  Ariane is  going to provide the best ingredients from D’Artagnan: caviar, foie gras and mangalica ham. It’s shaping up to be a lavish feast. In a last-minute change Ariane decided to serve Wagyu striploin instead of lobster, because, hey, it’s Wagyu.

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D’Artagnan bone-in mangalica ham on the carving stand

We’ll have to wait and see how this crowd of kitchen luminaries decides to cook it all up. You can bet we’ll be asking Ariane for photos!

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Our recipe for caviar and creme-fraiche on baby potatoes

As for drinks, don’t worry about this crowd. Ariane will serve Pousse-Rapiere, which is the aperitif of choice in Gascony. This can be replicated at home with Armagnac, sparkling wine and a slice of orange. But the “push of the rapier” is quiet strong, as this amusing blog post attests. If you don’t have the special flute with a rapier on the side for measuring, no worries. Substitute a champagne flute. And check this site for more information about this delightful cocktail.

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We wish you all a Happy New Year full of tasty adventures. And let us know how you spend the evening – and what you eat! Salut!

 

 

Ham for the Holidays

Our heritage ham is featured in the December issue of Bon Appetit magazine … and they did a beautiful job with it. Check out their video with editor Adam Rappaport extolling the virtues of the ham for a holiday party. We get a little choked up watching the video. Our ham looks so good. And it’s bringing people together, with forks and knives at the ready.

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Let’s have a close-up, shall we? Just look at that gorgeous glaze and crispy skin. There’s nothing to it, as the video proves. And we have two simple recipes for the glaze. But don’t be afraid to improvise.

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You can get one of these glorious 12- to 14-lb pieces of porcine heaven at dartagnan.com.  Already have a plan for your Christmas meal? Well, maybe a ham would liven up your New Year’s Eve party!