It has become a joyful challenge to help home cooks navigate the mindset for meat from a local market. I agree that it is a budget buster when you buy your first free-range chicken. My last one cost $23.00.
Yes, I said $23.00.
That one 4.5 pound chicken started as a roasted whole chicken. I used half of one side of the breast meat over lentils with a lemon and basil dressing.
Then I used all of the rest of the breast meat to make chicken salad that lasted me for three days of lunches. The remainder of the meat I pulled from the bones, shredded, and stored in the freezer. Over the next weekend, I used the bones and skin (also frozen until I had time to use them) and made stock. I sautéed some carrot, onion, and celery and added the strained stock. I added a little soy sauce and balsamic vinegar to amp up the base flavor and threw in some fresh thyme, lots of smashed and chopped fresh garlic, and salt and pepper. After an hour of simmering, I added the shredded chicken and a squeeze of lemon and had a splendid bowl of soup. I packed a bowl away for my lunch the next day. When I got home the next night, I added green peas and sautéed mushrooms, poured it all into a casserole dish, topped it with biscuit dough, and fed three people chicken pie for dinner.
Dinner, lunch, lunch, lunch, dinner, lunch and dinner for three.
That works out to 9 meals at about $2.50/meat serving from one chicken.
My meat budget has not really changed over the years. I still spend a fair amount, but I make it go a LOT further. Personal meat consumption has reduced per meal, and I find I am quite happy with that. Local meat tastes so very different; it is rich and satisfying in a way mass produced will never ever be. That is one huge point to make when you start bemoaning the price of buying local. Also, you are paying for peace of mind. You are paying to get out of the oh-so-scary zombie food chain. You are paying for transparency and a more humane relationship with your food. You help local prosperity. Beyond all of that, you create belly memories that your family may talk about forever.
All I have to say to my old brunch friends is this: Remember that braised pork belly and cheese grits? Remember when I made that Duck Egg Flan?
Yep. Those kinds of memories.
- Dry Lentils, 16 ounces rinsed and drained
- 2 carrots, peeled and cut into small dice
- 1 medium onion, small dice
- 1 clove garlic smashed and chopped fine
- Olive Oil, 1Tbsp
- Thyme, dried 2 tsp.
- Bay leaf (optional)
- Salt 1 tsp.
- Pepper 1 tsp.
- Fresh Basil leaves
- Lemon Dressing:
- 3 T Lemon juice
- ½ C. olive oil.
- ½ t salt
- For lentils: Sauté the onion, carrot, and garlic in 1T olive oil in medium saucepan.
- Cook until onion is soft, add Lentils and seasonings and cover with water to ½ inch above level of the lentils. Bring to a boil, stir and reduce heat to simmer and put lid on for 15 minutes. While lentils are cooking make the LEMON DRESSING
- Check water level and add enough water to keep lentils from sticking to pan with an eye toward keeping the lentils from over cooking and becoming mushy. It is best to add water twice than to add too much at a time. Lentils should be whole but soft to the tooth in 20-25 minutes total cooking time.
- Remove from heat and taste for salt. Remove bay leaf if you used one.
- Add 4 Tbsp. dressing and toss gently. Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool. Serve with a drizzle of the dressing and top with fresh torn basil leaves.
- Serve warm or store in refrigerator until thoroughly chilled.
- Lemon Dressing: Measure all ingredients into jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake ingredients until combined. Taste and adjust lemon and salt to your liking.
- Store leftover dressing in the refrigerator.
The extra lemon dressing can be used on top of grilled or broiled fish, toss with tuna and fresh cucumbers for a quick tuna salad, etc. Add a tsp of honey for a simple green salad dressing.