When chefs and farmers join forces, everyone wins—especially the diner.
This Sunday, Aug. 17, chef Sarah Acconcia of Le Garage: Beer Bar & Frites is organizing Winner Winner Chicken Dinner, a three-course meal promoting local poultry and eggs. Each of the three courses will feature either chicken or eggs from Andy’s Eggs and Poultry, a small free-range chicken farm based out of Fallston.
“I’ve been working with Andy for a couple of years now as my purveyor for chicken and eggs,” says Accconcia. “He does a couple of local markets and we’re looking to introduce more people to him and his products.”
Andy Bachman, the farm’s owner, raises his chickens in a much more sustainable and ethical way than large factory farms. Andy pays close attention to what his chickens eat, the environment that they’re raised in and even the way they’re slaughtered, which give his chickens a markedly different flavor profile.
“Any chicken you buy at the grocery store—frozen or not—has been frozen at least once,” says Acconcia. “Freezing changes the texture of the meat. The chickens Andy bring me are fresh killed. I feel better being able to control at least one product and exactly where it comes from and how it was raised.”
Acconcia’s menu combines Southern cooking and French cuisine in new and interesting ways.
The first course is a salad of haricots verts and a chicken-liver vinaigrette, which she says will be both savory and buttery without the typical iron flavor associated with liver (again, due to the way Andy raises his chickens).
The second course is one of Acconcia’s specialties—confit fried chicken, in which she first brines the chicken in Baltimore-based Union Craft Brewing beer, and then confits the chicken in duck fat until it’s time to fry.
“I started doing confit fried chicken about a month ago as a special and it took off,” explailns Acconcia. “We’ve had people come in who were upset that we don’t have it regularly.”
The third and final course featured will be a crème brûlée featuring peaches and a simple vanilla flavor to help bring out the flavor of the egg yolks in the custard.
Sarah Acconcia’s Juniper Berry Brine
Chef Sarah Acconcia has one piece of advice for any home cooks looking to improve the flavor of their chicken: brining.
“Many people overlook this step. It does require dinner preparation to be planned the night before, which might be a hassle for some, but it makes a huge difference in the flavor and the texture of the chicken.”
Herewith, her recipe and brining technique tips for the perfect way to celebrate the last days of summer.
1 teaspoon juniper berries
8 cups water
1/2 cup kosher salt
2 tablespoons brown sugar
4 bay leaves
Toast the juniper berries over medium heat in a dry sauté pan. As they toast, they will turn shiny and become very fragrant.
In a large non-reactive container, combine all ingredients. Stir to dissolve the sugar and salt. Let cool completely before submerging the chicken.
Brine the chicken for about an hour per pound. You can leave it in the brine for up to 12 hours, but remember that the longer you leave it in the brine, the saltier it will be!
Note: This brine is great with other birds too, like quail or pheasant. Just be sure to adjust the time based on the size of your bird.