This fall I have been buying 6 pound stew hens from Kingbird Farm. Kingbird Farm specializes in peppers, onions, potatoes, herbs and meat. In the spring they sell a wide variety of pepper and tomato plants, and they also have unusual and interesting herbs and flowers for sale through most of the season. But they also carry a wide variety of poultry, pork and beef, as well as eggs. They raise heritage breeds and the quality of all of their products is outstanding. This summer I pickled their cipollini onions and I have been roasting their Adirondack blue potatoes with rosemary.
Stew hens need long braising, 3- 4 hours, to be tender. They have intense flavor. Last week I stewed one with a small pork butt roast and Chinese spices, dried shitake mushrooms and butternut squash. I shredded the meat and served it over organic egg noodles. This weekend I braised a bird in the oven with winter vegetables and mushrooms. I added some white beans from Cayuga Pure Organics and pearled Barley from Farmer Ground Flour. It took all day, but that was fine. The family were in the city, returning home at 6:30, in time for dinner and two episodes of Revolution. It was a cold blowy day with ice pellets and mean rain in the air. I loaded the woodstove and prepped the meal, which would cook in stages. That allowed time to finish up laundry and bill shredding and settle down in front of the fire, with a pot of green tea and Chance, Love and Logic: Philosophical Essays, by Charles S. Peirce, the great Pragmaticist philosopher, a man allergic to the academy.
Hen Braised with White Wine and Winter Vegetables
1 6 pound stew hen or rooster
1 large onion chopped
1 giant carrot cubed
2-3 stalks celery cubed
1-2 bulbs garlic, smashed, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
1 bottle white wine
1 t rosemary
1 t thyme
2 T chopped fresh sage
2 bay leaves
½ big turnip cubed
½ rutabaga cubed
1 large leek, halved lengthwise, rinsed, and cut into 1″ pieces
4 cups sliced mushrooms
1 cup barley cooked in 3 cups water until al dente
1 cup dried white beans, soaked overnight and cooked until just tender, with water, a splash of wine, a clove of garlic and salt
¼ cup red wine vinegar
Preheat oven to 325.
Cut the chicken up. Cut the meat from the thighs. Leave the legs whole. Chop the breast into 2-3 pieces each, and joint the wings. Cut the back into 2-3 pieces. Salt and pepper the chicken and brown in a large iron frying pan in batches over high heat. Arrange in a covered roasting or braising pan that will hold a lot more stuff. Lower the heat to medium and sauté the onions, carrots, celery and garlic until soft and fragrant. Raise the heat to high and add some of the wine to deglaze the pan, and pour over the chicken pieces, then add the rest of the wine, the herbs and enough boiling water to cover everything. Bake for 2 hours. Stir in the cooked beans and root vegetables and bake another hour. Add the barley and the mushrooms and cook for another hour. Add wine, stock or water as needed, so that it doesn’t dry out. A half hour before it’s done, bake with the lid off. Check for salt and pepper, and add the vinegar. Let it rest for a while on top of the stove, and serve with bread and wine.