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The $30. Chicken

January 5, 2012

It all started with a fancy pan. This beautiful baking pan is by All Clad and it’s what they call their chicken roasting pan. This beautiful pan came as a surprise gift to me from my sweet husband Mr. Darla. He sees things and thinks that I might like them and gets them for me. You may think that this makes me very spoiled… And you’re right! But that’s a different post and not really a problem isn’t…?

All-Clad Chicken Roasting pan

This beautiful All Clad pan has an arm that’s designed to hold the chicken up off of the pan so that the entire chicken is exposed to heat. That will allow the chicken to cook more evenly and faster.  I gave it a try immediately and the result was the vegetables swimming in oil. The chicken came out pretty good as I recall I don’t have any photographs of the finished chicken, but as you can see here the vegetables were a mess.

veg in grease

I decided to give it another try a couple of days later so I went over to our neighborhood gourmet, farm to market, artisan deli coffee shop, bakery, butchery, charcuterie, dairy  and grocer Revival Market.  This place is beautiful! I go here often to buy a particular bread and on holidays I go there to buy certain parts of birds to make broth. My dear friend Laura and I go there sometimes and have tea and gasp at the prices and that brings us my friends, to the $30 chicken.

Now friends I’m not broke. And I want to eat well. I want to eat food that’s raised humanely without chemicals if and when possible. And I understand that sometimes you pay more than you want to for food. And most often times, when you do pay more for fresh food it’s so much better, and so worth it. When you do splurge you don’t have to feel guilty.  Ready to make chicken happen again while shopping (browsing) at the market I decide to buy a “happy chicken.”  I think of a happy chicken as a chicken that’s raised on farm, who gets to walk around and eat bugs and worms, who  get chased by dogs and harasses other chickens or whatever chickens do. And according to the beautiful soul behind the butcher’s counter these chickens were indeed happy, their life idyllic.
So I say, “I’ll take one!”    (dramatic pause)   Friends, that chicken cost $30. I’ll give you a minute here to let that soak in.

$30. Chicken

Yes, I was taken a little aback, and a little in shock, and quite frankly a little embarrassed that I had done it but there was! ACK! No worries I’m sure it’s going to be succulent and delicious! I could not wait to get my chicken home on that beautiful roasting pan! Dinner was going to be fantastic!  Back at the house I open up the butcher paper and there it is my $30 chicken!

wrinkled chicken

I have to admit to you I am a bit underwhelmed. This chicken doesn’t look happy at all. This chicken looks wrinkled, its skin is torn back by its breasts,  there some weird skin around one leg and the other one is sticking out weird. The upper leg looks fatter than the other. The whole thing looks and feels kind of dry. But what do I know? I’ve never bought a $30 chicken before!  So I decided forge ahead and follow the recipe for the roasted chicken and vegetables. This time I decided to place the vegetables on a rack under the chicken so that the veg would not over cook or sit in the grease.

testing rack height in oven

I trussed the chicken and stuck it in the oven to see which rack would work best. While the oven preheated I rubbed chicken with oil and  herbs. I also made a bouquet garni and stuck it inside the chicken.

bouquet garni

Lop sided

I hate to keep beating up on this chicken, but do you see how lopsided it is? (granted my trussing skills have never been addressed)  I try to set it properly on the rack, and I’ve also try to tie it onto the rack, it just didn’t work. The whole chicken seems to be freakishly bigger on one side than the other. Nevertheless here it is ready to go in the oven. I am sure it’s going to be great!

So I cooked the chicken until he came up to temperature in the thigh. Here it is out of the oven:



Again I’d like for you to notice how one of the legs the skin is completely pulling away from the joint, and then the leg that’s closer to the camera has the skin still intact. You can see the bouquet garni sticking out of the cavity, you can see how crispy the skin is and how it really pulled away from the thigh. The vegetables look okay they appear to be roasted nicely- though some of them have fallen through the holes and down into the grease. All in all it looks horrible. Cutting into it was almost impossible. This chicken was so tough I swear to God it was living on the streets in Chicago in the 70s. I was absolutely horrified by this. I honestly felt like taking the chicken back to the store the day I bought it and opened it up. But I didn’t I cooked it. We did not eat it of course. It was horrible. I hid the price tag from Mr.Darla in my shame of purchase, and the shameful result.

I have cooked many chickens since on this chicken rack and they  were delicious. It’s appropriate for me to say here that I buy my chicken at Whole Foods Market. I buy their pasture raised, organic happy chickens and they are delicious every time. I buy whole chickens there and pay about $12 a chicken, and while that’s still quite a bit for chicken, I have yet to get a bad one. The butchers there are cute and friendly and know how to handle their meat.  😉   They are very happy to them cut into pieces for you. And Even after grilling, these  WFM chickens stay really juicy and wonderful.

I feel very fortunate that I can buy delicious food, and I feel very fortunate that I have the ability to choose what I eat.  I must tell you though I don’t think I’ll ever buy another $30 chicken and makes me a little sad that they’re even out there, shamelessly priced. And worse, sometimes poor quality. I am not saying that perhaps things might have went wrong in the kitchen, I am a newbie cook and roasted chicken should be easy- it’s not. It’s fracking hard to do right, COME ON! LOOK at that raw chicken!
That chicken just ain’t right.

I have to wonder have you ever bought a $30. chicken?  How do you decide how much is too much to pay for the food you want to eat?

7 Comments leave one →
  1. January 5, 2012 11:51 am

    Nope, I have never purchased at $30 chicken, but I did once buy a $25 pot roast, you know, the chuck, the cheap cut of meat that you slow roast for hours and hours until it falls apart and is delicious and yummy?

    Except it wasn’t. Nope. It was tough.

    I’m thinking that cheap meats should be cheap. That’s the lesson. And yes, happy chickens are worth extra, but compared to $30, $12 is cheap. And a $11 roast is better than a $25 roast.

    Groovy pan, though. I just saw a pin on Pinterest about using a Bundt pan as a chicken roaster. I’m all kinds of intrigued!

  2. January 5, 2012 12:55 pm

    “living on the streets in the 70’s” … tee hee

  3. January 7, 2012 11:18 pm

    I know exactly what you mean Darla … I’ve done the same thing … though my chickens (I bought TWO) we’re about $20 each. Honestly, I was no more impressed than I was with the all natural chickens that I buy at my local grocer. There are a couple of things that I wanted to share with you as you said you are somewhat new to cooking. First, the veggies cooking in the chicken juice is usually quite desirable, you just use a slotted spoon to remove them from the fat and then use some of that delicious fat to make a wonderful pan gravy :). Second, here is a link to an instruction video (only 1:30 minutes) on how to properly truss a chicken … the birds dead, it’s not going to try to escape, you don’t need to tie it so aggressively… (j/k!) … and finally, let me share a recipe which I found a couple of years ago and now is the only way I will oven roast a chicken. It is Thomas Keller’s Simple Roast Chicken… it is without a doubt the crispiest most succulent chicken you will ever eat. … this link also contains a very nice picture of a ‘scantly clad Anthony Bourdain … just scroll down you’ll get to the recipe eventually. I really enjoyed reading your blog and the pics are great … I’ll continue to follow! Happy Cooking!

    • January 17, 2012 12:05 am

      oh YAY! thank you Jill. I will most definitely look at the video. (i did tie the hell out of it!) and of course! gravy out of that veg infused grease! no need to eat those soggy carrots.
      speaking of carrots, thanks for the “scantily clad” “heads-up. i’ll have to make time for sure now!also, so sorry about the late comment posting. things got weird over here for no apparent reason. i surely changed a setting- and have JUST discovered it. with lovely comments waiting in the wings! and thinks for following. hang on, it might be a bumpy ride!

  4. January 21, 2012 10:23 am

    I have never bought a $30 chicken but I was JUST talking to a friend of mine about this because she bought one thinking it was going to be slathered in Awesome Sauce, but unfortunately found that it was “just a chicken.” So I suppose the $30 chickens in PA are no better than your $30 chickens.


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