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Roasted Freedom Ranger with purple potatoes

The true test of a good kitchen is a well-roasted chicken. It is not easy making all parts fully cooked yet no part is overly cooked. On top of that, crispy skin still? Personally I can count with one finger of the places I know that can do that, consistently.

But nowadays what‘s on my mind is, does it taste ‘chickeny’?

Most chickens sold in supermarkets are Cornish cross. Even at Whole Foods, organic, air-chilled, rocky, whatever, they are all Cornish cross. The problem with that breed is it grows FAST. The meat outpaces its skeleton structure and according to my last chicken farmer who wanted to raise Cornish Cross free range, they just ’dragged themselves around’ towards the end. They also tend to die of heart attack when they are exercised too much, i.e. on pasture.


Unfortunately, Petaluma Poultry is pretty much the only game in town, so Cornish cross it is … until a few weekends ago. A new chicken vendor showed up at Sunnyvale’s Farmers Market: Surfside Chickens. It is based in Watsonville and all organic feeds. Sarah the owner told me she also rents pasture from her neighbor’s farm (raises pigs and lambs) for her chickens to roam.

Sounds good to me.

I did a side-by-side tasting of her supposedly free-range Cornish cross with Whole Foods’ air-chilled. Same preparation. Roasted at the same time, and the taste? Exactly the same. Tender and juicy. It’s good.

Then last weekend from Surfside, the husband Aurelio brought an additional breed: Freedom Ranger. Since it’s slaughtered the day before, I let it rest in the frig for 72 hours to minimize the rigor mortis effect. Then butterfly and roast it 500F for 15 minutes, rotate then additional 20.

This is the clear winner. More flavorful, more ‘chickeny’. Still has the factory breed’s tenderness and juiciness which makes it more palatable for toddlers. The high roast method also gets me a golden crispy skin.

According to Wikipedia, Freedom Ranger is a French breed that’s developed originally for the Label Rouge program. It is slow growing so suitable for free range. Mine is definitely leaner, longer in structure, and the meat decidedly darker. The age is a mere 12 weeks so it is only 3.4 pounds, versus the typical 4-5 pounds of the factory birds, which may have contributed to its tenderness.

No more Cornish Cross. Freedom Ranger is the bird for me.


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