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On Your Mark, Get Set: Feeling a Little Chicken

2010 October 12

by Sarah A. Maine

The Meat Hook, S. Ottomanelli & Sons

If you’re a regular reader of RecipeRelay you may have noticed that over the past few months the majority of our recipes have been vegetarian.  For my part this is mostly due to a serious love of vegetables and the awareness that a diet light on meat is healthier for myself and the planet.  That being said, from time to time my carnivorous impulses take over.  I was happy to see Brianna bring chicken back into the relay last week with her Moroccan Chicken with Figs – it’s about time we give a meat product the full RecipeRelay treatment, carrying it through several recipes.  I’ll be picking it up this week for another round.

In the early days of RecipeRelay I mentioned that finding locally raised organic meat and poultry was a challenge in my area.  Three years ago the same was also true for vegetables.  The arrival of the Sunnyside Greenmarket and the establishment of the Sunnyside CSA have gone a long way towards remedying the vegetable situation, however, apart from a grass-fed beef vendor at the market (held once a week on Saturdays June – November), neighborhood options for sustainable meat and poultry are basically zero.  The Sunnyside CSA partners with Lewis Waite Farms to enable it’s members to order meat, poultry, dairy and other specialty products from a variety of farms in upstate New York.  This is probably my best resource for local, organic and pastured meats but due to my own lack of organization I keep missing the ordering deadline.  Until I figure that out I need to find some storefront options for buying meat products that are relatively close to home.

Recently, while reading Edible Queens I was greatly encouraged by an article about a butcher in Woodside called S. Ottomanelli & Sons, 60 year veterans of the meat trade.  I went to check it out.  A mere 3 subway stops from my neighborhood, their Woodside location was established in 1960 and offers up a wide variety of choices: from beef and pork to an exotic selection of wild game.  Their beef is locally sourced from a farm in New Jersey but some of their other products come from farther afield.  Upon querying the butchers about the origins of their pork and chicken I found out the following: the pork is from Blue Water Free Range Pork, a collective of family farms in Indiana, and their chicken comes from Bell & Evans, a family-owned all natural industrial chicken farming operation in Pennsylvania.  Bell & Evans chickens are free to roam around in giant temperature controlled houses where they are fed a vegetarian diet and are not treated with any hormones or antibiotics, a step up from Perdue but not exactly what I was looking for.  In the end, I bought some pork and skipped the Bell & Evans in the hope that I could find a chicken from a smaller, free range operation.

Still without a chicken I decided to head over to The Meat Hook – a boutique butcher located inside the Brooklyn Kitchen in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  Opened in the fall of 2009, the Meat Hook is staffed by quite a different breed of butcher than Ottomanelli’s, more Arcade Fire than Tony Bennett.  However, the raw material is the same: meat, as is the passion for it.  The extra trek yielded a pasture raised bird from the Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative in Pennsylvania.

Riding back home on the subway I couldn’t help thinking about the journey I had just taken to acquire my chicken: 4 subway rides and about 2 hours.  Was it worth it?  Did it make sense?  I’ll definitely go back to Ottomanelli’s for pork but going all the way to Brooklyn for chicken … once in while – maybe, but on a regular basis – no.  I’ll be revisiting this issue again, especially since the holiday season is bearing down on us, but in the mean time I’m off to the kitchen to devise a game plan for my chicken.  See you back here on Thursday with the recipe!