Last week the foodie world was set aflutter by news that some of New York’s most posh restaurants were participating in a highfalutin experiment involving kitchen scraps, French chickens and Amish farmers. Basically, scraps like carrot peels and old bread would be trucked two-and-a-half hours to farms in Lancaster County, PA to be used as feed for mixed-breed French chickens (street name: Green Circle chickens) that would ultimately end up back at the restaurant that essentially fed them. The free-range birds apparently would taste like the best chicken of ALL TIME. Or something like that.
This past Wednesday, Danny Meyer’s Midtown Restaurant The Modern was one of the first places ready to serve the Green Circle birds. Here’s what you need to know:
1. A number of high-end restaurants like Per Se and Daniel are feeding and serving the special chickens, but each restaurant crafts its own custom feed. The Modern’s chickens dine on grains like oats and barley, vegetable peels, herbs like rosemary and thyme and old bread soaked in milk, plus egg shells to strengthen their bones.
2. As a result of this custom feed (and of being French nationals), the Green Circle chickens have a yellow, almost golden hue in contrast to their plain old American counterparts, which are much whiter.
3. Out of 65 total days that the chickens feed, they eat the custom blend for 20.
4. Due to the limited number of available chickens, at least in these beginning stages, the Modern is able to serve only four chickens per night.
5. After being brined for a full 24 hours in pilsner and garlic, peppercorns and thyme, the birds are roasted with foie gras terrine, butter and pistachio rubbed under the skin.
6. The chicken’s “rustically elegant” presentation matches its pedigree. Each one is presented tableside in a copper cooking pot before being whisked back to the kitchen, Nomad-style to be carved, and then is brought back out on its own cart, complete with sides.
7. When conceiving the dish, the chefs wanted to serve it with the kind of straightforward dishes they’d want to eat with roast chicken. Think creamy mashed potatoes, salad and mushrooms preserved in a cute little jar, plus gravy made with rosemary and thyme - the very same herbs in the chicken feed.
8. Each chicken feeds two people and is part of the pre-fixe dining room menu (no supplemental charge).
9. How does it taste? Well, like chicken! The few bites we had tasted had a very rich chicken flavor and were incredibly moist. These chickens have a higher fat content, which probably contributes to the savory flavor.
10. Yes, we are serious. Everything in this post is true. Including the part about driving gourmet kitchen scraps more than two hours to feed chickens.