We roasted a Marin Sun Farms free-range hen yesterday. It was sold as a three-and-a-half-pound bird, though it looked smaller to me. I'm not complaining; I want to give these people my business.
Before cooking it, we borrowed an idea from the wacky and inventive chefs at Ideas in Food, and brined the chicken in juice from home-cured green olives. It was only in the brine for about six hours, so I'm not sure what effect, if any, resulted. I can tell you that the brine on its own tasted mildly salty and rich with the mellow lactic acid that occurs naturally in fermentation.
Maybe the brine had a tenderizing effect on the meat; I don't know, because this was the first MSF chicken I've tried. But oh, mama, was that a tender chicken.
It was like kiddie porn. The thigh meat hadn't even managed to turn dark. It was juicy, coy, tender enough to cut with a fork.
I half expected we were going to be getting a tough old bird: stringy and tasting like a barnyard. So the texture was a really pleasant surprise.
But the flavor of the meat was a few gizzards short of chicken. Nice enough, but not noticeably farmy.
Marin Sun Farms is new at this venture; yesterday's hen came from only their second wave of birds to reach the market.
I'll give them a little time. I'd really like a much tastier chicken.
But if I'm ever in the mood for some baby-soft poultry, I know where to go.