June 25, 2007

No Anti-Biotics Ever! But Those Darn Chicken “Houses”

So, in a part PR, part savvy-business maneuver, Tyson Foods will be introducing a line of chickens that are antibiotic free.

The company said fresh chicken raised without antibiotics was shipped to stores Monday and will be sold beginning this week in packaging that emphasizes that there are no artificial ingredients.

These chickens will cost more. Why? Well, after reading Michael Pollan’s wonderful Omnivore’s Dilemma, I learned (and you could, too) that the antibiotics are needed to keep the chickens alive long enough to get to the market.

Why the dramatically elevated risk of an early visit to broiler heaven? Well, in the book, Pollan actually goes to a farm in California that produces “organic” chickens that are, as the name organic implies, antibiotic free. What do we learn: There are 20,000 of them in a “long, low-slung” shed “with giant fans at either end” to keep the rancid smell created by that many chickens in one place at an only semi-nauseating level. And this is just a run-of-the-mill industrial organic chicken operation. Imagine what a Tyson's operation must look like (Pollan tried to get a peak, but, alas, all of the big boy chicken purveyors turned him down)!

He had to wear a hazmat-like suit to go into the shed because of the fear of infection which, because of such close quarters for that many chickens, “could doom a whole house overnight.”

It's little naughty details like this that make me never want to purchase chicken at the grocery store again. Tomorrow afternoon, in fact, I’ll be ordering a whole lot o' chicken, both whole and parts, from Misera’s Organic Farm in Butler, Pa. These birds receive no antibiotics, do not live in mega-crowded quarters, and actually get to go out and eat the goodies they really like to eat, like grass and grubs from the poop of cows—sounds gross, but makes for some darn good chicken, I can tell you that!

These are, from what I can tell, Salatin-style chickens, as in Joel Salatin, the owner and operator of Polyface Farms, a farm in Virginia where Pollan visited for one week to see how it operates. The effort Joel Salatin puts into running this farm – and the intellectual work needed to maintain a 100% sustainable farm with no pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, etc. – is truly amazing.

In any case, Tyson’s move is one in the right direction. When they start investing in and supporting more farm’s like Misera’s, then I’ll be impressed

Speaking of chicken, I highly recommend this recipe. It’s one of our favorites.

June 23, 2007

Fish sandwich

While I can’t claim to create recipes from scratch (although I'm heading in that direction), at least not main courses, one thing at which my wife and I have proven particuarly adept is adapting a favorite dish from a restaurant.

One of our most successful restaurant-rip-off meals is a grilled fish sandwich, which we adapted from Cafe Deluxe, a popular, family-friendly restaurant with several locations in the Washington, D.C. area. It’s relatively easy to make, fairly sloppy to eat, and genuinely enjoyable. All it takes is some good bread, some small filets of trout or flounder, lettuce, tomato, maybe some avocado or bacon (or both!!), and, most definitely, a thick slathering of a really simple remoulade sauce.

This is enough for two fish sandwiches.

  • 2 small trout filets
  • 4 slices of fresh, rustic bread
  • Lettuce
  • Tomato
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • Few dashes of cayenne
  • Few dashes of chili pepper powder
  • Salt and pepper

Remoulade sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
  • 4 tablespoons of mayo
  • A few dashes of hot sauce
  • 1 tablespoon tarragon
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed with the side of a knife
  • 2 tablespoon of capers, chopped
  • Salt and pepper

Light a grill, get it to a moderate heat.

Combine all of the ingredients for the remoulade in a bowl and stir well. Remember: taste and adjust! I like it with some heat and some tang.

Sprinkle the fish with cayenne, chili pepper powder, salt and pepper, and then drizzle the olive oil over top. Grill the fish over moderate heat (we usually do it on foil – don’t get the grill marks, but don’t get the fish sticking to the grill either!) until it starts to flake.

Put 1 filet on a slice of bread, add the toppings, put a generous slather of remoulade on the other slice of bread and, by Jove, you’ve got it!

Again, you can add some bacon or a few thin slices of avocado to this sandwich and it’s all the better.


I don’t watch much TV these days outside of Pittsburgh Pirates baseball games (which, ironically, given how bad the Pirates are, is not the topic of this post), a little soccer, maybe repeats of The Office and 30 Rock, now that the new season has begun, some Top Chef on Bravo, and occasionally ESPN or Wolfie “Happening Now!” Blitzer on CNN.

Even with such a limited viewing repertoire, I have managed to see some commercials lately that literally make my tummy get a little gurgly—namely, commercials for new offerings from our still-burgeoning fast-food industry.

Among these are ads for Pizza Hut’s new P’zone, Wendy’s triple cheeseburger, KFC’s “Famous Bowls,” and any of the ads for Quiznos’ myocardial infarction-inducing toasted subs.

The P’zone ad boasts that it has one freaking pound of meat, veggies, and cheese in it.

KFC’s “Famous Bowls” include a chicken and biscuit bowl: mashed potatoes, corn, little bits of fried chicken, cheese, and most-likely sodium-packed and synthetically flavored “white gravy” all conveniently packed into one bowl. Oh, yeah, as the name explains, a freakin’ biscuit on the side.

Quiznos is fond of bragging about how much meat and cheese they can pile onto one of their famously toasted subs, including ads touting its new baja chicken, which has what looks to be half of a chicken on it, bacon, cheddar cheese, chiptole mayo, and the mysterious baja sauce.

And Wendy’s most recent add for its triple cheeseburger has people in a forest, including a male ring leader wearing a red “Wendy” wig, complete with upturned pigtails, chanting “Fresh, juicy burger” – fresh, because their prefab square meat patties are “never frozen” – a novel take on “fresh” if ever I’ve heard one.

When I see these commercials, I’m glad we don’t eat fast food in our household. And I understand why I get sick from even a single slice of a Pizza Hut offering. And I further appreciate why an estimated 65.2 percent of U.S. adults 20 or older are overweight and 15 percent of children and adolescents are overweight and 30.5 percent are obese.

It also makes me glad that summer’s here, that we can get truly fresh veggies and fruit from our CSA – that is “fresh” as in dug out of the ground or picked from the vine about 8 hours or so before I pick it up at the farm.

Now if somebody can help me get my kids to even consider putting some fresh shell peas or balsamic and garlic laden asparagus in their mouths, I’d be like a gopher in soft dirt -- you know, really happy.