Elise's Food (and Farm) Story, Part 2: Lemon Basil Chicken

Thanks to Elise Hofer Derstine for sharing her story and talents in the last post! A second Bravo should be handed to her for the Lemon Basil Chicken recipe that follows… Simple in its design, elegant to the eye, singing of summer, and like all good chicken dinners -- has you writing poetry and researching chicken ladies. Obviously.

Elise's pastured hens at Blue Heron Farms  
Elise feeding said hens

As for me lately... This has definitely (and without my meaning to make it so) become a year of travel. After my friend's wedding in Illinois (the one with the whoopie pie table!), I had the pleasure of spending a week at Martha’s Vineyard, that idyllic little island that Massachusetts lays claim to. It was as delicious as I could imagine... Small farm stands lining the windy roads with their delicacies of the season: Raw milk, berries,, peaches, tomatoes, homemade yogurt and cheese, pies, sweet corn, and on and on. And that’s not even mentioning the fish.
Cheers to you dear Martha.

Raspberry picking at Mermaid Farm... Twas the prettiest necklace I've ever worn
These later donned a Peach Berry Cake for our dessert
Milk from Grey Barn Farm

At the fish market, I picked up edibleVineyards magazine and immediately became entranced by an article about Nancy Luce, an eccentric woman who lived and died on the Vineyard in the 1800s. Nancy became famous for two things…
1. Her love of her chickens.
2. Her poetry about her love of her chickens.

Nancy Luce and her beloveds

An excerpt from Nancy's poem Poor Little Hearts
A sketch of two Poor little Banties,
They died with old age, over twelve years ago,
Poor little Ada Queetie died over thirteen years ago, in 1858.
Poor little Beauty Linna died over twelve years ago, in 1859.
O my Poor deceased little Ada Queetie,
She knew such a sight, and her love and mine,
So deep in our hearts for each other,
The parting of her and her undergoing sickness and death,
O heart rending!

Elise and Nancy’s work give me pause to ask…
- Do I express enough gratitude for the animals that I consume and those who raise said animals?
- How could a Mennonite cookbook inspire gratitude in its readers?
- What would I write to my Lemon Basil Chicken? Here's one idea...

What I would write to my Lemon Basil Chicken... And you? 

Ok... on with the cooking!

This recipe requires a cut-up chicken. In case you're in need, here is a creatively-crafted video by Elise’s husband Adam on how to do just that. Do note the rad belt buckle. 

The ingredient list
Thanks to Deck Farms for my Oregon chicken!  Bought at Hollywood Farmer's Market

Lemon Basil Chicken
Adapted from Marie Simmons
Yield: 2 to 4 people

1 whole pasture-raised chicken, cut up         
1 small bunch fresh basil leaves
5 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 lemon, sliced very thinly
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup white wine or chicken stock for sauce (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Generously salt and pepper both sides of the chicken pieces. Loosen some of the skin from each piece of chicken, gently sliding your finger underneath the skin. Slip a basil leaf between the skin and the meat. Pull the skin back over the meat.

2. Arrange the pieces skin side up in a baking dish. Note: Any casserole dish will work. However, if you want to make a sauce at the end (see below) an enameled cast iron pan with sides will work best.

3. Add the garlic cloves to the dish – anywhere will do – and place slices of lemon on and/or around the pieces of chicken. Drizzle with the olive oil.

4. Place on center oven rack and bake for 40 to 50 minutes, turning the baking dish once for even browning. Tip: Halfway through baking, remove the lemon slices from the chicken pieces and lay them elsewhere in the pan. This will help the skin brown evenly.

5. To make a sauce: Remove the chicken pieces from the baking dish and set aside, covered. Place the baking dish over medium high heat on the stovetop and add about ¼ to ½ cup white wine or chicken stock, scraping the pan.  You’re scraping up all that juicy goodness the chicken surrendered as it baked… it is packed to the brim with flavor. Let the sauce simmer, scraping and deglazing as you go, till it thickens slightly. I drizzled this sauce over our pasta… Heavenly.

6. Enjoy your chicken with Elise’s favorite: orzo. Or my favorite: fresh pasta.
Or your favorite: ______.  

I also sauteed a variety of veggies from the garden, all of which wed to the Oregon chicken with marvel.

Portland, Oregon Chicken Dinner
Goshen, Indiana Chicken Dinner
Thanks again Elise! 

1 comment:

  1. Had it for dinner tonight, made by a different Boyts woman with love. Delicious and evocative of many warm, happy, good things. Thanks for the inspiration dear sis.