Before “America: Farm to Table” was released, I was working on a mantra.
The point is that you should find someone near you that does what they do, and become a fan of them. Certainly, if you are near Alex, Jim or Nathan, by all means, buy their stuff. But if you aren’t, what we’re encouraging you to do is find the rock star farmers near you.
I like in Washington, D.C., and plenty of rock star farmers set up shop in every corner of the city, and I visit as many of them as I can.
But when I was in Nashville recently, I saw an opportunity.
I was at an event at Wedge Oak Farm. Karen Overton is the farmer there and raises chickens. When I was at Wedge Oak last year to meet Karen for the book, I really wanted to buy one of her chickens and take it home to cook. But I wasn’t going straight home, so I passed.
This year, I was going straight home after the visit. So my checked luggage on the flight home included a chicken, a duck, some ham hocks and some chicken feet from Karen’s farm. When I got home, I broke open the book and turned directly to the recipe for the Spanish Chicken with Saffron, Onions and Olives. I had a chance to make a dish from the book with the actual product that inspired it, and that was an opportunity I wasn’t about to pass on.
I knew so much about this chicken before I unwrapped it. I knew how it was fed, and I had seen the pastures where it had lived. So I knew why the skin was white, why the bird was so muscular and well-proportioned, and why the bone structure would be so strong.
I broke it down into pieces, seasoned and seared it, then cooked with the other ingredients and waited for it to be ready. I plated it just like it looks in the book, then dug in.
It was delicious. In part because of what happened in Nashville, and to a lesser degree because of what happened in my kitchen. I’ll be making the dish again, probably next time with a bird from closer to home.
Jim Webster works at The Washington Post. “America: Farm to Table,” by Mario and Jim, is available on Grand Central Life & Style everywhere books are sold. Follow Jim on Twitter: @jwscoop.