Cooking Heritage Chicken in the Heartland, Frank Reese's culinary event featuring Standard breed chickens in Kansas February 15, was a huge success. The featured breeds included Barred Rocks, such as these photographed on Ryon Carey's Lindsborg farm, Cornish, Buckeyes, New Hampshires and Jersey Giants.
Frank's initiative focuses on producing Standard breeds rather than the industrial Cornish Rock cross which is presently the only kind of chicken available to consumers. He is working with the Animal Welfare Institute, http://www.awionline.org/, and Animal Compassion Foundation, the nonprofit funding arm of Whole Foods Market, http://www.animalcompassionfoundation.org/ to establish the Standard Bred Poultry Institute on his Good Shepherd Ranch in Lindsborg. The SBPI would be a learning and resource center to conserve and preserve heritage poultry genetics and the husbandry skills necessary to raise these birds successfully.
The feast comprised four complete dinners, cooked by ten chefs. Each dinner reflected the kinds of birds that would be available in the four seasons and the kinds of dishes that they are best suited to. In Spring, Chicken and Noodles and Chicken and Dumplings would be prepared from the older birds which had wintered over but were being culled from the spring breeding flock. Summer is the only season during which fryers would be available. Fried chicken is a popular picnic food, as are Chicken Salad and Pressed Chicken sandwiches. Less cooking means a cooler kitchen in the hot season. Fall's cooler temperatures make firing up the stove for longer cooking desirable. Dishes such as Dutch Oven Roasted Chicken and Chicken Soup with Butterballs, rich little dumplings are made from the chickens the farmer determines are not worthy of being fed over the winter to be part of the next year's breeding. The kitchen stove helps warm the house in Winter, making Baked Chicken, Huntington Chicken and Chicken Pot Pie from chickens suitable for the table but not the coming year's flock.
"The best way to save the old time poultry is to return them to our dining tables," Frank says. He's bringing that into fruition with his partnership with Whole Foods.