I feel spoiled this week. Not only are we launching our exclusive Skagit Red chicken today but our Seafood Markets will be heralding the triumphant return of Fish Fridays! Save $4.01 lb. on our fresh, high-quality Blue North cod all day long while enjoying delicious samples.
If meat and seafood aren’t your thing, we’ve also got some crunchy, fairly traded cashews from Equal Exchange that directly support farmers in India.
What an embarrassment of culinary riches! If you can’t decide what to eat, you’re supposed to eat everything, right?
Our Exclusive, Heritage-Breed Chicken
It’s just past dawn on a frosty, ice-crusted February morning in Mount Vernon and roughly 5,000 Skagit Red chickens are staying warm in a specialized barn owned by Draper Valley Farms when I, and several of our Meat Market experts, pay a visit.
Normally the birds are running around outside, flapping their wings, taking dust baths and playing “tag” with little twigs between their beaks. But it’s 15°F and they’re all taking shelter inside under the heaters. The barn can house about 15,000 birds under typical chicken-raising circumstances. But Skagit Reds number only 5,000 – so these birds get lots of extra room to room and live under the extremely high welfare and care standards of our new Skagit Red program.
I’m no chicken rancher, but those birds seemed a lot happier and warmer than I was (seriously, I don’t care who or what you are – 15°F is downright nippy!). These ambitious standards combined with the Skagit Reds’ old-fashioned flavor make us really excited to say that our Skagit Red program officially launches TODAY with a screamin’ deal on our March 6 Big Board – $2.98 a lb. Draper, the company behind our Ranger Free-Range Chicken and Roxy Organic Chicken, is growing the flock exclusively for us. And when they’re gone, they’re gone!
This has been something of a passion project for our Meat & Seafood Specialist Michael Fodness. He’s been working for more than a year to provide a humanely raised, salmon-safe, antibiotic-free, non-GMO option for those of us looking for a premium-quality bird we can feel good about.
“This is not about making money. It’s about offering something special to our customers and supporting family farms. That’s what we do,” Michael told me. “You could see during our tour that the Draper people were happy, fist-bumping and having a good time. They take care of each other. Just like we do at Town & Country Markets.”
If the Skagit Red takes off like we think it will, he’ll request more flocks to sell for limited times throughout the year.
The Skagit Reds even meet the Step 5 standards of the Global Animal Partnership, a remarkable accomplishment. Along with all the extra space, they enjoy several enrichment measures, like indoor and outdoor roosts to allow for perching and more natural sleeping, extra dry floor conditions to keep their feet healthy, plenty of grass for foraging and 24-hour access to the outdoors.
“Your average broiler chicken is kind of like a football lineman – big and slow,” said Draper’s Grow Manager Dave Wilson during our tour of the specialized barn. “But these chickens here are like linebackers, strong and quick. We have to hire extra people just to catch them come harvest time.”
And because they’re leaner and more nimble than your average bird, the Skagit Red has a bolder, more old-fashioned flavor. This is about as close as you can get to eating a fresh chicken from grandma and grandpa’s farm. This week’s Featured Recipe, Roasted Chicken with Vegetables, is meant to showcase the Skagit Reds. So be quick and nimble like they are and take advantage of our Big Board price while they last!
Fabulous Fish Friday Returns!
Few things make me as happy as freshly cooked seafood flavors so I’m super stoked about the return of Fish Fridays, starring the firm, flaky and humanely harvested Pacific cod from Blue North!
We’ve talked a lot about Blue North since we first partnered with Amelia Burns Stewart and her family to bring their Alaskan cod to our markets a little more than a year ago. Their on-board stunning process minimizes the fish’s pain and stress for better flavor and texture (and protects the crew from extreme weather conditions since they fish from a hole inside the boat – check it out!). Seriously, a Blue Cod fillet absolute pops with flavor off the plate.
We’re selling Blue North cod at $8.98 a lb. every Friday until April 19, Good Friday. That’s a savings of $4.01 lb.! We have hundreds of recipes in our archives and my favorite for Blue North cod is the Chinese-Style Steamed Fish. It’s light and savory with peppery hints of green onion and nutty sesame that doesn’t mask the mild flavor of the fish.
Our very own cheese whiz, Shauna Howell, offers up a cheese worth discovering.
CASHEL BLUE: One of the creamiest, best-tasting blue cheeses in the world, in this cheese lover’s book anyway.
An Irish farmhouse cheese that represents the high quality of Tipperary grass-fed milk. This silky blue is a standout on any cheese plate, and March is the perfect time to celebrate one of Ireland’s first and finest blues. I find it so appealing to cook with, too. I love to mix equal parts Cashel Blue and Kerrygold butter and melt it over a good steak or toss with toasted walnuts and hot cheese ravioli.
Chris Allen is a copywriter and assistant marketer with Town & Country Markets. He’s a former contributing editor, radio anchor and producer, and an Air Force veteran. He’s also mastered the art of chopping red onions with one hand while sipping a dry Tempranillo in the other.