Beef is a lovely meat. Tender, juicy steaks. Smoky sliced brisket. Big ol’ burgers. It’s pretty much impossible to go wrong with beef. Pork is pretty versatile as well. Nothing creates a better cured meat than a fine pig. Pork also makes a great burger if you dress it up a little bit. A nice double cut pork chop cooked to medium rare sits just a baby step out of first place in Sean’s Pyramid of Meats (with all due respect to Ron Swanson). But alone at the top, the finest of all meat dishes, sits the perfectly roasted chicken.
I know what you are thinking, “But Sean, chicken is dry and bland and flavorless. How can that possibly be better than a big, well marbled steak?” To which I would counter that you just haven’t been eating good chicken. Put the commoditized, pen-raised faux-chicken back in your grocer’s freezer case and find a source for fresh, pasture-raised birds. (I’m partial to White Oaks Farm down in Bluffton, GA, but you can get good birds all over the country.)
If the chicken has become nervous, as a certain mid-western football coach seems to think (keep in mind, this is the same man that likes a big glass of milk with his steak), it’s our own fault. Birds were meant to roam. They were meant to scratch in the dirt and eat bugs and worms and seeds and leaves and all sorts of different things, all of which develop flavor in their muscles. At some point, in our drive towards efficiency and productivity, it was discovered you could put them in a tiny cage, stack them to the rafters, and pump them full of grain to get a big fat bird that was cheap and easy to sell. Shame on us.
Now go buy a good bird, and show it the respect all meat deserves. Prepare it simply. Use a method that lets the natural flavors of the animal shine through. You might find out that chicken actually tastes like something, and you might actually like it.
Here are just a few Southern Kitchen recipes that put chicken in the center of the plate:
Grilled Chicken Thighs with Alabama White Barbecue Sauce
Anne Byrn's Grilled Chicken
Big Green Egg Smoke-Roasted Chicken
Lemon-Rosemary Roasted Chicken
Weeknight Roast Chicken Under a Brick
Southern Cast Iron Fried Chicken