Introducing Emmer & Co.’s Heritage Chicken — Plus A Food Gal Giveaway

Not your standard chicken.

Not your standard chicken.


You may know heritage turkeys as a gourmet splurge for Thanksgiving.

Now, get to know heritage chicken.

Yes, all the delicious attributes and admirable farm practices associated with a heritage turkey now can be found in chicken, too.

San Francisco-based Emmer & Co. is one company on a mission to make those specialty chickens more widely available.

Most chickens raised in the United States have been genetically modified for faster growth. Not so with Emmer & Co.’s. Their New Hampshire and Delaware chickens are certified standard bred by the American Poultry Association, the oldest agricultural organization in the country. They mate naturally, they live outside, and they grow to full market weight in 112 days compared to 42 days for industrialized supermarket chickens.

Jesse Solomon founded the company two years ago to create a product closer to the wild chickens our ancestors ate.

How highly regarded are these chickens? Just consider that they are served at such lauded restaurants as Benu, Lord Stanley, Californios, The Perenial, Rich Table, the French Laundry, and the Restaurant at Meadowood.

Emmer & Co.’s goal is to establish regional centers of production. Right now, it partners with one main farmer in Red Bluff, CA, who raises 5,000 chickens a week, a pittance compared to large industrialized poultry companies that do as many as 41 million a week.

It comes with the neck still attached.

It comes with the neck still attached.

As with any specialty product in small supply, the price of this chicken is definitely higher than your typical supermarket one. A 3 1/4 pound Emmer & Co. bird is $26.99; a 2 3/4 bird is $19.99. Solomon is hopeful the price will come down a bit as the company scales. Even so, he doesn’t expect his chicken to be eaten as often as Americans routinely eat chicken, which is the number one protein consumed in this country.

“I don’t want it to be a bird everyone buys every day. That’s not our goal,” Solomon says. “Our goal is to build a premier national brand that does things the right way — to be like the Patagonia of meat.”

The chicken is available through Emmer & Co.’s online site, and at some retailers, including Avedano’s Meats in San Francisco, Deluxe Foods of Aptos, Piedmont Grocery in Oakland, and Country Sun Natural Foods in Palo Alto. The chickens also can be ordered through AmazonFresh and Williams-Sonoma. They are sold frozen except to restaurants, which receive them fresh.

Solomon let me try a sample of the 3 1/4-pound chicken. The first thing you’ll notice is that the breast is much smaller, in the same way it is on a heritage turkey. It’s a leaner bird, too.

I followed the high-heat roasting method in a recipe on Emmer & Co.’s web site, in which the chicken is roasted at 475 degrees for 25 minutes, before being finished at 400 degrees.

“People taste it and say, ‘This isn’t chicken,’ ” Solomon says. “But it is chicken.”

I can see why. The flesh is denser with more chew to it. The white meat also has the deep flavor of dark meat. It’s rich with a real depth of flavor. You know how with most chicken, you chew it without much thought, so accustomed are you to its flavor being so innocuous. But when you chew this chicken, it captures your attention. You notice it, you think about it, you savor it. And when’s the last time you did that with chicken?

Chicken has never been this flavorful before.

Chicken has never been this flavorful before.

CONTEST: One lucky Food Gal winner will receive a free Emmer & Co. heritage chicken.

Entries, limited to those in the continental United States, will be accepted through midnight PST Dec. 31. The winner will be announced Jan. 2. How’s that for a New Year’s gift?

How to win?

Just tell me what your favorite preparation of chicken is — and why. Best answer wins.

Here’s my own answer: “That’s a tough one for me. I could say it was my Dad’s chicken stew, cooked in a pressure cooker with big chunks of potatoes and carrots. I could say it was my Mom’s big pan of chicken drumsticks marinated in a funky, pungent fermented tofu sauce. I could say it’s the RoliRoti chicken that turns on a rotisserie with its fatty juices dripping lovingly onto a heap of potatoes. I could say it’s the famed Zuni Cafe roast chicken with its crackling skin, and bread salad that soaks up all the pan drippings. I could say it’s the preserved lemon-marinated roast chicken at Mourad in San Francisco, which is so incredibly juicy and comes with irresistible brown butter couscous. In the end, I love each and every one of those. But I probably love roasting my own chicken at home even more. It makes the house smell heavenly. It’s classic comfort food I never tire of. And best of all, at home, I can dig in with my fingers to get every last morsel with no shame at all.”

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  • My favorite way to prepare chicken is a garlic, lemon, rosemary roast. It has a lovely sauce with capers, olive oil…and potatoes. It is so easy and cooks beautifully. The neighbors are jealous when they smell it wafting. It is so yummy my mouth is watering right now! I make it often and relish the leftovers even more. It is so nice to have an easy, elegant and affordable chicken dish in my repertoire.

  • My favorite way to prepare chicken is just olive oil, salt, & pepper all over the chicken and roast 350 degrees for 1 hr. It’s my favorite way because it’s easy and husband really likes when I make it. When he’s happy it makes me happy.

  • Zuni Cafe’s winter roast chicken. Two-day spicy dry brine/air chill. Yum

  • Well I boil the chicken in 2 quarts of our sweet well water, Then we use the chicken in whatever dish we feel like thru the week. last week we made chicken enchiladas, and with the stock we can make soups of many kinds. We try to get the most of our chicken. Thanks

  • I love ANYTHING chicken. But you can’t beat simple (spatchcocked) roasted chicken on a charcoal grill, served with a fresh heirloom tomato salad in the heart of summer. (then sneaking any leftovers for breakfast the next day). I say this as I sit in my 61 degree apartment in San Francisco!

  • I have a go to Spicy Peanut Thai recipe. Typically I just use boneless, skinless thighs, however a whole cut-up would suffice.

  • The tantalizing smell from the kitchen is what I’d notice first, the fry-grease smell weaving its way through the house. Then making a beeline to the kitchen to verify what I already knew. I would often see a half-batch of pure glory sitting on top of a paper towel lined plate.

    My mom’s fried chicken is the winner for me. It is certainly not the best fried chicken technique or flavor-wise but it evokes the most positive memories. That fried chicken usually served alongside an array of musubi – ume, furikake, seaweed paste – simple but amazing and always overwhelmingly fulfilling.

    Just as good, in a different way no doubt, the next day in a lunch box. Never looked forward to lunch as much as fried chicken-musubi days.

  • I like roasted chicken with lemon.

  • my favorite prep of a chicken is straight into a home made chicken pot pie! reminds me of my childhood!

  • My Mom made a fantastic soy sauce chicken using a mother sauce which she kept in the refrigerator. It took me
    a long time to get the recipe close to what she made! I poach the chicken in a mixture of soy sauce, sugar, ginger, star anise, rice wine, garlic, scallions and a few secret spices.
    I can still remember the duck hearts prepared this way. With a bowl of rice, sooo yummy!

  • I have not eaten chicken or meat for the past 7 years but when I was introduced to Emmer’s Heritage chicken, I decided that this was worthy to put in my body. Now, it is the only chicken (or meat) I will eat. I want to taste the fulness, flavor and subtleties of the chicken so I choose to prepare it simply as a roasted chicken with garlic, pepper, salt and paprika. It is simple and so delicious. It is my special meal now, eaten and shared with the family at all the holidays.

  • Chicken rubbed with turmeric and cinnamon and then cooked with green olives and preserved lemons, because it goes amazingly well with flatbreads I’ve been baking recently. It’s just the right kind of weather for it too! 🙂

  • Gosh, I’m with Carolyn on this one. Give me any chicken with crispy skin and the skin won’t make it to the table! Cook’s Illustrated has a good technique for this.

  • though it seems simple now, i continue to love pulled chicken barbecue with a side of slaw. it was one of the first meals i made myself and it’s flat-out comfort food, even now!

  • i love a good beer-bottle roasted chicken! So moist and delicious

  • My favorite chicken recipe is one I saw in Paris as I walked through the market – seasoned and roasted on a spit, with the fat dripping down on small potatoes below. The chicken imparted a wonderful flavor to the spuds, as well as tender fresh meat and crispy skin. The vendor told me he just used salt, pepper, garlic and paprika. I make it at home with the same seasonings, but don’t get quite the flavor of those Parisian chickens! LOL.

  • I really enjoy recipes with lots of ingredients. I like the process. However, Thomas Keller’s simple recipe for roast chicken is far and away the most delicious and easiest chicken recipe ever. Rinse and dry the bird. Drying is very important. I use paper towels inside and out getting it as dry as I can. S&P the interior and “rain” kosher salt on the skin. This is not in Chef Keller’s recipe but I chop up some fresh Rosemary, Sage and Thyme and sprinkle it in the cavity and outside skin. Then truss it and put it in a 450 degree oven for an hour. Tent it for 15 minutes after roasting and slather with butter. And that, my friends is really great roast chicken.

  • I have been trying to duplicate the chicken my Naples-born grandmother used to make every time we drove to New York from Pennsylvania to visit her. She used a chicken bought from the street vendor that morning. It was cut into pieces and basted in butter, olive oil and garlic. I have never been able to achieve the level of tenderness and flavor of Nonna’s chicken, but I came close the other night with Sam Sifton’s Chicken Provençal posted on the NY Times “Cooking site.” This dish is much more sophisticated than my grandmother’s, but still very easy–shallots, chicken thighs, lemons, vermouth and garlic. Yes, I like Zuni’s chicken, but it’s time everyone branched out. Here’s the link to that recipe if you want to give it a try.

  • I make a version of Melinda Lee’s blasted chicken. I season my bird with salt n pepper. I add paprika…I stuff lemons in the cavity. I roast it at 500 degrees for 23 min. I cover with foil and cook it for another 35 min and take it out and it rests for another 20…I baste at the end. The skin is crispy the chicken is crazy moist…I take out giblets at the beginning and place next to bird and remove after the 1st 23 min.

    Everyone, good luck and Happy New Year!

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