A visit to Katherine Anderson’s Blue Oak Ranch is a lesson in dating. Her heritage turkeys took to me with a peck, a cluck, and a flirty strut. If I turned left, there they were. If I walked right, ditto. “They are full of energy at this age,” says Anderson of her flock, a form of Thanksgiving payday; she raises and processes each just in time for the holiday.
Anderson’s Blue Oak Ranch provides a local—and organic—alternative to factory-grown turkeys and chickens sold in super markets. Her six acres in the foothills of Goleta provide amble natural grazing for her chickens, turkeys, and goats. They roam freely or in moveable pens that allow constant access to fresh greens and fresh air—something industrial-raised chickens never see. She tends to her flock daily, moving the pens to a new patch of pasture, administering a high dose of tender loving care (instead of antibiotics) and tucking them in at night before she leaves for the day.
Feature Recipe: Brined Grilled Petit Poussins
Poussins are young, small chickens that generally weigh between 1-1¼ lbs., making each an individual serving. They are very tender, but can dry out rapidly; brining them preserves their juicy tenderness and boosts their delicate flavor.
4 fresh poussins
1 1/2 tbsp fresh minced rosemary
1 tsp fresh minced thyme
1/3 cup Kosher salt
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup white vermouth
2 fresh bay leaves, torn in half
4-5 cups very cold water
4 cups ice
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
In a large bowl, combine the brine ingredients minus the ice, and stir until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Submerge the poussin halves in the brine, and add the ice. Place the bowl in the fridge, and stir every so often, for two to four hours. Make sure the poussins are either covered by the brine or turned often enough to evenly brine the pieces.
For a wood or charcoal grill, prepare the coals, and when they’re ready, push them off to the sides, forming an outer ring of hot coals. For a gas grill, preheat both areas of the grill on high, and then turn one down to low and the other tomedium-high.
Pull the poussins from the brine, and let them drain for 15 minutes at room temperature. Discard the brine. Rub the chopped fresh herbs all over the halves. Place them skin-side-down over the direct heat and grill for about five to seven minutes. Flip the halves over onto the lower heat or indirect heat area, and continue to grill for approximately 15 minutes or until done. Remove to a platter, cover, and let the poussins stand for 10 minutes before serving.