Recipe Column: Back in the chicken business
Have you ever heard of a Transylvanian Naked Neck? Neither had I, until I received three of them in the mail last Monday. They came in a ventilated box, along with 22 other chicks, from one of my favorite poultry suppliers, Murray McMurray Hatchery.
I contemplated long and hard throughout the winter months about getting back into the chicken business. Late last summer I had several invasions of critters that slowly but systematically decimated my small flock, and after the birds were gone, I sadly cleaned out the empty coop and shut the door. “No more chickens,” I thought to myself. “I’m done.”
In fact last February, I almost tossed the Murray McMurray catalog that came in the mail. But something stayed my hand as it hovered over the trash bin, and sure enough, within days this periodical was dog-eared and worn from frequent perusing. A few weeks ago I decided to purchase 25 chicks which make up the Heavy Assorted Brown Egg Layer selection that includes “at least five different breeds” that will lay, of course, brown eggs.
This decision was based on the fact that the few months I was without chickens on my homestead was eerily strange. I missed everything about them. I missed the roosters crowing at all hours; I missed the clucking of the birds when I walked into the barn; I missed sitting quietly and watching the flock interact; I missed having a group of eager beggars eating my kitchen scraps; I even missed their droppings (which is good garden fertilizer) and cleaning out the coop; but what I really, REALLY missed the most were the eggs. Every time I had to purchase them, I inwardly cringed, knowing there was no way these store-bought orbs were going to be as good as the ones that had come from my own birds in the past.
And I wasn’t the only one who felt that the neighborhood just wasn’t quite the same. Everyone in my community has always taken an interest in my chicken hobby, and when I would confess that I was chicken-less, they would react with surprise and dismay.
So last Monday morning, when the lady at the post office called and told me my chicks had arrived, I couldn’t wait to bring them home. And, I must say, the reaction from the locals has been phenomenal-almost as if I actually gave birth myself. Every night this week I have had visitors dropping by to see the new babies, and the area kids are especially enchanted. They hold the little creatures carefully and beg to personally name their favorite bird. Now I have chicks named Autumn, MacKenzie, Austin, Riley and Kayla. There’s Peepers and Cheepers and one kid even named a bird Wilbur.
I’ve also been looking for recipes calling for eggs, and dusting off old favorites that include a fresh brown egg or two. Some of those I’ve included for this week.
But perhaps the favorite part for me about having chicks again is just observing them. I can sit for hours watching these little creatures interact with each other, and they always bring a smile to my face with their comical antics like when they stretch or try to catch a fast moving fly.
I’m also loving the reaction of family and friends when I tell them I’m raising Transylvanian Naked Necks at my house. One guy thought I was harboring some sort of domestic vampire bat, and someone else thought perhaps I was housing a unique European Olympic team, but everyone agrees these are truly interesting birds. And I can’t wait until I can tell people I have Transylvanian Naked Neck eggs for sale. That shoould really get the neighborhood buzzing.
Editor’s note: To see more pictures of my new chicks and what Transylvanian Naked Necks look like up close check out my blog at StarJournalNOW.com.
Italian Baked Custard
1/2 cup flour
2 cups coarsely shredded yellow summer squash
1 cup coarsely shredded zucchini
1 can (2.25 ozs.) sliced ripe olives, drained and divided
2 Tbs. grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. dried basil leaves
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
6 very thin tomamto slices
1 small onion, thinly sliced and separated into rings
1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
Heat oven to 450 degrees. Beat eggs and flour in medium bowl until smooth. Add yellow squash, zucchini and 1/4 cup olives; mix well. Spread in greased 8-inch square baking pan. Bake in center of 450 degree oven just until custard is set, about 10 minutes. Mix Parmesan cheese, basil and garlic salt; sprinkle over custard. Top evenly with tomato, remaining olives, onion and Jack cheese. Bake until cheese is melted, about 4 minutes.
Asparagus and Ham Quiche
1 pre-made pie pastry
1/2 to 3/4 lb. asparagus, trimmed, chopped
2 Tbs. butter
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
4 green onions, with green, thinly sliced
1 small tomato, peeled, seeded, diced
11/2 cups shredded Havarti cheese or Swiss, about 6 ounces
1 cup cubed cooked ham (can use turkey also)
4 large eggs
11/2 cups half-and-half or whole milk
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
In a saucepan, cover asparagus with water. Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce heat, cover, and cook for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside. In a skillet, heat butter over medium-low heat; add mushrooms. Sautè until mushrooms are tender; add green onions cook for 1 minute longer. Set aside. Line a 9-inch or 10-inch pie plate with pastry; bake at 375 degrees for 8 minutes. Remove from oven and reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Arrange vegetables, ham and shredded cheese in pie pastry. Whisk together the eggs and half-and-half; add salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Pour egg mixture over the vegetables. Place the filled pie shell on a large cookie sheet or jelly-roll pan. Cook for 45 to 55 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Serves 6 to 8.