During the early 1900s, most chickens were raised on family farms for their eggs, which were sold as a source of income. Chickens were considered as a special occasion or holiday meal.
Many farmers markets have fresh, local, free-range chickens available for sale. If you keep your eyes and your mind open, there also are many varieties of fruits and vegetables, like ramps, that pair beautifully with chicken that you won’t find at any other time of the year. Ramps, also known as wild leeks, are a luxury of the season.
Because of their short season, ramps are a lesser known member of the allium family, which includes onions, leeks and garlic. They grow wild, mainly in the eastern part of the United States.
This recipe for spring chicken with ramp pesto showcases the delicious flavors of fresh “spring” chicken with the vibrant punch of ramps.
Spring Chicken With Ramp Pesto
1/2 cup pine nuts, pistachios or almonds
6 ounces ramps
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, packed
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest, plus the juice of 1 lemon
3 garlic cloves, peeled
2/3 cups extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup dry Panko breadcrumbs
3 pounds (4 to 6) chicken breasts
2 tablespoons poultry seasoning
Step 1. Heat to 350 degrees. Spread the nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet, and toast until golden, approximately 3 to 5 minutes. Shake the pan every 2 minutes to prevent burning. Set aside to cool.
Step 2. Meanwhile, wash the ramps thoroughly. Trim off and discard the root tips. Slice in half, separating the leafy green tops from the long stems and bulbs. Chop the stem side into approximately 1-inch pieces. Set the stems aside.
Step 3. Blanch the ramps to keep them green. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Place ice, salt and water in a bowl. Add the green tops to the boiling water and blanch until bright green, approximately 15-30 seconds. Transfer the greens to the ice water to halt the cooking process. Drain and squeeze out most of the excess liquid.
Step 4. Add the nuts, the ramp tops and bulbs, the parsley, Parmesan, lemon zest and juice, and garlic to a food processor. Pulse several times to chop, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. With the machine running, add 1/3 cup olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, black pepper, the pepper flakes and breadcrumbs, and pulse until combined.
Step 5. Place chicken on a rimmed baking sheet. Season chicken on both sides with the poultry seasoning. Divide pesto mixture on top of the chicken breasts, making sure they are evenly covered. Drizzle remaining olive oil over the chicken. Bake for 30 minutes, until the pesto topping browns and the chicken juices run clear. Serves 8.