When you’re given a $20 pack of chicken tenders, there’s really only one thing to do: build the budget around that chicken.
A few weeks ago, I did a comparison of chicken breasts, comparing Rockweld Farms to that of a supermarket. The results, although not bad, were not resounding. We thought Rockweld’s chicken certainly had more flavour, but was drier than the supermarket’s bird. We acknowledged the dryness was likely an error in our cooking approach given that chain chicken is so often loaded with water and other such fillers, whereas Rockweld’s chicken is more au naturel.
Still, Aaron at Rockweld Farms did not want our taste buds to have that memory.
He called me into his truck. We chatted about his chicken. He told me that he, himself, does a tender check of each bird he cuts to ensure its quality. He said his chicken requires minimal grilling time, just a couple minutes for each side. Comparatively the chicken we get from the grocery store is typically on the grill for 8-9 minutes.
Aaron handed me a pack of his “fail-proof” chicken tenders, a part of the bird, he said, you can’t go wrong with. He would not take payment.
“Tell me what you think after trying these,” he said.
With chicken in hand, I had a plan.
This week was all about fajitas!
- Package of 11 chicken tenders -$20.60
Zaklan Heritage Farms
- 1 head spiky purple salanova $2.50
- 6 long red tomatoes $3.25
- 1 pound tomatillos $4.35
- 1 bunch cilantro $2
- 1 bunch radishes $2.50
Ripple Creek Farms
- 1 cucumber $1.50
- 1 bunch (of 2) giant white onions $3.50
- 1 garlic bulb $2
- 1 pint of slightly spicy peppers $3
- Harvest Direct Farms
- 1 basket peaches (5) $5
Fresh Quality Produce
- 4 ears corn $3
Steel and Oak
- 1 bomber smoked hefeweizen beer $7
Total spent: $39.60
It was a meal that maybe would have been suited more to Cinco de Mayo than a random Saturday, but then, we wouldn’t have had fresh tomatillos or local corn. And that, just would not do.
These fajitas were bursting with flavour.
My husband made salsa verdé, roasting and chopping the tomatillos, peppers, onion, tomato and garlic , and then combining with cilantro, lime juice and salt. The only non-market ingredients were the lime juice and salt.
I wasn’t expecting the heat that came off the peppers. My eyes weren’t quite watering like they were when I took a bite of the cherry red pepper offered by Jasbir at Mandair Farms, but my taste buds were certainly on alert. (Note: I am somewhat of a wimp when it comes to fiery spice.) And yet, without that added heat, I don’t think the salsa verdé would have been as good. All the ingredients were perfectly complimentary. The flavours, the freshness, the texture, the combination of colours, they were so beautiful, so Mexican.
Housed in a corn tortilla, we piled in caramelized onion and peppers, strips of chicken tenders, cheese, and the homemade salsa verdé. That combination of market-fresh ingredients, from the tomatillos right down to the chicken, was a taste explosion in my mouth. On the side, we had barbecued corn, and a salad of salanova greens, along with a pint of Steel and Oak smoked hefeweizen.
It was light. It was refreshing. It was summer perfect.
Beyond the fajitas, though, how did the chicken fare on its own? Did we cook it properly this time? Or would it again be flavourful, but dry?
Like the breast we purchased weeks ago, the chicken tenders were grilled as well, but at a much more reduced time. The results were significant.
They were tender and moist, and they presented intense flavour. There was no dryness whatsoever. On a bed of salad, they added to the overall taste. They weren’t just an additional, meaty texture. They had substance. I felt my stomach filling faster with less than I usually do with store-bought chicken breasts. They demonstrated, with great panache, that they belonged – on salad, in fajitas, on their own.
My son, who sometimes balks at that amount of chicken we eat, asked for a second helping. With chicken, that rarely happens.
The package had a total of 11 meaty sized tenders, giving us one full meal for three, plus three adult lunches, and a kid’s meal.
At $20, for us, it is still a splurge. Seeing that $20 tag, if I had to pay for it, I would have had to think real hard about whether it was a necessity or a treat. I would have thought of all the other things I could get, and how fuller my bag would be, without the cost of the chicken cutting into my budget.
As a single-income family, we don’t have the luxury to be able to splurge weekly on locally farmed chicken no matter how enjoyable it is. But now knowing Aaron, learning more about his farm and the practices at his farm, seeing his passion for his chicken, and, yes, experiencing that flavour too, it is a splurge I would be interested to indulge in again one day soon.
Originally published on local blog Tenth to the Fraser, The Farmers Market Challenge, written by Katie Bartel (and the odd guest star) seeks to challenge the notice that you can’t get hardly anything for $40 at the farmers market. Each market, Katie explores what’s the best deal, and discovers food she’s never heard of.