A low-mileage meal to celebrate Earth Day
A few weeks ago I attended the 31st annual conference of the International Association of Culinary Professionals in Denver. This year's theme was "Pioneering a Sustainable World."
Sustainability is a term heard often these days. In almost the same breath that a person uses to say that word, you may also hear them speak of organic and local, carbon footprint, economically viable, ethical, responsible ... all things that really just boil down to the notion of maintaining a healthy existence.
With thoughts of celebrating Earth Day this week, and information from the conference still fresh in my mind, it is a good time to consider ways that I can help nourish and maintain the health of my family. I can renew my commitment to local farmers and producers to do my part in making sure they experience profit. In the long run, each "sustainable" move I make will help protect the planet I live on.
Low-mileage eating was the focus of one of the sessions I attended. Fresh food on our table travels an average of 1,500 miles to get there. That's a lot of miles and a huge carbon footprint, or big gas emission affecting climate change.
With the rise in popularity of farmers' markets, community gardens and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), it's becoming easier for us to get to know and support our local farmers and producers. During growing and harvest seasons, they make it much easier for us to eat low-mileage, fresh, local ingredients.
Right now, though, it's a little more difficult when you live in the Midwest.
I decided to give myself a "low-mileage" challenge. I would create an Earth Day meal that would collect fewer frequent-flyer miles rather than more.
I started by making a list of local ingredients I had in my pantry or freezer: a whole chicken I'd purchased at the farmers' market in the fall, honey from the farmers' market, garlic that I had minced and put in the freezer, and some wild rice that had been hand-gathered in a canoe from the Mississippi River just around the bend from where I live. I also had a bottle of white wine that I had picked up on a visit to Woodland Hill Winery in Delano, Minn., last summer. My clay pots of parsley and rosemary made it through the winter in my sunroom and had some strong, healthy stems ready to snip.
The results of my challenge? Flavorful and moist grilled chicken marinated in a bath of seasoned white wine and olive oil and brushed with a glaze of sweet honey. Wild rice shimmering with a light wine and honey sauce.
The flavor was high, the mileage relatively low. I did add some roasted organic broccoli to the meal.
It's not always easy, it's not always possible, but low-mileage eating can contribute to our good health, to the well-being of our local farmers and producers, and to the good care of our planet Earth.
"Mostly Local" Earth Day Chicken and Wild Rice
1 chicken, about 3 to 4 pounds, cut up
1/2 cup white wine plus 2 tablespoons, divided
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup uncooked wild rice
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons honey, divided
Early in the day, make marinade for chicken by combining 1/2 cup white wine, olive oil, parsley, rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper in a small mixing bowl or 2-cup glass measure. Rinse chicken pieces well and place in a large glass baking dish. Pour marinade over the chicken, turning the pieces to be sure they are coated with the liquid. Cover the dish and refrigerate for 6 to 8 hours (or overnight).
When it's time to start preparing the meal, remove chicken from refrigerator and allow to sit at room temperature while you prepare the grill and give it time to heat up.
Remove chicken pieces from the marinade. Place pieces on prepared grill and cook chicken over a relatively low heat. Be patient. The cooking can take around 50 minutes. Turn the chicken half way through cooking time.
Once chicken is on the grill, begin cooking the wild rice according to package directions. Make the sauce by combining remaining 2 tablespoons white wine, white wine vinegar, Dijon mustard and 1 tablespoon honey. When rice is cooked to desired doneness, drain any remaining liquid. Stir sauce into rice gradually, adding just enough to coat all the rice.
Heat remaining 2 tablespoons honey and brush over the top side of each chicken piece during the last 5 to 10 minutes on the grill.
Spread rice on serving dish and arrange grilled chicken over the rice. Makes 4 servings.
Tips from the cook
--Purchasing a whole chicken can often save money at the grocery store. Watch this week's video on our Web site for tips and techniques to use when cutting up a chicken.
--Freshly squeezed lemon juice may be used in place of white wine in the marinade and in the sauce for the rice.
--Cook chicken until the meat is no longer pink at the bone (use a knife to make an incision at the bone), the juices run clear when a thigh is pierced with a knife, and the breast meat is opaque throughout. Breasts should reach an internal temperature of 155 degrees and thighs, 165 to 170 degrees.