Whether you truss or butterfly, grill over a beer can or roast, there's a simple truth in cooking chickens: Better birds taste better.
For unrivaled flavor and juiciness, our current favorites are free-range fowl from Paulie's Pasture in Lee County, Illinois. But they can't be found at farmers' markets or local shops. Instead, owner Paul Soule delivers.
It's like a chicken CSA with a couple convenient options. Commit to 15 chickens and he'll deliver once a week, or call a few days before you need a bird (or two, preferably) and he'll arrange for a meeting spot on his regular route.
Through spring and summer, he raises chickens that forage greedily, grow quickly and are ideal for grilling and roasting. Come fall, he adds a French breed, which grows slower and has a hearty flavor perfect for stews and soups.
Soule has smaller fryers, larger roasters and extra-large, extra-flavorful birds (eight to 10 pounds) ideal for a large feast (all are $3.40 per pound). The best soup birds, he says, are his older hens that no longer lay eggs.
He'll custom-dress everything--you can request feet, cockscombs and giblets--and while many of the birds are flash-frozen immediately after being killed and plucked, fresh poultry is available by request. Bright-orange-yolked eggs ($4 per dozen) are, too.
Contact Paul Soule at firstname.lastname@example.org or 630-877-7372, and find him on Twitter: @PauliesPasture