There’s nothing more than I like than an interesting food recommendation… it’s perhaps why I offer the same with my food blogs. So, over a fabulous gin cocktail called The Journalist, a new friend Tristan told us that not only was Bresse chicken a wonderful high-quality chicken that we had to try, but that it was on at a special price at a local butcher which was not likely to be found elsewhere. For me, combining a bargain with a food recommendation is like a red rag to a bull. It was 9 euros a kilo, rather than the usual 19.50, at a butcher on Rue du Pouteau, which looks like a really fun place to hang out and shop, and not only buy poulet de bresse.
Apart from thinking that the chicken may have some relationship to the Paris Brest pastry (Bresse, Andy, not breast. You’d think I was heterosexual), I have now found that the Bresse chicken has rather a storied history. It received its appellation d’origine contrôlée in 1957, is from a region in the East of France, and is raised under strict and exacting conditions. Its skeleton, from a lack of calcium in the soil, is flimsy, meaning more meat for the diners; it has creepy blue feet, which with its red comb and ultra-white feathers remind the French of their flag, and well, others have written about it better than I can (or will).
But the question is: how did it taste? We couldn’t fit the whole thing in our AirBNB’s toaster oven, so whacked it in half (and thankfully, the butcher removed the blue feet before handing it over), and had it over two dinners. It was… quite extraordinary. The drumstick and thigh were so dark… and being so tender, it reminded us of really good turkey, or a rarer bird to eat, like pheasant or goose.
The texture was beautiful and it was moist and juicy. Not exactly tender, as it felt like this animal was an animal, one with muscles that has been allowed to run around (it has). So, it was a bit difficult to separate the bones, and some of the flesh from the bones. The first lot had an incredible amount of meat, particularly the breast meat, but the second lot, which I cooked for longer and rested longer, there was somehow less meat, even though both halves were the same size.
I’d just been saying to S. that chicken in France has a different texture or flavour than in Australia; a bit denser (tougher?) though not in a bad way, as if the poultry is more free-range, and more organic, and not as quickly grown and caged up (though this could all be in my mind).
Still, this chicken, poulet de bresse, really was delicious. Magnifique!