It is a well-known fact that the French possess an extra gene, the food gene. Every French person knows how to appreciate quality. A lot of care goes into French food production. They pay extreme attention to detail. French quality standards regarding food production and preparation are unsurpassable.
Poultry is admittedly a favourite basic meat to cook with. Not all chickens are the same, however. Far from it. If there were a Chateau Margaux of chickens, it would be the Poulet de Bresse. This article will attempt to explain about their élevage, or the way they are raised, and the reason why they are called
The Poulet de Bresse: The Most Delicious Chicken in France
So what is it about the chickens from Bresse that makes them more expensive?
They are so delicious and tender that they’ve been famous since the 1600s when the Duc de Savoie offered the plumpest roosters from Bresse to King Henri IV, who praised them highly. They are raised exclusively in the small town of Bresse, which lies in the east of France, near Switzerland.
Like French wine, it all starts with the terroir: the particular and localized combination of soil, climate and ecology that defines this micro region. The soil of Bresse dates back to the tertiary period in geological terms, which means it has very little chalk.
The lack of chalk in Bresse means that their chickens have lighter, thinner skeletons. As a result, the buyer gets more actual meat for the money. Furthermore, the acids in the soil of Bresse act as a bleach, rendering the feathers white and the feet blue. The grit they peck at, as well as the insects and herbage they eat all come from the same soil, adding even more to their unique upbringing. Their white color with red comb and blue feet reminds one of…. Of course! The flag of France! The Bresse chicken reflects the bleu, blanc et rouge.
In 1936 the Bresse chicken farmers got their famous AOC label, or Appellation d’origine contrôlée, most commonly awarded to French wines and cheeses; It is the highest honor of food production in France. In fact, they are the only chicken to be awarded their own AOC! Their upbringing and feeding are carefully controlled, meeting extremely strict standards.
Below are some rules to maintain the prestigious AOC label:
- The birds must live most of their lives out of doors.
- They must be put outside during the day as soon as they are 5 weeks old.
- They must be shut up at night to protect them from foxes but they are out early every morning until dark. But even this is regulated: each chicken must have sufficient space to itself inside the coop.
- Each bird must have an area of pasture that measures at least 12 square yards (10 square meters). Compare that to factory-fed or even free-range chickens – In fact, most of them have much more space to roam around and it’s delightful to see them running free in the fields and forests around the farms.
And then there are strict dietary guidelines:
- Other than native insects they find in the field, they can eat only special maize from the region, along with wheat and milk.
- The maize must be at least 70% or more off their diet, while wheat can only represent 20%. Milk, which can be in powdered form, makes up 6-10% of their food.
- It is absolutely forbidden to feed them any hormones, antibiotics or chemicals! In fact, due to their healthy way of life, Bresse chickens are amazingly free from disease.
- The capons must be at least eight months old and weigh a minimum of 8.25 pounds. Capons are the most expensive to buy due to their longer life cycle and the process of castration; they only have a 50% survival rate.
No wonder the Poulet de Bresse is the most delicious chicken in France!
Below is a recipe for poulet de Bresse with cream and morel mushrooms by the venerated French chef Paul Bocuse.
– 1 chicken, approximately 3 pounds poultry from Bresse. Remove the feet, cut into 8 pieces
– 1 oz (about ¼ C) dried morel mushrooms
– ½ C Madeira Wine or Port
– 2 tablets chicken cubes
– 1 C of ordinary mushrooms
– 6 small shallots
– 3 sprigs of tarragon
– 10cl Noilly Pratt or other dry vermouth
– ½ C white wine
– ¼ g soft butter
– 1/4 g flour
– 2 Cups crème fraiche or sour cream
Pour the morel mushrooms in a bowl, cover with hot water and let soak at least 30 minutes. Drain them and cut each mushroom in half. Pour the Madeira into a pan and let it reduce. Add the mushrooms and ½ chicken stock cube. Cover with water and cook 40 minutes uncovered over medium heat.
Cut the chicken into 8 pieces. Salt each piece.
Remove the stems from the ordinary mushrooms. Peel the shallots and cut into strips.
Rinse and dry the tarragon. Pour 25cl (about 1 cup) of water in another pan with the white wine and Noilly. Add tarragon, shallots, mushrooms and 2 cubes chicken stock.
Heat over high heat. Put all the chicken pieces in the pan and let them cook for 12 minutes, uncovered. After 12 minutes cooking, remove the pieces of white and let the pieces of dark meat (drumsticks and thighs) cook 13 minutes more.
Make a classic roux by gently melting the butter, then gradually adding the flour while mixing well.
Remove the dark meat from the casserole and remove the tarragon. Reduce liquid until the cooking juices are dry. When nothing remains but the fat and juice, add the roux, then the crème fraiche or sour cream cream and cook 5 minutes, stirring. Return the chicken pieces to the pan. Turn them over and over in the sauce to warm up. Drain the mushrooms and add them to the pan with a little chopped fresh tarragon.
The result is one of the tastiest and most tender chickens in the world!