Leave it to the french to have pedigree hens. I was floored when I learned that the chickens of Bresse were guaranteed AOC – Appellation d’Origine Controlee. They are so well-touted that they even have an autoroute rest stop named after them – Poulet de Bresse – which boasts a gigantic chicken sculpture made of metal tubing. Driving up the ramp was like entering an amusement park – either the food is really good at the cafeteria or like me, visitors wanted to see what the big deal was all about in regards to the only chicken in the world with papers. Here’s the scoop:
I tried them in 3 different restaurants. Roasted, braised, and the best one served with a creamy morel mushroom sauce. They were all delicious, but I can’t say with any amount of certainty that Bresse hens taste better than free-range cluckers from an organic farm. The birds can be purchased at the auto stop, packed and ready to go right into the oven, but one look at the price – something like 14.50€/kilo – put the 20+ euro carcass out of reach. No way. But it did fuel a conversation I had with my husband when we passed several poultry farms – volaille ferme – in the countryside.
Me: So I wanna bring home two Bresse chickens. We could put them in crates and strap them to the top of the car.
Him: For what? You’re going to have to kill and clean them before eating them.
Me: KILL them?!? I want them for eggs and stuff…
Him: Eggs……and stuff?
Me: Yeah, you know, fresh eggs and a couple of friends that the dog can play with.
**At this point he says absolutely nothing and firmly grips the steering wheel while fixing his gaze ever more intently on the road.**
Him: I suppose you’re also wanting that donkey that you’ve been talking about for the past two weeks?
I used this recipe for Chicken Breasts in Morel Cream Sauce, substituting organic poultry grown in Italy instead. A bistro where I tried a Bresse hen prepared in such a method had a most interesting way of plating the meal. The chicken and vegetables were brought out in small, separate cast iron pots. Working at a nearby table so that we could see, the chicken was carefully arranged on the platter followed by the tender veggies alongside them. What especially caught my eye was how the vegetables were cut. A slice of this, a wedge of that – like abstract art on a plate, only edible. I’ve tried my best to duplicate their example. See notes to my adjustments.
*Used 1 oz. dried morels instead of 10 oz. as suggested
*Substituted about 1 tsp. dried thyme for fresh
*Upped the wine and cream amounts to 1 cup
*Omitted lemon juice
Website: Poulet de Bresse