Poulet de Bresse is, of course, beyond compare. The queen of chickens; empress of poultry; grande dame des poulets. Its dense, gamey flesh is a taste beyond anything you’ve ever tasted from a supermarket. It tastes, in the vernacular, how chicken used to taste.
But, my God, it’s expensive. Perhaps not in the Bresse region of France where it has D.O.C. status, but certainly over in Blighty. A mail order Poulet de Bresse costs the princessy sum of £40, including despatch.
And the rare breed of butchers that stock these magnificent birds charge just as much.
But now I’ve stumbled upon a more economical alternative: le poulet fermier jaune d’Ancenis, bought from butcher to the stars, Jack O’Shea.
The excellent Vanilla Bean blog –
describes it thus:
“This fancy chicken is a winner of the Concours Général Agricole, the super-fancy Paris food show.
“Everything you need to know about “Le poulet fermier jaune d’Ancenis” is in the name: Poulet d’ Ancenis means a chicken raised around the town Ancenis, France.
“Fermier denotes a small farm production with unique characteristics. Jaune means yellow, and distinguishes it from blanc (white) andnoir (black) varieties.
“The chicken is certified by Label Rouge, an organisation that monitors livestock conditions. Label Rouge chickens are fed fancy, nutritious food, and mature up to twice as long as standard chickens.”
It’s still not cheep, sorry, cheap, at £20 for a 2kg chicken – that’s four times as much as you’ll pay for a water-injected supermarket bird, and almost twice as much as a high quality free-range British chicken goes for.
But is it worth it? And how does it compare with the noble Poulet de Bresse?
The yellow-hued breasts aren’t as long as the PDB, and the flesh isn’t as dense, but the plumptious meat is absolutely delicious: a savoury flavour so chickeny it’s like a concentrated stock cube.
I cooked mine hot and fast – a 200C/Gas 6 oven for 1 hour, then left the bird to rest under tinfoil for 20 minutes.
The meat was so juicy and tender I could simply pluck the bone from the meat, which peeled away in long, strands that melt in the mouth; the breasts are moist and moreish.
And the skin! Oh the skin: a crispy sensation.
OK, it wasn’t QUITE as good as the PDB, but that’s like comparing Aberdeen Angus with Wagyu: one is a monthly treat; the other, a twice yearly celebration.
Both have their place on the dining table.