This famous poultry with its red crown, white feathers and especially blue feet comes from the French department of Ain. Its origin goes back to 1591 when it was mentioned for the first time in the municipal registers of the city of Bourg-en-Bresse, in eastern France. To thank the Marquis de Treffort for having pushed away an army of Savoyard soldiers, the citizens of Bourg-en-Bresse gave him two dozen of capons. But it was the French gastronomic expert Brillat-Savarin who was responsible for its reputation. He wrote in his book, The Physiology of Taste, that Bresse poultry is “the queen of poultry and the poultry of kings”.

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It was not until the 19th century, with the development of the railway and the progress made on the cold line, that the poultry became famous in other parts of France and in Europe. To protect this typical poultry in particular from counterfeiting, a decision was made to define the territory of Bresse in 1936, stating that it was the only area where the Bresse poultry could be bred. Then, on August 1st, 1957, the French Parliament voted into law the AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée)  status for the Bresse poultry. This area of 3,536 square km includes three régions (Rhône-Alpes, Franche-Comté, Bourgogne) and three départements (Ain, Saône et Loire, Jura).

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The AOC label highlights the close relationship between the product and its territory of origin. Only in the wet soils of Bresse region can the Bresse poultry find worms and mollusks necessary for its breeding. It is raised outdoors for four months, that is to say three quarters of its life. Moreover, the area of Bresse is well known for being the country of corn, the main nutrients in poultry’s diet. This AOC has been acquired by the farmers for their skills and their traditional local practices. To obtain this label, the poultry not only has to be raised in the Bresse territory, but its breeding must meet a rigorous specification about its diet, its lifestyle and other criteria.

Today, around 250 farmers raise the Bresse poultry on this defined territory, producing more than 1 million capons, chickens… every year! In France, it is possible to recognize the famous Bresse poultry in shops thanks to its tricolored seal and the ring on its foot.

Now that you know everything about the Bresse poultry, you are still missing the most important piece of information: how to cook it!

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Chicken in Salt Crust

{For 4 to 6 persons}

  • A beautiful chicken of about 4 pounds flamed and drained
  • ½ head of sliced garlic
  • ½ large onion, peeled
  • 1 bouquet garni (thyme leaf, bay leaf, parsley leaves tied together)
  • 1 egg scrambled and browned by adding a bit of water
  • salt and pepper

The day before, place, half-unpeeled head of garlic, half the onion and bouquet garni inside the chicken. Store in the fridge, do not tie up. Prepare the salt dough: mix thoroughly the salt and flour in a bowl. Add the eggs, egg yolks and water. Mix everything to a smooth paste. Let stand overnight in refrigerator.

The next day, preheat oven to 350 °F. Spread the salt dough to 1 cm thick. Add salt and pepper inside and outside of the chicken, and then wrap it completely so the salt dough get stick well to the skin. There must be air between the chicken and salt dough.

With the remaining dough, your children will be delighted to help you make leaves and flowers that you apply to the chicken once prepared.

Brush with egg yolk the whole surface of the paste with a brush, then put in oven and bake 75 minutes. Cook until crust is golden-brown. After cooking, let stand 30 minutes in a warm (131°F) or in the oven with the heat turned off.

Chef’s advice: Break the salt crust with a large knife, and then cut the chicken and serve, for example with a garnish of seasonal vegetables. In spring, morels, cream and yellow wine are a good idea.

Slow cooking, braised and low temperature in an airtight crust keeps in the taste of the chicken, keeps it tender, and prevents drying of the skin. The skin will have a beautiful golden color.

To learn morewww.pouletbresse.com