Thursday, January 2, 2014

In Search of the Perfect Chicken: Burgundy

We enter the Bresse AOC
The Saone River in Burgundy divides the region into two distinct geographical areas. To the west, the rolling hills of the Grande Cru wine country, where Montrachet, Puligny, and Mersault burgundies are created by God and man. To the east, the flat farmy plain of the Bresse AOC, home of the poulet de Bresse. Every mid-December since 1862, this region has celebrated the noble chicken that defines French character in silhouettes, images, and sculptures thoughout France. The festival, held in Bourg-en-Bresse, is called Les Glorieuses, and is the focal point of the holiday buying season for restaurants and individuals alike. In the week before the festival, all of the area farmers can be found processing and wrapping capons, hens, and other poultry in anticipation of their busiest sales season. Below the owner of a small farm is working with 3 or 4 of his helpers, doing the "roulage" on his capons, sewing a tight cover over the carcass to keep the fat nice and even. The head, feathered neck, intestines, and everything else, is still in the bird. In this manner, the chickens can be aged for up to 21 days, and when a chef prepares the bird for the New Year's feast, the flavor is very good. 
A farmer sews the roulage over his capon.

The judging for the chickens is about consistency in size, skin color and fat. The best birds are sold to the highest bidder, and by the end of the day, all of the birds have found homes in (mostly) restaurant kitchens. 
Prize winning hens
The judges display their gravitas.

Guinea fowl at their best
Customers take the chickens away.


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