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Taste Test of the Chickens


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I've been reading lately about Label Anglais chickens produced in Essex - used in places like the Fat Duck and Waterside Inn - and I was wondering if anyone had tried them? How expensive are they? What's the quality of meat?

And has anyone done a taste test against a Bresse bird? I found the market chickens in France incredibly flavourful (yes, sorry for that), almost gamey. Are the Bresse birds similar? Most UK birds, even the organic ones, are mild to invisible in taste, even when the texture can be very good.

I'm thinking of lining up a blind bird taste test because - well - because that's the sort of thing I'd do. Any recomendations?

"Gimme a pig's foot, and a bottle of beer..." Bessie Smith

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"111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321" Bruce Frigard 'Winesonoma' - RIP

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Mmm, funny you should bring this up Moby. I found this site recently and was intrigued by the list of their clients. Although, I understood that the Poulet de Bresse chickens were individually numbered and came only from France.

See what you think... Ellel Home Page

I'd quite link to give them a try soon. Probably when we get a bigger freezer as the minimum order is four!

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Those look good. I wonder how different they taste to the French Bresse. For that matter, how were they allowed to export them?

We should find a friendly butcher, who wouldn't mind getting in an order for us so we could split it.

I'll ask my local - who do an excellent organic bird (if a bit mild). They're always ordering odd things for me, so they should be used to it.

"Gimme a pig's foot, and a bottle of beer..." Bessie Smith

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"111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321" Bruce Frigard 'Winesonoma' - RIP

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didn't Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall do something similar as part of his River Cottage series - whereby he came up with his own cross breeds for a taste test? Was certainly amusing to watch ..

I seem to remember having some very good chicken for Xmas a few years back - was so flavoursome it was almost like guinea fowl. Will go and see if my sisters have a better memory than me ..

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I've had both Label Anglais and Bresses chickens a number of times.

The excellent Fellers & Son & Daughter sells Label Anglais chickens which have a good, dense texture, and a more developed, gamy taste. They are not, I don't think, quite as good as Bresse chickens, though (but I've never cooked a poulet de Bresse myself): they are not quite as packed with flavour.

Incidentally, The Ginger Pig is doing P de B for £12.50 at the moment, so you needn't order a whole aviary if you want to do a taste test. (And I thought that Poulet de Bresse was not just a breed but an AOC - can Ellel get away with saying it sells Poulets de Bresse?)

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i had a label anglais from borough once. it was fab. i did my usual herbs and lemon up the bum thing and thought afterwards that it didn't really need it, the flavour was really pronounced.

the butcher told me that the chickens are like the women of the countries they come from...there was very little breast meat on this chicken, but it had great legs!!!!

this was about 12 months ago and that joke still makes me laugh.

Suzi Edwards aka "Tarka"

"the only thing larger than her bum is her ego"

Blogito ergo sum

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I think a blind taste test would be an excellent idea and make a really good article

Actually I think something similar was done a while back... may be in caterer or one of the early copies of Restaurant magazine. I seem to remember Alain Roux Jr was involved.

A related idea I've been thinking about for a while is to do a dish with three or four different chicken preparations using different types of chicken from supermkt battery to posh anglais, with each preparation matching the bird (e.g. something quite assertive with the bland, flabby battery... the label anglais done simpler so the flavour comes thru etc.

cheerio

J

More Cookbooks than Sense - my new Cookbook blog!
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I buy Label Anglais from Wyndham Poultry at Borough all the time - they are fantastic. To answer one of your original questions I think they come in at about £10 for a decent sized bird (say 1.5 kilos) from memory - so they're pretty expensive but worth it (I'll check that price tomorrow though). I have found the carcasses make the best stock I've made compared to other chickens - real depth of flavour. Haven't tried Bresse though so will look out for them at G Pig.

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I'll go to Borough this Saturday, buy one of each, and do a taste test for the mother in law. Thanks all.

At a recent l'Ambroisie meal, they were serving Bresse chicken with herbs stuffed under the skin. What I thought was remarkable was the depth of the herbs - almost 8-10 mm consistently along the whole length of breast. If they made a paste with butter and herbs, I can't believe the skin didn't split before the end of the roast.

"Gimme a pig's foot, and a bottle of beer..." Bessie Smith

Flickr Food

"111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321" Bruce Frigard 'Winesonoma' - RIP

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I've been reading lately about Label Anglais chickens produced in Essex - used in places like the Fat Duck and Waterside Inn - and I was wondering if anyone had tried them? How expensive are they? What's the quality of meat?

I've had these and they where quite good. The site indicates that they are derived from a Red Cornish (a.k.a Indian Game) and the White Rock cross, many commerical chicken lines come from a Cornish x White Rock cross, as well as those Cornish Game hens that American recipes seem to mention so often.

Still, different lines will give very different results and it is the rearing that is likely to be the most inportant influence on quality in this case.

Comparison to Bresse hens? Well the last Bresse hen I had was rubbish (more the recipe then the bird though) and I haven't made a direct comparison, which would be the idea thing to do as you suggested. Good luck!

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I forgot we had the Einstein of chickens around! Thanks Adam.

Come to thhat - if most of the industrial rubbish sold comes from those same two lines, why do you think they went in that direction? To please the uk market - the same, but better?

Why not be more adventurous - smaller birds, more substantial taste? I still haven't come close to tasting a bird with as much flavour as that French market one. It was almost shocking.

Edited by MobyP (log)

"Gimme a pig's foot, and a bottle of beer..." Bessie Smith

Flickr Food

"111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321" Bruce Frigard 'Winesonoma' - RIP

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Moby - I over simplified, there are more then two lines of chickens being used for meat or egg production, the exact lines vary from country to country. Sometimes they will be first crosses, second crosses etc or even stable hybrid lines.

This is from an American site, it tells you all you need to know about why they went for this particular line commercially = fast growth. Not the appearance of these birds compared to the Label Anglais birds.

Broiler chickens

Taste is most likely a very secondary consideration. Actually, blandness is most likely a bonus, most consumers of chicken proberly don't like the tast of chicken, hence the price difference between thighs and breast I guess.

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I did pick up a half decent bird (No sniggering at the back) at M&S a while back.

Cant remember the breed - something black leg I think.

Probably didn't compare to a poulet de bresse, but definitely a cut above a standard supermarket chicken, and was fairly cheap too (I think it was on promotion, but still not bad without the discount)

I love animals.

They are delicious.

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I had no idea they could grow so quickly. It seems slightly grotesque, no?

"Gimme a pig's foot, and a bottle of beer..." Bessie Smith

Flickr Food

"111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321" Bruce Frigard 'Winesonoma' - RIP

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It's more the assumption that broken legs at a certain age is normal that bothers me. Very odd in the country where people get so worked up about fox hunting and other animal health issues (seperate issues, not saying that this is wrong), but chickens seem not to matter, even though out of all meat sources apart from fish these actually look like an animal in the purchase state.

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Moby, if you're sourcing good poultry for a tasting, you might try contacting Ark Chicken, a free range farm in Silverton not far outside of Exeter. Michael Caines is very keen on Ark for chicken as well as guinea fowl and uses it in his restaurants. I've not come across the Label Anglais myself: I imagine it must be modeled on the French Label Rouge?

As for poulet de Bresse, in my experience it's wondrous both for it's exceptional 'chickeny' flavour as well as for the pure and unblemished whiteness of its flesh. Very pretty birds, with a distinctive blue cockscomb that is itself quite tasty and something of a delicacy. The chicken, when butchered and cut up carefully in the area in France where it's raised, is a real treat to cook. I remember camping near Bresse some years ago, and simply cooking a poulet de Bresse à la crème, sautéed on a camp stove in half a bottle of decent Beaujolais with champignons de Paris (probably out of a tin) and finished with a good dollop of crème fraîche. Eaten outdoors, the sauce mopped up with crusty pain au levain, and washed down with another bottle or so of Beaujolais, it was a sensational and memorably simple meal.

But sublime simplicity comes at a cost: it was probably the most expensive chicken we'd ever bought.

Marc

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I had a Poulet De Bresse from The Ginger Pig at Borough recently - I'd be very surprised if you can get them fro £12.50. They are also selling French Black leg chickens and I suspect that they are around the £12 mark. The PdB we bought was an average size for two people and came to £18, another that we had weighed was £22.

I have also eaten numerous Label Anglais from Wyndham Poultry and a small one costs around £8. The Label Angalis is bred to taste like a Poulet de Bresse, I would recomend that you get the Label Anglais and not the Special reserve which carries more fat on it but in my opinion has less flavour. The Poulet de Bresse I had recently came fully numbered, stamped, complete with head and was drawn in front of me. It was roasted very slowly to 64 degrees and had moist slightly gamey flesh, it was undoubtedly good but in my opinion not worth double the price of a Label Anglais. I cannot sing the the praises of a Label Anglais enough, go and buy one NOW :biggrin:

"Why would we want Children? What do they know about food?"

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I seem to remember having some very good chicken for Xmas a few years back - was so flavoursome it was almost like guinea fowl.  Will go and see if my sisters have a  better memory than me ..

turns out it was label anglais after all! sister is in cambridge so found it quite easy to get from various butchers.

so sorry, no new info to offer, only another voice that it was delicious!

Cheers

Yin

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Maybe we should all go in on a box of a hundred, and glut ourselves.

[Edit to add] I've just printed up a few pages from the Label Anglais website which I'm going to take to my butchers. I'll see if I can get him to add the order. I reckon my house goes through 4-6 chickens a month - especially during spring and summer. Let's see if I have any luck.

"Gimme a pig's foot, and a bottle of beer..." Bessie Smith

Flickr Food

"111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321" Bruce Frigard 'Winesonoma' - RIP

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I had a Poulet De Bresse from The Ginger Pig at Borough recently - I'd be very surprised if you can get them fro £12.50.

Ginger Pig are doing the Ps de B as an offer at £12.50 at the moment Matthew, although they'd sold out by the time I roused myself from my recumbent position today and made it to Southwark.

Label Anglais seem to be about £5.60 a kilo (Ginger Pig and others).

Sorry...I'm all for testing experiments but though my head told me to buy chicken my heart told me it was a steak-frites evening.

Sheffield, where I changed,

And ate an awful pie

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I bought two label Anglais - I saw the PdB at Ginger Pig, but they looked a bit knackered, to be honest. The LA were surprisingly cheap - about 7 quid each. How can that be?? I was expecting to pay over a tenner per bird, considering the blurb.

"Gimme a pig's foot, and a bottle of beer..." Bessie Smith

Flickr Food

"111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321" Bruce Frigard 'Winesonoma' - RIP

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Ginger Pig are doing the Ps de B as an offer at £12.50 at the moment Matthew, although they'd sold out by the time I roused myself from my recumbent position today and made it to Southwark.

At £12.50 they are well worth the money, I wonder if they are doing this to get rid of older birds?. Incidentally chatting to them the other week I tongue in cheek suggested that they needed to start selling French geese complete with the foie Gras, they advised that they are available at the new shop but are very expensive (they couldn't tell me an approximate price)

"Why would we want Children? What do they know about food?"

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Those Label Anglais birds are certainly exceptional. The flesh is very delicate in flavour. (I mixed some butter with some thyme, rosemary, taragon and parsley, and pushed it under the skin, and let them sit in the fridge for a couple fo hours. It perfumed the meat wonderfully.) I'm not sure how much better they are than the organic birds I get from my local - but they were almost half the price, which boggles the mind.

I look forward to trying the PdB...

"Gimme a pig's foot, and a bottle of beer..." Bessie Smith

Flickr Food

"111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321" Bruce Frigard 'Winesonoma' - RIP

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