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Blue Foot Chickens


jamiemaw
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Menu proteins have long since been branded--from Copper River salmon to Wagyu beef--sometimes right down to their mothers' maiden names.

Thus far the lowly chicken has escaped the madness, except for the 'med-free/ free range' metal badges of honour that puncture their breasts.

No longer. Canadian Peter Thiessen, who developed a facsimile of France's vaunted Poulet de Bresse version (which comes with a leg band announcing its own A.O.C. status) has passed on the code to Bob Shipley's Central Valley Farms. It's now distributed to restaurants such as Per Se and Alain Ducasse by D'Artagnan.

Does it taste more like chicken?

Edited by jamiemaw (log)

from the thinly veneered desk of:

Jamie Maw

Food Editor

Vancouver magazine

www.vancouvermagazine.com

Foodblog: In the Belly of the Feast - Eating BC

"Profumo profondo della mia carne"

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Pre slaughtered, chickens are just so ugly. I wonder if that has anything to do with it. A cow has a lovely face, a fish is pretty, and a pig is cute. Oh well.

This sounds good...

Still, the proof is in the pudding, and after these birds have been variously lavished and coddled—butter-basted by Esnault, poached in consommé and served with tiny dumplings by Hearth’s Marco Canora, draped with prosciutto and festooned with Medjool dates by Colicchio—they can’t help but be delicious. The bottom line, as Canora puts it (and if all goes according to plan, the following might one day be construed as the highest praise): “They really taste like chicken.”

But I wonder how much better than Smart Chicken it is?

Life is short; eat the cheese course first.

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Pre slaughtered, chickens are just so ugly.  I wonder if that has anything to do with it.  A cow has a lovely face, a fish is pretty, and a pig is cute.  Oh well.

This sounds good...

Still, the proof is in the pudding, and after these birds have been variously lavished and coddled—butter-basted by Esnault, poached in consommé and served with tiny dumplings by Hearth’s Marco Canora, draped with prosciutto and festooned with Medjool dates by Colicchio—they can’t help but be delicious. The bottom line, as Canora puts it (and if all goes according to plan, the following might one day be construed as the highest praise): “They really taste like chicken.”

But I wonder how much better than Smart Chicken it is?

Have prepared this bird several times now. Simple roast served with jus. "They really do taste like chicken." Of course, if they taste like turkey.... Actually, they are exceptionally good and worth the money. Nothing like starting with the best ingredients.

Jay

You are what you eat.

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This is sort of weird. Poulet de Bresse are not really a breed of chickens more a manner of raising a particular strain of a breed around the Bourg-en-Bresse region. "Bresse- Gauloise" are a breed of chicken (only the

ones in the Bresse region are refereed to as "Bresse", in other regions they are just "Gauloise"), it doesn't have to be white, but the prized ones from Bresse and the milk fed poulette gauloise blanche chooks that Bras cooks (supplied by the small farm "Le Cros de la Géline") are. Unfortunately, for top flight American restaurants, this breed didn't seem to make it to the USA.

That 'engineered' thing smells of bullshit (I wonder if this refers to egg smuggling?), if you wanted to breed a chicken with a red comb, white feathers and blue legs it wouldn't be that difficult, but why bother? It wouldn't be the "Bresse- Gauloise" breed, so if there were any special characteristics of this breed, the facsimilies wouldn't have them. I'm sure that there excellent native American breeds that would taste fantastic if they were given the same standard of treatment as the "Bresse- Gauloise" in Bourg-en-Bresse or "Le Cros de la Géline" . In fact it seems that these chcikens are milk fed like the "Le Cros de la Géline" birds, but all the emphasis seems to be on there superficial appearance to the French breed.

I have no doubt that these chickens taste great, but it smacks of gimickry.

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This is sort of weird. Poulet de Bresse are not really a breed of chickens more a manner of raising a particular strain of a breed around the Bourg-en-Bresse region. . . . SNIP

Adam, out of interest, have you tried a Brillbury Hall Farm cockeral yet? Tiny but flavousome production if this account is to be trusted. Is there a local bird that you put your faith in? In addition to the ones down the pub, that is.

from the thinly veneered desk of:

Jamie Maw

Food Editor

Vancouver magazine

www.vancouvermagazine.com

Foodblog: In the Belly of the Feast - Eating BC

"Profumo profondo della mia carne"

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No I haven't but my family did breed Light Sussex Chickens (Nasty bastards from memory, very white flesh, smallish light brown eggs, I think), so this is very interesting.

We rarely buy chicken as it is either mostly crap or mostly crap and very expensive. Free range, organic, whatever, they still taste bland from British supermarkets, what you pay more for is lack of guilt. There are very good free range, dry plucked chickens sold from the local butchers, but I have a problem getting to them during the working week and when I am there on the weekend I tend not to think about chicken. At the moment it is cheaper to buy pheasant then chicken for instance.

Oddly enough, I have only just recently ordered food online (OK, I ordered a turkey for Xmas), so I will look into this thank you.

And I will have you know that although I have just returned from the pub, no chicken was involved and I haven't been to the pub for ages. Really. :smile:

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what you pay more for is lack of guilt . . .

. . . And I will have you know that although I have just returned from the pub, no chicken was involved and I haven't been to the pub for ages. Really. :smile:

I too have been forced to connect these thoughts when pulling birds. :raz: On the other hand, so to speak, it's profoundly superior to the common pullet.

Edited by jamiemaw (log)

from the thinly veneered desk of:

Jamie Maw

Food Editor

Vancouver magazine

www.vancouvermagazine.com

Foodblog: In the Belly of the Feast - Eating BC

"Profumo profondo della mia carne"

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Jamie:

It's pretty much a merchandising gimmick. Since I personally have a great deal of experience in poultry implementing the very successful marketing of Black Footed Chickens at a premium price compared to Yellow or White Footed Poultry in Taiwan it has very little difference in the actual Birds.

I spent some time in France learning about what characteristics make the poultry so special from Bresse and know why they taste better compared to Factory raised birds.

The majority of Chickens marketed are generally only 7 weeks old, Bresse Birds are anywhere from 9/10 weeks old but weigh about the same as the 7 week old factory birds so have more character plus have better muscles since they aren't caged as closely.

They are dressed similar to the aggressively marketed "Smart Poultry" becoming available in the States but with one important difference.

In France the Birds are dressed but left with the Head and Feet intact. Even more important they are left to "Set" under air/humidity controlled refrigeration for up to several days before being delivered. I feel that is the main reason for their better taste when prepared.

The USDA permits Poultry to be injected with substances that I find questionable without requiring that information on labels. I also find that our policy of requiring the packers to reimburse the costs involved with Inspection in the Meat and Poultry industries again something to be considered.

Free Range, Organic, Smart or Blue Foot or Generic can all be prepared very well by any competent kitchen that takes the time and effort to do it's job correctly.

Almost any fresh Poultry allowed to hang and set under ventilation will improve in taste and flavor. Smart or the Blue Foot will even taste better, but thats because they are dressed correctly and are slightly older then the rest initially.

I have been much more satisfied with Poultry I purchase at local "Asian Markets" in Seattle with Heads and Feet intact but it could be cause I'm old fashioned.

Irwin

I don't say that I do. But don't let it get around that I don't.

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We tried the blue foot chicken at Alain Ducasse (New York) recently and Ellen posted about it in the New York forum.

Ducasse (via chef Tony Esnault) serves it whole, carved tableside and served for two. It comes in two services.

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The first service of “Blue foot chicken, crisp and tender endives, sabayon (for two people).”

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Followed by the second service, the dark meat with an endive marmalade.

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We've had the Bresse chicken at Georges Blanc and felt the blue foot was dissimilar, in part because of the preparation but also the meat had different character. The Bresse chicken was the most red-meat-like chicken I've ever had, and I wouldn't say it tasted "chickeny" -- unless one recalibrates how one believes chicken is supposed to taste. The blue foot was much more like normal American upscale restaurant chicken but with much firmer flesh and a more concentrated flavor. This was especially apparent in the firm flesh of the breast meat, which unlike most breast meat had deep chicken flavors and a gamy sweetness in the background. I'd be confident that in a blind tasting I could easily pick this chicken over most others I've had.

Now of course that may be on account of preparation, but I don't know that any preparation scheme can account for what I found in the meat's essential character. I'm pretty sure the chickens they get are hung and air dried in the walk-in for several days, and needless to say they are cooked with the feet on. I don't know if they come in with the heads as well.

In any event, there are definitely some ingredients that get a lot of press but are indistinguishable from generic. I don't think this is one of them. And Ducasse and Keller are pretty fanatical (and well informed) about ingredients -- I doubt they'd be out advocating this product if there was nothing to it. Ditto for Marco Canora.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Thanks for your interesting insights, Irwin. Do the kill and set times as stated in the article jibe with the standards you've seen elsewhere?

from the thinly veneered desk of:

Jamie Maw

Food Editor

Vancouver magazine

www.vancouvermagazine.com

Foodblog: In the Belly of the Feast - Eating BC

"Profumo profondo della mia carne"

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We tried the blue foot chicken at Alain Ducasse (New York) recently and Ellen posted about it in the New York forum.

Now of course that may be on account of preparation, but I don't know that any preparation scheme can account for what I found in the meat's essential character. I'm pretty sure the chickens they get are hung and air dried in the walk-in for several days, and needless to say they are cooked with the feet on. I don't know if they come in with the heads as well.

In any event, there are definitely some ingredients that get a lot of press but are indistinguishable from generic. I don't think this is one of them. And Ducasse and Keller are pretty fanatical (and well informed) about ingredients -- I doubt they'd be out advocating this product if there was nothing to it. Ditto for Marco Canora.

Wow. Thanks for the lovely docudrama, Steven, as well as articulating the declension in flavours. We were at one of Ducasse's satellites the other night--Mix in Las Vegas--but the only chicken (and easily the least expensive main course at $32) was more simply billed as 'free range'. Of course that would make it the only free range animal--human or otherwise--in that city.

The article upthread states that 'Finally, after years of trial and error, Thiessen engineered a bird that sent Vancouver’s French chefs into a tizzy and eventually made its way to one of Shipley’s co-op’s Central Valley farms, where it’s now bred exclusively and distributed on the East Coast by D’Artagnan.'

In checking around with a sampling of Vancouver's French chefs though, only one (so far) had confirmed its use: Marc-Andre Choquette at Lumière. He likes the product (available here via Connoisseur) very much and has had solid feedback on it. I've never seen it branded in a Vancouver restaurant though--Lumière is known for its poussin.

J.

PS: What was the price of the chicken (presumably for two) at Ducasse, Steven?

Edited by jamiemaw (log)

from the thinly veneered desk of:

Jamie Maw

Food Editor

Vancouver magazine

www.vancouvermagazine.com

Foodblog: In the Belly of the Feast - Eating BC

"Profumo profondo della mia carne"

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Thanks for your interesting insights, Irwin. Do the kill and set times as stated in the article jibe with the standards you've seen elsewhere?

Jamie:

In France it's done traditionally. In England and other areas in Europe its generally delivered quickly after being dressed and is regularly hung at the Butcher Shop or Restaurant prior to serving.

Most Restaurants don't have a Cooler with adequate temperature controls to Hang Poultry, Meat or Game properly. The majority that do have aging Rooms/Refrigeration use it only for Beef or Lamb.

The "Bresse Poultry" has more developed Thigh [dark] meat because the Birds are allowed to roam and generally are only caged a short time before being dressed.

I am reasonably sure that a slightly larger [one/two week older] "Smart Chicken" would be comparable to the "Blue Foot" in a comparison taste test.

Ducasse and Keller are Chef, businessmen who are genuinely interested in providing item's that are what is considered best or exceptional to their clientèle, especially whom are willing to pay prices required to enjoy what is perceived as the finest available. The Bird presented in the Photo is relatively smaller then a "Bresse Bird". The color of the dark meat reflects a younger bird.

Observing from the excellent photo's provided on, "Fat Guy's" previous posting I noticed that the Chicken was finessed by Cooking it with some color [pinkness] remaining in the carcass as in Chinese or European dishes. This finish at many main stream American places would require that the Bird be returned to the kitchen for additional cooking. Even the serving to customers is theatrical and fun that makes it special. Almost as effective to the 3 ways Peking Duck is prepared and served tableside at a much more reasonable price.

I admit that we served Chicken that way 20 + years ago, advising our customers that the Birds were pinkish and juicy because of the marinade not because we under cooked them slightly because they taste much better.

We did the same with "Racks of Lamb" and served more Lamb then any Restaurant in Hawaii because customers really enjoyed eating it that way. This was way before it was acceptable to allow color in Lamb or Pork in the States. We even had the audacity to ask customers how they wanted their fish cooked.

Irwin

I don't say that I do. But don't let it get around that I don't.

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In any event, there are definitely some ingredients that get a lot of press but are indistinguishable from generic. I don't think this is one of them. And Ducasse and Keller are pretty fanatical (and well informed) about ingredients -- I doubt they'd be out advocating this product if there was nothing to it. Ditto for Marco Canora.

FG - thanks for the detailed post and great photgraphs, very interesting irrespective of the chicken. As you say as Ducasse and Keller are unlikely to promote a product that is a dud, so I don't doubt quality of the product. But I find the way the product is marketed to be a bit odd, basically they (press releases I have seen online) seem to be selling it on the basis of its superficial resemblance to the French fowl.

A long time ago I remember a conversation about being able to taste the essential characteristics of an item of food, irrespective of if it was on nice white plates or plates with little little yellow chicks around the edges. How do you think that this product compares to other super premium US chickens on the market?

Another question is if it is the best in the country to date, is it so difficult to sell the bird on the basis of its essential character or does a large degree of spin/marketing have to play such a leading role?

Bresse hens have a great iconic name, but surely the essentialy merit of these birds was established before this?

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Bresse chickens come in various sizes, as Lucy has noted on other topics:

Poulet de Bresse (avg weight - 1.2 Kg/2.6lb): 4 months

Poularde de Bresse (avg weight 1.8Kg/3.9lb): 5 months

Chapon de Bresse (avg weight 3Kg/6.6lb): 8 months

In American chicken parlance, a "broiler/fryer" would be 6-8 weeks old, as Irwin mentioned. A "roaster" would be 3-5 months old.

The Ducasse blue foot was probably around 1 kilo, though that's just a guess. The bird we had at Vonnas was in the Poularde category I think.

The blue foot costs the same as everything else at Ducasse. The menu is prix fixe. Any two people at the table can choose it as their entree -- there's no premium/supplemental charge.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Bresse chickens come in various sizes, as Lucy has noted on other topics:

Poulet de Bresse (avg weight - 1.2 Kg/2.6lb): 4 months

Poularde de Bresse (avg weight 1.8Kg/3.9lb): 5 months

Chapon de Bresse (avg weight 3Kg/6.6lb): 8 months

In American chicken parlance, a "broiler/fryer" would be 6-8 weeks old, as Irwin mentioned. A "roaster" would be 3-5 months old.

The Ducasse blue foot was probably around 1 kilo, though that's just a guess. The bird we had at Vonnas was in the Poularde category I think.

The blue foot costs the same as everything else at Ducasse. The menu is prix fixe. Any two people at the table can choose it as their entree -- there's no premium/supplemental charge.

Steven:

The one category that you left out is known as:

"Poussin de Bresse" this is the category for the youngest poultry being marketed under French Regulations. In "Bresse" it most often prepared as "Poussin a la Moutarde" a very popular dish served to emphasize the "Dijon" Mustard together with the "Bresse Poultry".

It's a type of Poultry very popular at "Ranch 99 Markets" as "Young Chickens" or also used for places that offer a Roasted or Whole Chicken at lower then average prices.

The one character to almost all "Poussin Type" Poultry is that the Thigh and Leg Portions of the Bird have a pinkish color that becomes darker as the birds mature.

In retrospect looking at the color of the darker meat in your photo it is pinkish, paler then dark meat on a more mature bird. Most "Poussin" birds weigh from 1 1/2 pounds to 2 1/4 pounds and average about 5 weeks in the States and as much as 8 weeks in France.

In any "Price Fixed" menu it makes sense to justify the price that you do your best to do whatever you can to make your Poultry special and go out of your way to get the very best available.

In the 1960's we did exactly the same at the "Four Seasons Restaurant" in NYC bringing Smoked Salmon from Scotland, Ducks from specific Farms as well as Lamb, and even the "Queens Grouse" from the Royal Hunts in England containing the Shot, that customers were warned about. Our Cornish Game Hen's and Quail were supplied by Victor Borge directly from his game farm.

There is no question that any good Restaurant should do it's best to provide everything they serve thru sources that they learn thru experience to depend upon.

At "Le Pavilion" every item served was personally sourced by "Henri Soule" and checked after delivery to meet his criteria.

In "Hong Kong" at the "Angus Steakhouse" we only served Meats, Condiments and Smoked Fish from the designated purveyors to the Queen to make it special to our customer base.

It's not only marketing, it's also trying to provide the best that makes every dining experience special. Now if you'll "PLEASE" invite me to dinner at any of those places I promise to behave myself.

Irwin :rolleyes:

I don't say that I do. But don't let it get around that I don't.

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I'm working on it, Irwin!

Anybody in the US who is interested in trying one of these chickens can order one for thirty bucks from D'Artagnan. Here's the item:

https://www.dartagnan.com/item.asp?item=FCBSM102

If those weights reflect the birds Ducasse is getting, my estimate is too low. Maybe I'm not taking head and feet into account.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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