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Chicken in Half-Mourning


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I have returned to the Pyrennes and I am living in a small village called Puigcerda on the french Boarder and I am working for the second winter for Josep Maria Masso. I am going to explain a traditional technique for preparing chicken in the winter in the Cerdanya Valley.

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The chickens from Pages are an extordinary animal. Not your typical ''Free-range organic chicken'' these chickens are wild animals.

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The chickens are hung in our walk-in for about a week to dry out a little and concentrate the flavor of the meat.

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Slices of black truffles are inserted between the skin and meat of the chickens. They are as well stuffed with an mixture of bread crumbs foie gras, milk and black truffles.

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The chickens are then wrapped in linen.

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On the morning of Christmas Eve, we drove them to a forest where truffles grow. A whole is dug and in go the chickens.

They will stay here for 2 weeks. Depending on the tempurature. (0 - 4 degrees celcius)

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A little cava for good luck!

This is a very old recipe that has been practiced here in the Pyrennes. It was believed that when you rebury the truffle in the ground it will continue to release its perfume in to the meat of the chicken.

"Only the tougne tells the truth..."-F.A.

revallo@gmail.com

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I have returned to the Pyrennes and I am living in a small village called Puigcerda on the french Boarder and I am working for the second winter for  Josep Maria Masso. . . . .

Is this a new place? I ask because it looks brand new in the photos on their site, but also because it's not listed in Campsa. It sounds too good to have escaped notice. Michelin, perhaps to their credit, lists it and notes:

Cuisine:

inventive

Comments:

Run by a young chef with ambition. There are two dining rooms - the main one has a modern decor, and the other, in the cellar, has stone walls.

Fascinating post. Poularde en demi deuil is an old classic in France. I believe it's usually poached and served with a while sauce. It's the black truffles under the skin that gives it the name of being in "half-mourning." How is the bird cooked and served by Josep Maria Masso?

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Then what? How do you cook them?

Bux was right classically it is poached in a light broth. But Josep Maria prefers to slow roast it in the oven. He was telling me about when he spent a winter in Vermont when he was in his 20's he learned how to make a traditional American Stuffing with butter and bread crumbs. At the restaurant we add a lot of grated truffles as well.

Is this a new place? I ask because it looks brand new in the photos on their site, but also because it's not listed in Campsa.

It is fairly new, I believe this is the restaurants 4th season.

"Only the tougne tells the truth..."-F.A.

revallo@gmail.com

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Dana, this is very cool. Can you decribe the flavors and textures of the cooked birds? What did they look like when they were taken from the ground? I assume that this is a purely seasonal dish dependent on the truffles and reburial - this gives another context for "half-mourning". Within a religious context one might almost expect this to be a spring/Easter dish.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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I guess another factor for the specific seasonality (if that is truly the case) might be that these birds are according to Revallo wild. As such they may have a specific hunting season. Am I off base with this thought?

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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these birds are according to Revallo wild. As such they may have a specific hunting season. Am I off base with this thought

What I actually meant by wild was that these birds are of such a high quality that they could be mistaken for a wild animal with thier dark flesh and thick skin. When I first cleaned one of these birds last year I had a hard time believing this was a chicken. Growing up in the US I developed a strong dislike for chicken and the dried Thanksgiving turkeys.... But to me there is such a strong diference between these chickens and the chicken I remember as a child that there should a different name. Also wild could be used to describe the taste and texture of the meat. Its not unlike grouse, not as tender as you would think but has texture of well aged red meat.

"Only the tougne tells the truth..."-F.A.

revallo@gmail.com

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Is the breast truly dark meat--like a duck or goose--or is it relatively dark? Even the black silkeys sold in NY's Chinatown have white breast meat, as far as I know. This certainly sounds like a very different breed than most chickens we see in the US, or even in Europe. Perhaps though it's more a matter of feed than breed. I've had free range chickens in the US, that are certainly not as tender as a batter bird from the supermarket, but I mean that in a good way and want to note that the flavor can be far richer than one expects from a chicken. Indeed, most Americans have little reason to expect much in the way of flavor frtom their chickens and are surprised at the prices charged for chicken in European markets--at least until they have one of those chickens.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Revallo,

Do you know what the chickens are fed while being raised - and how old they are when slaughtered?

I believe that grain is provided for the chickens but they normally eat bugs and worms. I am not sure of the age they are slaughtered, I am in Italy now and will return next week.

Is the breast truly dark meat--like a duck or goose--or is it relatively dark?

Bux, the breast meat is slightly darker then the normal chickens, it is the legs that are the real difference. They are dark closer to the bone but lighten after it is cooked. I will get more information on the chicken when I return to Spain.

"Only the tougne tells the truth..."-F.A.

revallo@gmail.com

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God this looks absolutely fantastic. I made poulard au demi-deuil a couple of weeks ago but this is obviously a different thing altogether. Tell us more about the restaurant in general, it sounds lovely and incredibly tempting - I'm also drooling at the sight of the woodcock hanging next to the chicken...

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Do you know what the chickens are fed while being raised - and how old they are when slaughtered?

The chickens are about 1 year old when they are slaughtered. As for thier diet, I was told they normally hang out by the compost piles and hunt for worms. Grain is also provided, but they prefer the lettuce from the compost.

I'm also drooling at the sight of the woodcock hanging next to the chicken...

I will post some pictures of the woodcock (becada) soon. Unfortunently they are not allowed to be sold on the menu but are made for family and friends of the restaurant.

"Only the tougne tells the truth..."-F.A.

revallo@gmail.com

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Please do show and tell more of the becada if you get the chance!! I cooked one for myself this season - my first time eating or preparing it. It's already over in the UK alas - is the season still running in Spain? Very interesting although I'm not sure I got it quite quite right, I found the brain a little dry, loved the metallic/ammoniac tinge in the trail, the meat was good but not transcendant like grouse can be. I need to try some other versions I think.. Is it illegal to sell throughout France and Spain??

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