By the 19th century, when gastro legend Brillat-Savarin declared the poulet de Bresse to be ‘the Queen of poultry and the poultry of Kings’, this neighbourly rivalry had evolved and the first proper competition to declare France’s finest Bresse took place in 1862. It is the only French poultry with an AOP status. Just in time for Christmas and the New Year, Burgunds celebrate Les Glorieuses de Bresse is a unique competition which takes part of an ancestral tradition.
The Bresse poultry is regulated by a strict quality chart
Three counties (Saône-et-Loire, Ain and Jura) share the Bresse poultry appellation which is regulated by a strict quality chart should. While driving through rural corners of Burgundy, I met several breeders including Jean-Claude Marquis and Alain Magnin. Both are farmer-slaughterers.
« My 34 hectares farmland also produces corn and wheat without OGM, only for feeding poultries. Half of this area is a grassy path where chickens are to find themselves a third of their food made of worms, insects, molluscs and lush grass. The other two thirds represent cereals and dairy products. The AOP legislation imposes a 10 sqm area per animal » Mr Magnin said.
The Bresse chickens could hardly be better suited to represent both the majesty of the French culinary arts and an enduring appreciation for all things terroir. Called “La Gauloise” the animal embodiment is tricolor : clean white feathers, blue feet and red crests !
In the Bresse region, each poultry must have its ID card : a ring on the left leg, a tricolor pinched sealed at the base of the neck, the label and the AOP logo, and finally an identifying seal for capons and poulardes.
The incomparable taste and finesse of the meat comes from the fattening stage : at least 10 days for chickens, 3 weeks for poulardes and 4 weeks for capons. At the end, the life of a chicken is 4 months minimum, 5 to 8 months respectively for poulardes and capons.
More information at Comité Interprofessionnel de la Volaille de Bresse
My recommendations to cook a Bresse chicken
I personally like the chicken of Bresse simply roasted, accompanied by a truffle flavored mashed potatoe purée.
Here’s the directions: Preheat your oven to 180°C (350°F) and consider 45 minutes of cooking time for a two-pound chicken. Do not drizzle oil on chicken. Simply roast it without. Pour the cooking sauce on the chicken every 15 minutes. As the fillets cook faster than the legs, place the chichen vertically in your dish. Turn it at mid-cooking time. To check if your chicken is cooked, prick the inside of the leg. If the juice is pink, leave it in the oven for more time.
One of the Bresse specialty is also Le poulet aux morilles et au vin jaune. The chicken is cooked with the Jura white wine and morels, accompanied by seasonal vegetables.
Burgundy is a gourmet destination to discover…
Located north to Lyon, and east to the city of Tournus, the Burgundy Bresse region is in the Saone-et-Loire. You will see charming bricks and half timbered typical farms, mills and wash-houses, castles and churches which pay tribute to the history and traditions. You will admire breathtaking landscapes of farmland, rivers and ponds to discover quietly. Leave your car to rent a bike (you will find several bike rentals especially in Tournus, next to the Cycle Museum), and explore the region through its back roads and paths. The Bresse is a holiday destination for nature lovers. The territory is well marked with walking paths. If you like to fish, you will be in a haven considering the numerous rivers and ponds. If you prefer to ride, cycling routes are safe and cross quaint villages and scenic landscapes.
Do not miss the Monday morning food market in Louhans which occupies the whole town. This is one of the most important agricultural poultry markets in France, labeled remarkable site of taste by the National Council of Culinary Arts!