France, a country known for its food and wine is also known for its Bresse Chickens. That is the only poultry in the world that has an A.O.C. designation (Guaranteed Origin Appellation), the same qualification that defines French wines. This law on A.O.C., signed by the French President Coty on 1 August 1957, defines this poultry precisely--the zone, the breed and the rearing conditions--which gives right to the title of "Bresse Chickens."
Bresse Chickens are known throughout France and most of them remain right there; in fact, only about five per cent are exported. No Bresse (appellation) Chickens can be exported live; all must be slaughtered birds and sold as a whole bird, never as parts. Those sold within France must also have the head on it when sold.
The picture on the left is of a Bresse Chicken ready for sale.
The year our friends Jean and Bev spent three months in that vicinity, we bought a fresh chicken from their landlord, Charles, who was raising those renowned Bresse Chickens. It was not cheap. (Nor is a fine wine!) When we got home, I decided to roast it my way; well, actually the French way. I followed a recipe I have used for years from Time-Life's The Cooking of Provincial France. That chicken was superb! The recipe can be used for any good roasting chicken.
3-1/2 to 4 lb chicken (1-3/4 to 2 kilo)
I decided on the name of my blog over chicken and wine at the Gasthaus Linde more than a year ago. Within days I had posted my first one; a week later I wrote about that evening, which I called "Chicken Night at the Gasthaus." When I went back after my return from Nova Scotia last October, Waltraud welcomed me with a hug and a big smile. Needless to say, I was happy to be back, as I had so looked forward to that chicken once again.
Just before New Year's Hans and I went there together. I ordered their Hänchen im Korb (chicken in a basket). It is identical to their usual chicken, just served in a different way. Both the chicken and the French fries are placed in the basket, with a plate beside it in which to put them if wished. What everyone loves is the crisp and savoury skin--so good that I eat all of the skin first!--and the moist flesh, perfectly cooked. I usually have with it the green salad (one of the best in the area), though on that occasion we both had Feldsalat, as that was still in season and delicious.
I have some favourite chicken dishes that I have made over the years. My kids loved them. I loved them and still do. The following recipe was one of my children's favourites, which I made for my granddaughter during her visit to Nova Scotia a summer ago. Teresa loved it as well. It is from the early 1960s and was published, I think, in The Canadian Magazine, now long out of print.
Here is the recipe as I make it. It can be prepared ahead early in the day and refrigerated. Or: prepare it all except for adding the sauce; do that just before baking.
Chicken Hawaiian - 4 to 5 servings
In those long ago days, I bought a whole chicken and cut it up myself as directed in the recipe. Now I buy the parts I wish to use. A mixture of breasts, legs and thighs is perfect. I have read, though, that cutting up your own chicken will end up with a better-tasting cooked chicken as one doesn't lose all the juices that way. You cut it up and cook or ready it immediately, so the juices stay in the pan.
3 lb (1.5 kg) chicken
Preheat oven to 325F to 350F (160C to 180C)
Sauce: 20-oz can sliced pineapple (500mL; about 2-1/2 cups); 1/4 cup soy sauce; 2 tablespoons brown sugar; freshly minced garlic if wished (not in original recipe)
Mix together in a paper or plastic bag: 2/3 cup flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon celery salt and 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt and a little nutmeg. Add the chicken pieces to the bag and shake it well so that the chicken is coated on all sides but not too thickly coated.
Heat 2 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon oil in a large frying pan. Brown the coated chicken well in the hot fat, only as many at a time as will fit the pan easily. Remove from the frying pan when nicely browned and place the pieces in a large casserole dish or oven baking dish.
Strain the syrup from the pineapple into a bowl and add to it the soy sauce and brown sugar and the garlic, if using. Mix well and pour over the chicken in the casserole dish. Cover the dish and bake the chicken until it is tender, 1 to 1-1/2 hours. (I usually cook mine for the longer period as the sauce will then be thicker and the chicken really tender.) Baste several times throughout the baking period, another reason for cooking for the longer period.
Meanwhile, saute the pineapple slices in the fat left in the frying pan until they are golden on both sides. (I do this as soon as I put the chicken in the oven and then they are ready when needed.) Fifteen minutes before the chicken is done, place the sauteed pineapple slices on top of the chicken pieces and continue baking, uncovered, basting with the pan juices. Serve each piece of chicken with a pineapple slice on top. Note: I have occasionally added some peach nectar or even orange juice when I didn't have a large enough can of pineapple.
Below is my Hawaiian chicken supper recently. (I had salad on the side.) I had mistakenly opened a large can of pineapple chunks instead of slices, so I sauteed them and scattered them over the chicken the last 15 minutes of cooking as usual. (The slices are easier to handle and also look more appealing on the plate.)
I have always loved baked potatoes with this dish. They can be put in the oven with the chicken an hour before it is ready, which means no splashing on the stove top and no mess. I like mine crisp, therefore I don't wrap them in tin foil. It's important, then, to cut into them as soon as they come out of the oven to let the steam out, which then keeps them crisp. Top with some butter, salt and pepper and there you have a delicious potato. Cole slaw goes well with this as does corn or peas.
Today, chicken may not be served to the family sitting together around the table on a Sunday as I experienced as a child. I hope, though, that families at least still do sit together for a nice meal. I did continue that tradition of special Sunday dinners with my children and Hans and I do that still--just not always with chicken and sometimes not at our own table but at a Gasthaus! Luckily, too, we don't have to clean those birds ourselves as my mother did. We can buy them ready to cook and cut up for us, boneless and skinless, if we so wish. We can also buy them ready cooked, hot off the grill and delicious. It's still enjoyable, though, to cook our own in all the many ways there are to cook a chicken.