What is so special about French roasted chicken? Well, in your average British supermarket the most choice you have is small, medium, large or free range. In France it's a different story. Of course, you get the standard mass produced birds which tend to be reasonably priced but they are small and you probably need two to feed a family, or at least we do!
Of course, you don’t want to be roasting two chickens so you have a look at what else is available and here in France there is a bewildering array of poultry or volaille at a truly eye watering price! Imagine my excitement to find a huge bird of 2 kg vastly reduced in price. I roasted the chicken at the standard 20 minutes for 500g plus another 20 minutes. What was the result? A dry, tough bird and not my finest hour in the kitchen!
What I had actually bought is a chicken that has had a much longer life rather than a chicken that is normally slaughtered before the normal 12 weeks. Here is how I cook it now and you can use this method for any chicken.I like use a dutch oven for a whole chicken. You need to soak the pot in water before you start but you can use any lidded oven dish if you don’t have one.
Start by seasoning the chicken well inside and out with fresh ground black pepper and flaked sea salt and place it in the pot. Cut a lemon in half, squeeze both halves over the chicken then tuck them side the body cavity. Pour over 500ml of hot chicken stock and scatter over fresh tarragon, cover and cook in the oven for about 2 hours until tender. Remove the chicken, place in an oven tin and roast for 30-40 minutes until golden, strain the fat from the juices and serve with the chicken.
I know this is really simple but it’s also great if you don’t want to be tied to the kitchen as you can just leave it in the crock pot. It’s easy to swap the flavours around using fresh thyme, onion or other herbs. Cooking in stock also works really well if you have pheasant and are wary of ending up with a tough, stringy dinner!
And then there is this beauty; a label Rouge Challans Noir. Free range breeding in France is fiercely protected and only certain producers can use the coveted Label Rouge. This means that the chicken is not slaughtered until it is 81 days old and will spend its life outside on grass. The Challan Noir chicken is a breed local to us in the Vendée with black feathers and feet. It looks nothing like a normal chicken and has very little fat.
I believe this type of bird needs to be left alone as much as possible so rub all over with olive oil and season well then place breast down in an oven tray. Roast it in the oven like a standard chicken for half the time and then turn it over for the remaining time. This allows the small amount of fat on the bird to help baste it. I like to cover with a couple of slices of bacon if it gets too brown. It may sound bizarre but we have a Bronze turkey at Christmas and cook it the exact same way and it always turns out perfectly.
Here are two different simple methods for French Roasted Chicken that you can use for any poultry, indeed some farmers in the UK are now using French breeds so you might be lucky enough to find one of these.
What these pictures don’t show you is the flavour. Both chickens have a distinct taste and you know that you are buying meat that has been reared slowly and is absolutely delicious!
I’m Amanda from Chez Le Reve Francais. I am British and currently living a quiet life in the west of France with my family and Weimaraners where we run a holiday business. The fantastic local produce allows me to indulge my passion of food! I love to twist traditional dishes and here is one of my recent favourites; Duck Terrine with Asparagus