A chic chicken
Its delicate pearly white flesh rivals that of the capon. In France it has begun to supplant the turkey, now seen as too commonplace for the end-of-year festivities. Certainly the poularde is considered to be the most refined poultry. A luxurious dish, but a generous one, weighing on average two kilos. A treat for special occasions.
There are no less than 110 recipes for poularde in a single chapter of the famous “Guide Culinaire” by Auguste Escoffier, the bible of French gourmet cuisine for a century. The poularde was generally served whole, either as a roast or as a “relevé”, that’s to say the dish served after the soup and before the starters.
A poularde is a young pullet raised with care and fed with wheat flour, corn and milk until it achieves the desired tender plumpness, which justifies its price. The Romans fed the pullets with porridge made of flour with wine and honey.As early as the Middle Ages, poulardes were prominently displayed on the market stalls of the Quai de la Mégisserie in Paris. At that time they were rather popular as the centrepiece of “Poule Au Pot”, or chicken stew.
A question of origin
The Houdan poularde, renowned since Louis XIII, remains the oldest breed. The larger Faverolle rivalled it, as did a Belgian poularde, the “coucou de Malines”, fattened for up to 3 months on a diet of buckwheat porridge with whey. But the Bresse poularde, which has always been a favourite of connoisseurs, is the only one nowadays to benefit from A.O.C. (Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée) status – to guarantee its provenance, like Champagne – and a rigorous breeding charter.
Tradition & Gastronomy
In Lyon, Mère Brazier invented the “poularde demi-deuil” by slipping slices of truffle under its skin. The recipe was adopted by Escoffier's “Guide Culinaire” and also by Fernand Point, the first chef to be given 3 stars by the Michelin Guide. Great chefs such as Georges Blanc or Alain Chapel and their successors have ensured the passing on of a gastronomic tradition based on the poularde. We know that Georges Blanc’s grandmother prepared Bresse poularde in a fricassee with cream. And Philippe Jousse, the successor to Alain Chapel (pioneer of nouvelle cuisine) at his restaurant in Mionnay, serves it cooked in a pork bladder with chicken broth, Madeira, cognac and truffle juice, accompanied by an Albuféra sauce: a reduction of foie gras jus.
Auguste Escoffier was not content in the three editions of his “Guide Culinaire” (1902, 1907 and 1912) to simply share his recipes.
He also cared about table service and customer satisfaction. His remarks and advice are still relevant today, both in the kitchen and in the dining room. For example, he noted that “most often, the guest is faced with poorly presented and insufficiently hot pieces of poultry”. He also perfected the art and method of removing the poultry breasts and keeping them warm while the accompaniment was prepared and the rest of the poularde cut. A refinement that goes so far as to present them on “fine tartlet crusts” or “thin croutons fried in fresh butter”. These can be topped, the ultimate luxury, with a slice of foie gras on which the breast is crowned with “a thick slice of truffle”. The sauce was served hot, separately.
One can make the case that Voltaire’s “Dialogue du Chapon et de la Poularde”, written in 1763, was the first philosophical protest against the cruelty of human appetites.
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