Roast chicken

A family favourite

Whether it’s cooked in the oven, spit-roasted or grilled, the aroma of cooking chicken is one of the most appetizing in the world. For many families, roast chicken symbolizes the convivial Sunday meal. Whether you prefer wing, leg or breast, there’s a morsel for everyone. Provided it’s golden and cooked to perfection so that it stays tender, roast chicken transcends eras and trends.

The best parts of a roast chicken are probably what the French call the “sot-l’y-laisse. In English, just as confusingly, they’re called “oysters” Two small, plump, oval pieces, located in the hollow of the iliac bone, on either side of the carcass, above the rump. So tender and tasty that it would be foolish to deprive yourself of them. As for the clavicle bone, it’s been used since ancient times as a “wish bone”. You know how it goes: you each grab half of the Y-shaped bone and after a good tug, the one who ends up with longest piece will have their wish granted.

The simplest of recipes

“You become a cook, but you are born a roaster,” said the great French chef Brillat-Savarin: roasting a chicken is easy and successful every time, provided you choose the bird carefully and never put a chicken that’s been kept in the refrigerator straight into the oven. Take it out at least 1 hour before. Place it raw in a dish appropriate to its size. Surround it with herbs and garlic cloves. Oil it with a brush and sprinkle it with salt, to ensure a crispy skin. In southwest France, the chicken is stuffed with bread rubbed with garlic. An onion or any other vegetable is also a good idea because the water vapour it produces prevents the meat from drying out during cooking. A small bowl of water placed on the floor of the oven works the same way. Allow 1 hour of cooking per kilo. When the chicken is nicely golden, it's time to eat.

The finest fowls

In France, the most prized breeds of chicken are “le poulet noir”, or “black chicken”, from Challans in the Loire region, chicken from Loué in Sarthe, also in the Loire, chicken from La Drôme, above Provence, chicken from Gers in the southwest and finally birds from Bresse in Burgundy. The best chicken for roasting is the fleshy variety known in France as a “poulet fermier” or “farmer’s chicken”, a designation given only to free range chickens or those reared in semi-freedom, which is strictly monitored by authorities who oversee the quality and origin of the birds. The colour of a chicken’s flesh depends on its diet: when they’re fed wheat, their flesh is white. When they’re fed corn, it’s yellow.

Chickens with secrets

In 17th century France, according to Furetière’s dictionary, the flirtatious or passionate notes that lovers sent to one another in secret were called “poulets” because, when folded, they had two peaks which recalled the shape of chicken wings. Molière refers to this in Act 2, Scene 3 of his “L’école des maris”, when the ingenuous Isabelle explains to the valet Sganarelle that an impertinent young man trying to seduce her has slipped a box containing a sealed “poulet” into her room!

L'autre sens du poulet

Au 17ème siècle, selon le dictionnaire de Furetière, les billets doux ou galants que s'envoyaient en secret les amoureux s'appelaient des "poulets" parce qu'en les pliant, on y faisait deux pointes qui rappelaient la forme des ailes du poulet. Molière s'en sert dans L'école des maris, acte II, scène 3, où l'ingénue Isabelle explique au valet Sganarelle qu'un impertinent jeune homme cherchant à la séduire a jeté une boîte dans sa chambre contenant "une lettre en poulet cachetée".


Napoleon's Chicken


A Napoleonic legend has it that on the eve of the Battle of Marengo, Bonaparte, who was famished, demanded chicken for his supper. His cook, unable to obtain butter, is said to have fried the bird in oil with mushrooms and toasted bread before sprinkling it with wine: which is how “Poulet à la Marengo” came to be. Historians feel the story may be apocryphal as the proof is as hard to find as the missing butter.

You are 6 to have shared this memory!

  • Le poulet aux chataignes


  • Le colombo de poulet

    Sabrina et Melina

  • Le colombo de poulet

    Sabrina et Melina

  • Le poulet


  • Le poulet à l'estragon de mamie


  • Le poulet directeur général