Tuesday, 16 June 2009

French Hens - The Houdan

The Houdan is named after the city of Houdan near Paris, where it was raised in past years for the Paris and London markets. This old French breed was known as the Normandy fowl when first imported into England in 1850.

It's thought that the Houdan is related to both the Crèvecoeur and La Flèche and it is esteemed highly in France for its fine meat qualities and its large white eggs. They are large, heavy looking birds, bred for the table and have a bold, active character.

The Houdan has a range of colours: White, Blue Mottled, Red Mottled and Black. The White and Mottled varieties are more common but developed in North America. It's thought that the Blue Mottled (which existed at least into the 1960s) may have been handicapped by their inability to breed true.

Poulet Rôti Aux Amandes

1 chicken
2 oz butter
sprig of tarragon
1 pint stock
1 onion, sliced
2 oz blanched almonds
½ oz flour
pinch sugar
pinch ground mace
2 tbsp cream

Put ½ oz and tarragon inside the bird, rub another ounce over the bird, cover with paper, set in a roasting tin with half the stock and cook in a moderate oven. Baste frequently and turn. After 20 mins remove the butter paper and continue cooking until the bird is browned. Meanwhile chop the almonds as finely as you can, put into a frying pan with the remaining butter and sliced onion and cook until golden brown. Blend in the flour, add the remaining stock, season with salt, sugar and ground mace. Simmer for 5 mins. Carve the bird, arrange in a serving dish, add the cream to the sauce and spoon over the dish.

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