Bresse chickens are prized like fine wine – they even have their own AOC (appellation d'origine contrôlée) and were the first livestock to be granted such protection. AOC status was granted based on the unique characteristics of flavour given by local soil and grain, as well as the dedication of the local farmer's association to protecting quality.
The Bresse originates from the Bresse area of the Rhône-Alpes region and the birds are highly valued for their rich, gamey depth of flavour, fine, tender flesh and delicious, clean-flowing fat. Such is the demand inside France that few birds make it out of the country. As a premium product, they sell at a premium price.
The most typical examples, known as Bény, have a distinctive red crown, snowy white feathers and blue feet, making up the colours of the French flag or tricolore, making it an ideal national mascot. However Bresse now appear in Black, Blue, Gray and White varieties.
The first recorded mention of the bird was in 1591, when the good citizens of Bourg-en-Bresse, midway between Lyon and Geneva and not far from the Swiss border, presented the Marquis of Treffort with two dozen of the birds in grateful recognition of his bravery in driving off an army of marauding Savoyard soldiers. Its reputation was assured by 1825, when one of the world's first and greatest gastronome, the 19th century epicurean Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, described the bird as "the queen of chickens, and the chicken of kings.”
Poulet de Bresse à la Crème
100g of butter
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 bouquet garni
glass of dry white wine
1 litre of cream
Joint the chicken. Place the butter in a large pan over a brisk heat, then add the pieces of chicken. Season. Add the onion, button mushrooms, crushed garlic and the bouquet garni. Brown until the pieces turn a rich golden colour. Deglaze the pan with the dry white wine. Reduce then add the cream. Cook for 25 to 30 mins, then remove the pieces. Pass the sauce through a strainer and add a dash of lemon. Arrange the chicken pieces on each plate and coat with sauce.