After watching Butchered on the Dave channel the other week, a documentary about Allens of Mayfair, I decided to see what all the fuss was about and order myself a Poulet de Bresse. Heston Blumenthal has been banging on about these chickens for years and writers and chefs have praised its succulence and taste, calling it the "Rolls Royce of chickens". The birds are aged for a minimum of four months and fed a diet of cereals, milk products and sweetcorn.
So I decided to buy one and taste it for myself, and at £20 per bird, I wondered if it would live up to its hype.
The first thing I noticed was the colour. The skin - and flesh - of the bird is a very pale yellow, and you can see that there are also quite a few pockets of fat on it, all the better for keeping it succulent during cooking. As it was the first time I tried it, I decided to roast it, fairly gently on a lower heat than I normally would roast a standard chicken, to cook it slower and keep it succulent. I also cooked it plain, so we would taste the real flavour of the bird and not the garlic or stuffing that went with it.
I have to say, that the taste of the chicken was amazing. It had soft, tender flesh and a sweet, creamy taste to it. It had much more flavour than the regular chickens we buy for our Sunday lunch and we ate ours simply, with a serving of boiled, buttered new potatoes and vegetables. It was perfect.
Is it worth the extra money?
With an equivalent-sized organic chicken costing around £8, the Poulet de Bresse is not a cheap option. But we were honestly taken aback by how different the Bresse chicken tastes compared with a regular roast chicken. Now that they are available from Allens of Mayfair, do give one a go, even just to see what the regular supermarket chicken is up against. Just don't cook it too high, or for too long. Keep testing it to catch it when it's just done cooking, so that it stays sweet and juicy. You might order one, promising that you'll buy one to try it once, but after the first taste of it hot from the oven, you may struggle to keep that promise. Check out the Allens of Mayfair website.