09 February 2010

More about poultry choices

Today the supermarket advertising flyers came in the mail. Here's a sample of some of the poultry on special.

ED (stands for EuropaDiscount), the "hard discount" grocery store, as a good price on Label Rouge chickens at the end of the week. I'll have to go pick up a couple of them. You can never have too much chicken, and we have a freezer. The price is 2.99 € per kilogram, and that's just 1.35 € per pound. You usually pay that much for industrially produced chickens.

I paid 5.11 €, or 3.80 €/kg (1.75 €/lb.) for the Label Rouge poulet blanc that I butterflied and broiled the other day, and that was already a very good price. More often it's 5 €, and prices range up to 6 or 7 €/kg — in other words, 2.25 to 3.25 €/lb. Most of these chickens weigh from 1.3 kg to 2 kg — 3 to 4½ lbs. Larger than that you get capons, coqs, and turkeys.

Label Rouge chickens at ED for a very low price

Meanwhile, Intermarché this week has a sale on everything to do with ducks — whole birds, parts, foie gras, gizzards, hearts, fat, rillettes... the whole nine yards. I already have plenty of duck fat in the fridge, and I even have a big tin of gésiers confits (gizzards) in the pantry. What I'm interested in is the whole duck, a canard gras, which I assume is a duck that was fattened for foie gras production. It's sold without the liver.

Whole duck on sale at Intermarché for a good price too

One of the things I've had on my cooking list for a while is Chinese-style canard laqué. I'm not even sure what we call that in English. Glazed duck? Peking duck? It looks simple to do. You just paint the whole raw duck in a mixture of soy sauce, plum sauce or honey, garlic, ginger, five-spice powder, and vinegar and leave it overnight in the fridge. Then you roast it, basting it with the pan juices, for two or three hours, including an hour or more where it is wrapped in foil so that it cooks through. At the end you uncover it, baste it, and brown it.

At 2.99 €/kg, the same price as the Label Rouge chicken, this is a good deal. Of course, I'll be paying for the head and that long neck, since the duck is sold entier. But that's OK. The neck, at least, will be good for making stock.

The duck breast or magret de canard costs more, of course.
It's cooked like good beefsteak — rare or medium, no more.

Finally, SuperU has Label Rouge pintades, or guinea hens, on special at 6.49 €/kg, or about 2.95 €/lb. I'm less tempted because of the higher price, and because we had guinea hen for lunch day before yesterday in Blois, where we were the guests of friends. It was delicious. I assume it was roasted, but it was brought to the table already cut into serving pieces that were literally swimming in a sauce or broth that had a lot of butter and some chestnuts in it.

Label Rouge guinea hens for sale at SuperU

The Joy of Cooking describes the flesh of the guinea hen as "very lean." Guinea fowl are raised commercially, obviously — SuperU sells them — but they are a little gamier than chicken. They're more like pheasant, which, along with the chicken, is a related species.

The Larousse Gastronomique says young guinea fowl can be cooked like pheasant or partridge (whatever way that is), and fatter guinea hens can be prepared and served just like chicken. In my experience, that's true. We've cooked them a few times (posts here and here) with good results.

Sunday at our friends' when the dinner was served, one person at the table said she liked pintade better than chicken because she thought it wasn't as dry as chicken meat. Another, her sister actually, said oh, do you really think so? I think it's drier than chicken. They let the matter drop at that point. But with that buttery broth, what we were eating wasn't dry at all. And it was really good.

In yesterday's post, I said that in France we can choose from yellow, white or black chickens. And we can also choose guinea fowl or duck, because both are available year-round in the outdoor markets and the supermarkets.

By the way, the euro is worth about $1.37 U.S. right now. That's down from $1.50 last November. If things were "normal" on the economic front, it would be worth about $1.20. That was the exchange rate when we moved here in 2003. The euro is still pretty strong compared to the limping dollar.


  1. I wish we could buy guinea fowl. I have never seen it here. It's hard enough getting duck.
    In Australia we have wonderful food choices. I shouldn't complain as the quality and variety are good, especially when it comes to fruit and Asian vegetables. Actually our red meat is fantastic also. Seafood is pretty sensational too. BUT, I do miss the quality and variety of poultry and game in France.
    And don't get me started on French butter! Or the bread...or rillettes...41 days to go.

  2. I think the English equivalent of the duck recipe is lacquered duck.

  3. think its time to lock in some euro's for our May trip?? not a big deal since we use CC's for almost all purchases and that gets the best rate I think!!

    Oh for the good old days - like when we got 4 marks to the dollar back when I was a GI in Gy late 60's. and 80 cents or so for a euro way back when!! but that has helped our exports as if we have much to export anymore!

  4. Peter, thanks. I didn't know that "lacquered duck" existed in English.

  5. Martha Stewart and her guest yesterday mentionned "red chickens" for the Carolinas. I had to google them of course as well as lacquered duck.
    I thought they were talking about "red label" chicken but no, it is just a type of hen.
    In her countryside house, my sister has chicken (and roosters), ducks, pigeons... booohooo and rabbits. All delicious and the taste is so different from store bought, even the organic ones. The eggs are dark orange, even better than the $5 for 6 eggs from New-Zealand I get at Whole Foods. Give hens a try just for the eggs, (without a rooster). Make sure you lock them in at night otherwise Mr Fox will thank you for the treat.

  6. I like chicken and eat it often, but I also often find that I don't like the taste of our store-bought chicken... unless it's really straight from the store and cooked right away. And I usually really don't like chicken that's been frozen. I bet that I'd really notice a difference having a fresh, poulet fermier, nicely roasted. Yumm :) I'm annoyed (but not surprised) to find out that our free-range chickens are barely actually freely running around outside. Why must so many people involved in selling things in the U.S. be so stinkin' sneaky? (or did that comment about free-range chickens apply to France, too?)

    p.s. snow day today! Pretty funny, considering that we only got about 4" of snow... the East is just a MESS with 2'-3'!! feet of snow! D.C. is absolutely inundated!

  7. I don't understand why some people get upset that animals that are raised to be killed and eaten can be treated "inhumanely". First, animals are not human, so they cannot be treated "inhumanely". Second, is it any more "humane" to raise them for the sole purpose of killing them?

    Well, this should get something going.

  8. Starman, oh my god blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah (okay, that's me "going" :)))

    I, too, was thinking about how we were all here discussing this living thing that we're going to have killed to feed us, and that's rather gross. Still, we do it. And, of course, the term inhumane probably shouldn't be technically used to refer to something that isn't a human... still... I think we all get the point. Possibly, we all like to think that when the animals or birds are killed to feed us, it's done quickly, and they don't see it coming, whereas, if you know that they are living their whole little chicken lives miserably stuffed together in a chicken farm coop, pecking each other and chicken pooping on each other and trampling all over each other, and unable to even turn around, it does seem horrendously miserable.

    Okay, pass the veggies, no more meat for me ;))


  9. Ken, thanks for the info on prices. Seems to me that is a very reasonable price to pay for a such a carefully raised chicken.

  10. Animals eat each other. Usually it's a inter-species phenomenon, but not always, even. Humans are animals. Therefore...

    Humane means "not cruel." Animals can be treated cruelly, of course. Nature is cruel. But humans can make an effort not to be.

    I'd rather eat an animal that led a "happy" and healthy life that one that suffered through its whole existence. The same goes for plants. Healthy plants taste better than unhealthy plants, and are more nourishing.

  11. Judy, I hope that so-called free-range (élevé en plein air, en liberté) chickens get more than 5 minutes a day of running around outdoors in France under the Label Rouge regulations. I wonder if any of the farmers do tours. Investigation is in order.

  12. Peter, have you made a lacquered duck before? Any advice about the cooking? Mine is marinating now.

    Dale, far be it from me to give advice about the right moment to change dollars into euros. The euro edged up just slightly over the last 24 hours. I can't predict whether it will advance or decline over the next days and months. I'm just watching closely, like you.

  13. An interesting piece on non-industrial chicken: http://food.theatlantic.com/stories/heirloom-poultry-the-unperdue.php

    I agree with you, Ken, about what's "humane" as far as eating animals: All animals die, and most poultry, pigs and cattle would not even be alive in the first place if they weren't being raised to be eaten. But as the species who chooses to raise them for food, we have an ethical obligation to ensure that their lives are comfortable and pleasant. That's why I spend more to buy pastured and range-fed meat.


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