25 August 2012

Rotisseried chicken with an herb pesto

I've said this before, and I'll say it again: one of the nicest features of the little stoves/cookers that they sell in France is that most of them have a tourne-broche or rotisserie built in. The rotisserie is a great way to cook chickens and other poultry, or rolled and tied roasts of all kinds.

I bought a local chicken from the traveling butcher, Yves Céran of Thésée-la-Romaine, who drives up to our front gate in his market truck on Tuesdays at noontime every week. I asked him a couple of weeks ago (well, Walt did, actually) if he could get us a poulet de Bresse, which is the most famous variety of chicken raised in France — Bresse chickens have an AOC label. I've never cooked or eaten one. Bresse is a area just north of Lyon, a few hundred miles east and south of Saint-Aignan.

Céran said no, he doesn't deal in Bresse chickens. But he said he had the local equivalent, a farm-raised poulet de Sologne. La Sologne is the area of forests and small lakes located between Saint-Aignan and Orléans, grosso modo, and is known for top-quality agricultural products as well as wild game like deer, boars, and waterfowl. Here's a link to the web site of La Ferme le Camp, where the chickens called Le P'tit Noir Solognot are raised.

So earlier this week I asked Yves Céran for a chicken when he came by. I wanted to try one. It was expensive — eleven euros a kilo, which is twice as much as I pay for a farm-raised chicken at the supermarket, and also twice the price of a good farm-raised pintade (Guinea hen) sold by our local poultry vendor at both the Friday morning market in Montrichard and the Saturday morning market in Saint-Aignan. Tant pis. Céran prepared the chicken for roasting, trimming it up and trussing it tightly and neatly with butcher's string.

I decided to make a kind of herb pesto to season the p'tit solognot chicken (solognot (m.) and solognote (f.) are the adjectives that describe things and people from the Sologne region, where Chambord and Cheverny chateaus are located). The fresh herb I have the most of this summer is tarragon (estragon), which grows in a pot in the back yard. Other herbs would be just as good. I cut half a dozen good-sized branches of the herb and chopped them up finely using a big knife. Then I put them in just enough olive oil (actually, a blend of inexpensive olive oil and good sunflower oil) to make a pesto-like preparation, which I flavored with salt, black pepper, and hot red pepper flakes.

I didn't want to undo Yves Céran's neat trussing job, so I used a turkey baster to fill the cavity of the chicken with the tarragon pesto. I had enough left over to rub all over the skin of the chicken before I but the bird on the spit for roasting in the oven. One important thing to do is to put a dish of water or white wine under the chicken in the oven so that steam from the liquid will help cook the chicken. Also, tarragon- and chicken-flavored drippings will fall into the pan of liquid. They won't burn, and then you can boil down the liquid after the chicken comes out of the oven to make a nice sauce (un jus).

Anyway, it was good, and we will eat the rest of it for lunch today, with some green beans cooked with lardons. More about that another day.


  1. I almost had poulet de Bresse once, but the restaurant had run out by the time we ordered :( I was visiting a friend who lived in the Lyon area.

    Did you notice a special deliciousness with this yummy poulet?

    (Have you changed the settings to make your banner and pictures a bit larger, or is it my computer?)

  2. Hi Judy, yes, all the pictures are in a larger size now, including the banner. It's a new template that I started using. The Sologne chicken was very good, that's for sure. The meat is firm and tasty, not mushy and bland.

  3. Chicken and Tarragon : miam miam :-)

    I read somewhere that , for roasting and high temp cooking , it's better to mix Olive oil with something else ( I believe that it is Jacques Pépin because he mixes oil with butter) because olive oil burns faster than the mixture..

  4. But was it good enough to warrant the expense?

  5. Beaver, I find the olive oil I get at the supermarket here a little bitter, so I like it better blended half and half with sunflower oil. Works for me.

    Starman, I'm not convinced about the chicken. I think the guinea hens I get for a much lower price are at least as good, if not better.


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