26 December 2012

Stuffing and roasting the Touraine chicken

Even at 30 euros, the géline de Touraine we bought for Christmas dinner was worth the price. The géline really is a high-quality, extraordinary bird. I have to say I've never cooked or even tasted the more famous poulet de Bresse, which is raised in the Bresse province north of Lyon, so I can't make that comparison. The Bresse chicken is reputedly the finest fowl in France. One day I'll get one (but I don't know if you can around here — might have to go there).

The oven-roasted farm-raised géline de Touraine chicken

Meanwhile, I don't know how any other chicken could be better than the géline. What I always try to think about when I splurge on special ingredients for a special meal is how much that meal would cost the two of us if we ordered it in a restaurant. You can't be frugal with ingredients all the time, even if you live on a limited income. Il faut se faire plaisir de temps en temps.

The géline, squash, and stuffing roasting in the oven
Anyway, I'll finish up the story of 2012's Christmas dinner. We made chestnut stuffing for the Touraine chicken, and we actually filled the bird with it for once instead of cooking all the stuffing in a separate pan. I posted the ingredients yesterday, and I just went back and updated that list to reflect what I actually put in the stuffing mixture. It was pretty much what I wrote yesterday, but I added cream to it when I realized the recipe didn't include melted butter and chicken broth for richness and moisture. The cream was a good addition.

The géline came with giblets, so I put the chicken liver in the mixture too. The first step in making the stuffing is to sauté the chopped onion, lardons, garlic, and mushrooms. When they're done (but not overcooked), take the pan off the heat and add the breadcrumbs, spices, and sage leaves. Stir all together and then add the chestnuts, some of which you've left whole and others of which you've roughly chopped.

The stuffing mixture before the cream and eggs went in

Here are the ingredients for the chestnut stuffing in English:
a scant half-pound of diced bacon or ham
10 or 12 small button mushrooms
1 onion finely diced
2 garlic cloves, sliced or crushed
½ cup bread crumbs
two sprigs fresh sage leaves, chopped (or a teaspoon of dried sage)
salt and pepper
1 pinch ground cloves (or allspice)
1 pinch ground nutmeg (or a good grating)
1 raw chicken liver, cut into small pieces
1 jar or tin of peeled chestnuts (one pound)
½ to ¾ cup heavy cream or crème fraîche
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Finally, when the mixture is fairly cool, add the two eggs and the cream (between a half and three-quarters of a cup, just enough to moisten the stuffing). Then you can stuff the chicken. Cook the rest of the stuffing in a loaf pan the way you would cook a pound cake (no need to butter or flour the pan). You could make the same stuffing mixture by substituting cubed bread for the chestnuts.

This hollowed-out winter squash, which we grew in last summer's garden, was spectacular.
We planted seeds we saved from a patidou squash purchased at the supermarket last year.

To prepare the stuffed géline for roasting, I just brushed it all over with olive oil and then salted and peppered it well. I roasted it on a rack in a pan with some liquid (water + white wine) in the bottom. I added more water as the liquid evaporated. Putting half an inch of liquid in the bottom of the pan keeps the chicken juices and fat drippings from burning.

I started the chicken roasting at a fairly low temperature (160ºC / (325ºF). After about 45 minutes, I turned it up to 190ºC / 375ºF. That's the opposite of what I usually do, and it was an experiment that worked. I wanted the chicken (and the stuffing inside) to cook through without over-browning the bird's skin, and I wanted to give the (significant) layer of fat under the skin on the breast and legs time to "render" or melt and "nourish" the meat

Carving the géline de Touraine
The total cooking time for the bird (4 lbs.) was about 90 minutes. I had planned to turn the heat up even higher to brown the chicken at the end, but I didn't need to. I basted the bird with the pan juices several times during the cooking. When the chicken was done, I turned off the oven and set the door ajar to let the bird rest for another 20 to 30 minutes.

The loaf pan of stuffing cooked in about 40 minutes' time in the oven with the chicken. We also roasted a winter squash in the oven during that same time, and we made some green beans to complete the meal. I didn't make gravy but just served some of the chicken drippings from the roasting pan with the beans, chicken, stuffing, and mashed squash. It was pretty simple (the most complicated part being the stuffing) and simply delicious.


  1. I can smell that chicken over the internet.... the 'experimental' squash looks like a very attractive, well fleshed, variety of Acorn squash... you never know what you are going to get when you save seed. Was the flavour like a patty-pan or an acorn squash or neither?

  2. Yummy!

    They had a Poulet de Bresse all neatly boxed & certified on sale in the SuperU of Loches. Priced at an eye-watering €65.00 give or take the odd centime!!

  3. OMG, Antoinette. I don't think I would have been a taker. Could such a Bresse chicken be more than twice as good as a géline?

    Tim, it was definitely an acorn-type squash. We planted several seeds from the variegated patidou squash. One plant produced green, acorn-looking squashes. The other produced orange squashes as in my pictures above. Walt says these squashes are better than acorn squashes he used to get in New York State — more chestnutty, less watery.

  4. This has been a very enjoyable series of posts about the geline and I'm glad it was so outstandingly delicious.

    Personally, there's nothing I'd rather splurge on than good food. (And air fare to France!)

  5. You get what you pay for and I am glad you splurged on the geline. That meal must have been delicious and hopefully you have leftovers. Looking forward to the poule de Bresse photos in 2013.

  6. Such a feast! What a success....Alas, I don't think I will find such a chicken in northeast Ohio, though I could be wrong. There are more and more interesting things being raised here.

  7. Great! Isn't it satisfying to make a spectacular, jet seemingly simple, meal? Especially with a loved one, and for a special holiday? Great!

  8. Your chicken looks wonderful. We also have chicken instead of the traditional turkey at Christmas. Partly because my father claims he doesn't like turkey (which may arise from a single experience of one that was badly cooked and dry) but also because it's difficult to get one small enough for us.

  9. Your chicken looks wonderful. Gives me an idea for the next big occasion.
    We had roast pork (à la cubaine), with black beans and rice, except our beans were red, not black. It's a recipe my mother cut out of the New York Times many years ago, and I copied it out, as we did in the old days, on an index card. I have since recopied it to my recipe wiki, but just before deciding to comment, I went to the NYT site and found it: http://www.nytimes.com/1999/12/22/dining/in-miami-christmas-eve-means-roast-pig.html.
    Everyone enjoyed it and ate every last bit.
    Today, we had osso bucco that I had made a couple of weeks ago and had stuck in the freezer, just in case we needed another big meal for 9, and we did!
    Now, the house is down to just us, and one child + partner, so it's quieter. I'm thinking we don't need a meal this evening!

  10. Ellen, thanks for that recipe. I plan to cook pork (un jarret) tomorrow. I am trying to decide how. We bought rutabagas, topinambours, carrots, and parsnips today, so those are a factor...

    Hi Jean, turkey can be so good one time and so disappointing the next. Which means I can't give up on it, myself. We went looking for one at a good price today, driving (hard and fast, in low gears) all the way over to Vierzon (60 km each way), but we struck out. Thanks, Grand Frais, for advertising that you don't honor!

  11. wow that looks terrific! i'm really enjoying hearing about the different chicken breeds that you have there...and you know if they sold poultry with the heads and feet still on here at the local Kroger everyone would burst right into flames. ha! we had a chicken with grey-green legs -not quite blue. she was the worst hen in the history of the world. but hey, maybe she could have been sold at her french cousin's price...instead of on Craiglist listed as "free to a bad home."

  12. When you are numerous enough (correct, Professor Ken, lol ???), cooking "un Poulet de Bresse" is worth it, its meat is delicious... I used to insert little bits of "truffe"/truffle below its skin before roasting it and put other bits inside the "farce"/stuffing... I would then buy "des pelures de truffe" and not a whole truffle which is so expensive...

    But I have never bought turkeys, "Poulets de Bresse" or even chicken at supermarkets, I always ordered them from my butcher... Maybe I'm too prudent...


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