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Oct 30, 2010 06:59 AM

Best market bought chicken in Paris - still Bresse?

I'm returning to Paris after a few days in Normandy (mainly Rouen) and will be renting an apartment for a week where I plan to do a fair amount of cooking. On my "bucket list" is a great chicken dish with fresh Cepes. Poulet de Bresse has always been the touchstone in N. America for the best chicken in France but is it still (or is it more a high quality marketing phenomenon)?

I plan to bring a couple of staples back from the Sunday market here in Rouen. Cheese, maybe butter and some nice Cepes if they have them tomorrow. The local farm raised chickens look great but would they be worth hauling on the train over any other variety I can find in a Paris market or boucherie?


(I'll also do a review of some of the local restaurants I tried while here in Rouen.)

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  1. This is the Chowhound France board's bible on cooking chicken:

    The bible author above also converted me to poulet de Barbezieux. We have looked high and low for one in Paris. No dice. Besides Barbezieux, which is near Cognac, the nearest place that supplies it is in Ferme de la Ruchotte near Beaune.

    Do I dare to eat a peach and tweak the bible?
    I did find that brushing my vinaigrette dressing (mustard vinegar soysauce garlic) on the chicken skin makes the skin even more crisp and tastier.

    Cèpes, hmm... Have you considered getting a canard sauvage? It is excellent and is so in season that it has blanketed all the markets and is very inexpensive. It is much less fat and much tastier than regular duck. But since it is real game hunted by French hunters, you do have to watch out for pellets deep in the meat. No kidding.

    Last night, over dinner chez Q-Tea with John T and his mystery hot date, justement we talked about the above chicken commandments and my husband just about had the whole thing memorized.
    This is how he summarized the recipe to JT:
    "10 steps to cooking a great chicken:
    Step 1: get a good chicen.
    Step 2: get a good chicen.
    Step 3: get a good chicen.
    Step 4: get a good chicen.
    Step 5: get a good chicen.
    Step 6: get a good chicen.
    Step 7 : stuff it.

    If you have a sure source from a good local farm, o yes by all means bring it to Paris.

    When De Gaulle nearly got offed in the assassination attempt in Clamart outside Paris and the driver somehow floored the car with all tyres shot and got them to safety, the first thing Madame de Gaulle said when she climbed out of the bullet-ridden car was: I hope the chicken [in the coffre destined for lunch next day with Pompidou] is ok."

    4 Replies
    1. re: Parigi

      Thanks Parigi. Nice reply! I suspect that compared to the majority of chickens (and even many of the specialty birds available at home) that it's more a question of degree in the quality beween regions than night and day.

      I've got nothing against a good duck although not sure I would do it with Cepes unless there was a more acidic element in the sauce.
      Funny, I have not seen many ducks here in the Rouen markets especially as they are famous for them (or is it just the dish?).

      1. re: eatrustic

        There was a great thread on Rouen duck. Let me try to find it:

        Ptipois who hails from Rouen wrote:
        "You need to get out of Rouen to taste the original recipe. Drive a few miles West along the Seine to Duclair and the Restaurant Le Parc. The canard au sang recipe originated right there (not precisely at Le Parc but at L'Hôtel de la Poste which I think is no longer there). I think some local caterers have it too."
        Lastly allow me to reassure you that canard sauvage is extremely lean and does not need an acid-y balance. In fact it tastes like a different not animal, sort of neither fowl nor fowl.

        These days lots of game are afoot, as JT would say. Great prices too. How can you see those palombes and partridges in the market and not break down?

        1. re: Parigi

          No chance for any out of town Canard dinners. I had seen that thread a while back (there's also the hotel near the Gare but not my cuppa this time round) . Tonight I'm off to a winebar I had a good meal at the other day for my last Rouen dinner.

          I'm up for cooking any game, in fact I just scored a sweet little old cleaver at the flea market today for 3 euros!
          And I stand corrected, there were Col Verts for sale along with the chickens.

          1. re: eatrustic

            "And I stand corrected, there were Col Verts for sale along with the chickens."

            These must have been "croisés de Rouen". Excellent little ducks. Roast briefly in very high oven, they should be eaten very rare.

    2. Head to a good chook shop and ask advice, Bresse is justly famous but also only one of many excellent varieties and styles. I like "La Poul" a small poultry shop on rue Marche St Honore in the 1eme.

      Much depends on getting the best bird for the style of cooking you intend to do - as you will know Bresse doesn't roast at all well it needs poaching.

      5 Replies
      1. re: PhilD

        "Much depends on getting the best bird for the style of cooking you intend to do"

        Excellent but often overlooked advice. Could be expanded to read "Much depends on getting the best xxxx for the style of cooking you intend to do".

        1. re: mangeur

          "Much depends on getting the best bird for the style of cooking you intend to do"

          Understood, I don't plan on a crispy skinned roasted bird for this and I was given a recommendation tonight at dinner. The owner highly recommends his supplier who will be selling their farm raised birds at the St Marc market Sunday. I'll start with one of those, get their take on the best way to cook them and see what I can come up with.

        2. re: PhilD

          Excellent point about Bresse chicken, I have had it a number of times and it was never roasted. I think souphie also made that point a while back.

          1. re: Oakglen

            One of my former associates told me I am wrong; he says Paul Bocuse offers a spit-roasted Bresse chicken (for two) for 140 Euros. And I thought his Truffle Soup V.G.E. was excessive at 80 Euros.

            1. re: Oakglen

              The problem with his Bresse chicken being precisely, that it's not good (and God knows I love Bocuse!)

        3. Bresse is by reputation one of the top chickens. In real life it is only as good as the breeder will let it be, and I've had more excellent poulardes de Bresse than poulets de Bresse.

          I tend to stay away from Bresse chicken to the advantage of plumper, tastier yellow chickens from the West or Southwest of France: poulet jaune from Landes, Janzé, or even Challans (poulet nantais). They taste sweeter and their flesh is tender yet firm.
          I am suspicious of some of those lean, bony chickens that are very much in style in haute cuisine, I think they are just not good roasted. Like poulet de Houdan or du Patis. These chickens are, IMO, meant to be braised in a sauce or stuffed for poule au pot.

          Which is to say that I however much I love the exceptional top-quality farm chicken that you'll come across if you're lucky or have the right friends, I think you'll be perfectly happy with a market-bought, even supermarket-bought chicken of good quality. After all, as I've grown to believe, half of the taste of the chicken comes from the way you prepare it.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Ptipois

            "am suspicious of some of those lean, bony chickens that are very much in style in haute cuisine, I think they are just not good roasted."

            Note from San Francisco: We just "enjoyed" one of these uber-well bred chickens. While I've not had good results roasting this type of chicken in the past, I somehow keep trying to find holes in my sourcing and/or cooking. I hang my head while admitting that I get much better results roasting the much cheaper and fatter supermarket birds. This really bothers me, but so does serving a scrawny sparrow.

          2. Oh I missed the part about the Rouen market. By all means get some of the farm-raised chickens on the Clos Saint-Marc. Some of the best chicken you'll ever have. Especially braised in a cocotte with fresh cèpes. Try wetting the dish with a drop of cider and don't spare the shallots.

            And since you're there, bailleul apples should be in season. They're huge, bright green, irregular-shaped apples with shiny skin. They are very dense and heavy (to the point of inspiring a Rouen saying "you only need one bailleul to knock someone down") and are delicious eaten raw. They are also excellent cooked and make the best tarts. But I prefer them roasted in an oven pan with the chicken (30 minutes before the end), then the whole thing doused with calvados and flambéed just out of the oven. Then serve with some of that thick, yellow raw-milk cream you also got from the Clos market.

            8 Replies
            1. re: Ptipois

              "But I prefer them roasted in an oven pan with the chicken (30 minutes before the end), then the whole thing doused with calvados and flambéed just out of the oven. Then serve with some of that thick, yellow raw-milk cream you also got from the Clos market." - sounds like absolute heaven.

              1. re: PhilD

                And it is, too! I usually do it with wild pheasant, but guinea-fowl or a good chicken do the job too.

                1. re: Ptipois

                  Pheasant is everywhere. Now I've gotta gotta gotta make it your way.

                  1. re: Parigi

                    Incidentallty I discovered (having at least received my rare out-of-print copy of "Gastronomie normande") that it is really the recipe called "vallée d'Auge" in its simplest form. I had always thought it was more complicated than that.

              2. re: Ptipois

                Good! I was wondering why there was such faint praise for your own. Now I'm off to the market. Thanks for all the tips.

                1. re: eatrustic

                  What a great market on the Sunday! Way more than the Saturday one which I thought was it for the week at Clos St Marc.

                  I got everything! Had to look a bit for the Baleuils but found them just as I was giving up. A nice chicken from the Villain family, creme from the farm, a few eggs and some nice cepes for 25 euros/kilo. Great bread selection as well from two bakeries.

                  If/when I return I will have to rent a place so that I can cook or at the very least be able to store the perishables to bring back.

                  Now for the fun part, hauling all that plus 5 bottles of Calvados and Pommeau on the train....and then the metro....

                  1. re: eatrustic

                    Am considering going to Gare St Lazare to mug you...

                    1. re: eatrustic

                      That's right, I hadn't mentioned the bread. Both bakeries on the Rouen market are exceptional.
                      Bailleuls have an extraordinary flavor. They're my favorite apples. When you have an opportunity to cook nearby, the Dieppois fishmongers are good too. Also do not miss the rabbit guy who sells pâté de lapin, terrine de lapin and homemade cider. And the watercress guy. And the neuchâtel cheese. And the flea market.

                2. Bresse is not necessarily the best chicken, but it can be a pretty good one, especially if poached. For the record, my Auchan in Villejuif has them at 10€/kg, and they sell them half price when the expiry date is near. I like to poach the breast and roast the thighs. Awesome.

                  36 Replies
                  1. re: souphie

                    Ooh. Bonus. (makes mental note to haunt the aisles in the Auchan for Bresse chicken, too) Don't worry, I don't live anywhere near Villejuif, so there won't be any cage matches in the meat department for poulet en soldes.

                    what do you hold as the best chicken, Souphie?

                    1. re: sunshine842

                      << Auchan in Villejuif >> Based on recent experience there, we can say, what a place! "Hyper," in the extreme. (Including whole swordfish on ice in the fish dept). By this I mean to say: I suspect that Souphie's Auchen is not a normal one -- it does not compare to others we've seen.

                      1. re: Jake Dear

                        Oh, of course, well, then I'll just resign myself to picking over the industrial chickens that my poor underdeveloped Auchan musters if the truck comes in.

                        (really, now)

                        1. re: Jake Dear

                          This the newest Auchan around Paris. It's on the metro, line 7. But Paris is surrounded by hypers that are comparable. The Carrefour at porte de Bercy for instance often has dirt cheap excellent whole raw foie gras and wonderful milk-fed lamb. There is also one at porte De Bagnolet that is pretty gigantic. Of course, the further you go from the city of Paris, the larger the hypers. And Western Paris is too expensive for them -- the Carrefour in porte d'Auteuil is a sad sad thing.

                          1. re: souphie

                            please give us a break... supermarket ??? is it the only way of shopping ?

                            1. re: philgont

                              "is it the only way of shopping ?"

                              Where on this thread did you get the idea it is the o.n.l.y way of shopping?

                              1. re: philgont

                                Dude, get me good fat Bresse chicken at 12€ a kilo, and I'll go somewhere else.

                                1. re: souphie

                                  No joke. Bresse chicken at that price is worth making a special trip from the provinces. And if it's labeled as Bresse chicken, it's just as much the real thing as if you bought it at a small market.

                                  1. re: souphie

                                    I agree with Souphie on that one. Not the only way but certainly one of the best ways. You can get incredible stuff in some supermarkets. The larger the better; the more suburban the better; stay away from low-cost/low-quality chains like Leader Price and to some extent Franprix and you're fine, but to complicate the matter there is great stuff to be found at some G20s.
                                    And you're spared the various inconveniences of shopping at trendy shops, star butchers or beaux quartiers markets: inflated prices, attitude, namedropping, etc.

                                    1. re: Ptipois

                                      So true. The massive Geant in Annemasse near Geneva had Jort and Moulin de Carel camembert among other top shelf cheeses all the time.

                                      1. re: Ptipois

                                        I live between two very mediocre Monoprixs, but close to a great Franprix. It's all about the management, selon moi.

                                        1. re: vielleanglaise

                                          I am not referring to fresh products this time but to the variety and quality of packaged/canned/boxed products. I think Franprix is not among the top chains in that respect. Generic Franprix (Leader Price) is really hit and miss. Generic Monoprix and Monoprix Gourmet are quite good. On the other hand, Franprix seems to have better wines.

                                          1. re: Ptipois

                                            As an out and out bobo I of course only buy a minmial amount of things in supermarkets, but in this neck of the woods there are two Franprix, one of which is lousy, but the other one is far better than the two Monoprix for the things I buy in these places, accept one item.... nappies. There are also 3 ED's, one of which, on the rue de Paradis is far superior to the other two, which is why I think it's to do with who's running the places.

                                            There are some brilliant Monoprixs. The one in Montreuil is good, and the one at Nation, which was a 'pilot' quality shop come to mind.

                                            BTW, quite agree about your comments on Halal butchers, I think, in this thread.

                                            1. re: vielleanglaise

                                              I haven't ventured very far into the Strasbourg-Saint-Denis Monoprix, but I suppose this is one of the two you're referring to. I have found incredible beef there once.

                                              It sometimes happens that a Franprix replaces a former supermarket brand on the same spot and in that case, they keep the store management and employees, and things are done more or less like they were before. That may account for the differences between two Franprix. The one near my home, on rue Monge, is convenient but has lousy produce. Nearby there's one on rue Mouffetard which, though smaller, has much better stuff, including Spanish imports that are not found at the other one.

                                              ED is rather mysterious, as G20 is, regarding dissimilarities. Each store seems to have a rather large amount of autonomy.

                                              My favorite Monoprix are Beaugrenelle and Saint-Augustin. I also like the one facing the Salpêtrière (Bd de l'Hôpital-Saint-Marcel) which has uncommonly good vegetables for a Monoprix.

                                  2. re: souphie

                                    hmm... looked on Auchan's website and couldn't find one in villejuif, tells me the closest to southeast of Paris is Bagnolet

                                    1. re: kerosundae

                                      that's cause there's not really one there. We just said there was so we get to keep all the poulets for ourself.


                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                        wow! and Soup must know someone at auchan's webmanagement so that you can't find that particular location by doing a zipcode search, only if you know it and click on the drop-down menu! sneaky bunch!
                                        anyway, thank you everyone! it's only 1 km from me, wahoo!!

                                        1. re: kerosundae

                                          you should know by now not to ever count on the web management of any company in France to post current (or even correct) information.

                                      2. re: kerosundae

                                        It is in Le Kremlin-Bicêtre but yes, Souphie located it in Villejuif so he could keep it to himself.

                                        1. re: Ptipois

                                          Pti is correct, it is in Le Kremlin Bicetre. But mostly, it's 500m away from Porte d'Italie, on the N7 road:

                                        2. re: kerosundae

                                          Supermarkets over a certain size are banned from central Paris.

                                    2. re: sunshine842

                                      My favourite chicken is probably Géline de Touraine. But again, nothing beats good Bresse for poaching (and there are of course different qualities of Bresse -- as Pti says, poularde are often a safer bet). There are some pretty good organic chicken at Naturalia called "Le picoreur". As Parigi mentions, good Barbezieux is wonderful and very gelatinous, which gives you an indication of what it's good for. Le Mans is very close to Bresse, not geographically but in taste -- it is less "white" and bland, wonderful for traditional preps like poulet à la crême. Gauloise blanche, on the contrary, is even whiter and purer (at the menu those days at le Cinq!). Coucou de Rennes, strangely, is better roasted but cold.

                                      That is all assuming a good breeder, as Pti says -- if you are by Beaune, you must check out La Ferme de la Ruchotte.

                                      1. re: souphie

                                        Finally it all depends on what you wish to do with your chicken.

                                        This is an attempt at a classification which may serve as a (modifiable) basis for French chickens. I expect Souphie to alter it and improve it as he wishes.

                                        Poaching (no stuffing): Bresse (including poularde and chapon) and gauloise blanche, Houdan and other scrawny country fowls, Norman (long-bone) market chicken, black-skinned chicken (nègre-soie, this one particularly for simmering in stock with spices and herbs).

                                        Poule au pot (whole, stuffed): all of the above except the black-skinned, special emphasis on the Houdan and the géline de Touraine, poulet du Patis, poularde de Bresse, any good-quality hen (poule).

                                        Simmering in a sauce (poulet chasseur, poulet basquaise, poulet au blanc, coq au riesling, etc.): all chickens are good with emphasis on the tougher ones: Patis, Houdan, Norman and other farm-raised chickens. Yellow Landes recommended for Southwestern dishes. Bresse (not poularde, just chicken, long-boned) recommended for coq au riesling and all creamed dishes. Coq au vin: any farm-raised bird but, also, high-quality supermarket stuff like Poulet blanc d'Auvergne (bought already jointed), and large specimens (I mean large legs and thighs) of ready-cut Landes, Challans or Janzé. If you find rooster (cut-up) on markets or even in supermarkets, go for it for coq au vin, any style (this includes coq au riesling).

                                        Roasting (whole - I am not an advocate of cutting up the chicken before or during oven-roasting, for this becomes jointed roasted chicken which is a different thing): Landes yellow, and grass-fed and corn-fed chicken from the Southwest, is my all-time favorite. Country breeds like the Barbezieux evoked by Souphie above. Bresse when you can get a good one. Poulet de Janzé and to a lesser extent poulet de Challans. Norman farm-raised or any farm-raised bought on markets, but these have to be stuffed. Landes does not necessarily have to, being more tender. Coucou de Rennes and Coucou de Malines. Poulet blanc d'Auvergne. Some pattes-noires (black-legged), properly raised, are good. Norman farm chicken or any sturdy farm-raised bird can be a base for the excellent roast chicken dish "farc normand".

                                        Grilling/broiling (after marinating), or broiled-stewed chicken dishes like yassa: smaller specimens of Landes yellow, Janzé or Challans. White Auvergne. With plenty of marinating the scrawny Houdans, gauloise blanche and Patis may be tried this way and slow-broiled on a barbecue, for they'd reproduce the conditions of African poulet-bicyclette. Bring your teeth.

                                        AVOID : anything else in plastic wrap with a brand name (not an origin). At the very least look for the Label Rouge. However, avoid the generic Leader Price chicken in spite of its Label Rouge. Be a little suspicious of whole chicken sold in "magasins bio" (Naturalia, etc.) or chicken labeled as "Bio", for a few of us have found them to be lacking in taste and texture. Some, as Souphie wrote above, are good, keep track of them. Avoid Loué. That's about it.

                                        You'll understand from all I've written above that, in the current state of things and with little access to farms and country markets, I hold yellow Landes chicken above everything else.

                                        ADDENDUM for chicken tajine or couscous, remember that good halal butchers in France are used to the situation and have specially-raised "poulets fermiers" which don't look like much but lend themselves beautifully to those preparations which require firm, lean and tasty chicken. Don't look for their average-quality chickens but head for their "poulets fermiers".

                                        1. re: Ptipois

                                          This msg verbatim goes into my archive. Merci.

                                          1. re: Parigi

                                            Whoops, forgot to add this:

                                            For Chinese-style steamed chicken with onion-ginger sauce, Hainan chicken or crystal-boiled chicken: nothing beats yellow Landes chickens. For crystal boiling, the fattier the better.
                                            For grilling on a plancha, it's yellow Landes chicken again.
                                            Yellow Janzé and Challans also do the job. All these chickens have a sweetish taste which reacts perfectly to these types of cooking.

                                          2. re: Ptipois

                                            I had a delicious roasted coucou de Rennes at Daniel Rose's Table 28, when it existed.

                                            1. re: Ptipois

                                              Any particular halal butchers you like? There are quite a few in the marché d'Aligre where I often shop, but I have no clue which among them are reliable.

                                              I am making a chicken tagine this weekend, which is why your post-addendum is particularly of interest.

                                              1. re: RandyB

                                                For chicken tajine you don't really need to go to a halal butcher, good Landes or Bresse chicken from a supermarket or a market will do, but the halal vendors have the advantage of selling perfectly adapted fowls.

                                                They often have two grades: ordinary halal chicken (white) and farm-raised chickens. Go for the latter.
                                                In Paris I have never found a halal butcher I didn't like, my regular one (Mr. Limouri) is just down my building on rue Larrey (5e), near the Grande Mosquée de Paris, where he caters to the neighbors but also to the faithful who come from far away on Fridays and holidays. He also carries great olive oils including some from his farm in Morocco, argan oil directly from the producer, incredible saffron and various other interesting things.
                                                There is another good one on rue du Faubourg-du-Temple between République and avenue Parmentier, right-hand sidewalk as you go up, and many more on rue du Faubourg-Saint-Denis between the porte Saint-Denis and gare de l'Est, also selling Turkish groceries, dairy products and spices. There is one on avenue d'Italie (near the Maison Blanche métro), a few great ones on rue de la Roquette on the way to Voltaire, etc., etc. Not to mention Belleville.

                                                One that is very highly praised by some journalist friends of mine (they even wrote several pages about it in their last book about food in Paris) is the Boucherie Musulmane Zohra, 110 rue d'Avron, 20th. Métro Maraîchers. This is where the Hotel Ritz orders the merguez for royal families from the Gulf, if that is saying something.

                                                1. re: Ptipois

                                                  I am just two métro stops from pl. Monge, near M. Limouri. I called to make sure of his hours but it did not occur to me that he might not have any poulets fermiers. When I got there this afternoon, he did not. He said he had only gotten a few, and would not have had any even if I came much earlier. Next time I'll ask.

                                                  Thanks for the other suggestions. I'm sure I won't have any problem finding the chooks tomorrow morning.

                                                  1. re: RandyB

                                                    Oh I should have warned you. Friday afternoon is the time not to go there. He gets raided on Friday mornings. Sometimes there's just nothing left in the shop except a few dates. If you do not find his poulets fermiers, the Landes chickens found at the nearby Carrefour Market will do just fine for a tajine.

                                                    1. re: Ptipois

                                                      Home Saturday noon from the March d'Aligre, where I always buy too much because it's so cheap. I checked out the butchers and chose El Fath, the next to the last one at the south end of the street. Poulets fermiers d'Orléans halal at 4,60€/kilo. The butcher was great, and of course offered to cut my chicken into pieces for tagine. He also advised me that if I wanted to include chick peas in my recipe, I should not include dried prunes. One or the other, not both, he said.

                                                      Poulets de Landes nearby were twice the price.

                                                      1. re: RandyB

                                                        Did he say why, Randy? Now I'm curious.

                                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                                          Nope, but he was pretty definite about it. The Frenchman who was watching just laughed at the interchange.

                                                          I assumed it was a culinary, rather than religious, comment. I did not tell him I planned to serve the tagine with polenta. I probably would have been in real trouble if I had.

                                                          1. re: RandyB

                                                            That's one thing you see here that you only rarely see in other places -- the vendors actively do their best to make sure you're cooking their product according to their rules. (I like it - they're proud of their product, and want it to be at its best.)

                                                            Most of the time it's really good advice...once in a while, it just makes you chuckle.

                                                            1. re: RandyB

                                                              Did you really believe it could be religious? As long as there's no pig involved it was 100% culinary. There's no haram label on chickpeas and prunes. I can understand why prunes and chickpeas would not go well together though I've never tried.

                                                              Halal butchers give cooking advice all the time, but so do traditional French butchers when you can still find some so that's probably a butcher thing. Also the fact that Maghrebis are culinary crazies, men no less than women (an interesting sociological feature), and they can spend days showing you recipes or describing them to you. Cooking a feast from morning till evening is not uncommon there and they spend ample time explaining each step and why you should do it this or that way. Yesterday as I was buying some chicken legs at my local halal butcher he threw in a bunch of flatleaf parsley instead of the usual coriander leaves. Before I had time to comment he added: "Because this is what you should be using with chicken."

                                                              1. re: Ptipois

                                                                "Did you really believe it could be religious? As long as there's no pig involved it was 100% culinary. "

                                                                No, I actually said I assumed it was not religious. But there are many rules one might not know. Like If it had been a kosher butcher and I mentioned a bechamel sauce, the butcher would have been horrified - -- for religious reasons.