Paris: Thanksgiving Dinner

January 2nd, 2009

This year, Tammi and I broke our long held tradition of not celebrating Thanksgiving. As usual, we were far from home in a country that doesn’t celebrate this very American holiday of mass consumption. But this year more than others, we had much to be thankful for. So, I took advantage of the local ingredients and cooked up dinner in our little kitchen in the apartment.
What you see above is the finished product, a roasted Poulet de Bresse, the famous French Blue-footed chicken.
A month or so before the wedding Eric first mentioned this breed of chicken to me and shortly afterward, I read Jacques Pepin’s description of the bird in his memoir, “The Apprentice,” so I was excited to find it so readily available, if highly priced at the outdoor markets we visited in Paris.
When I bought it, the seller asked something I didn’t understand. Figuring he knew what he was doing, I answered, “Oui.” He chopped off the feet and the head, but then appeared to be ready to cut the bird up. I stopped him in time and had the bird intact to roast whole. But it wasn’t until I started to prep it that I realized that the bird hadn’t been gutted. Unlike every other chicken I had ever cooked, the internal organs did not come in a paper bag stuffed in the cavity.
After the jump, the gory details (with pictures!)…

When we got home, I got a closer look at the chicken and found this AOC tag attached to the neck. I took the neck, as well as the head and feet, below, and left over herbs and got a stock started. Tammi thought it was ridiculous, but it came in handy for the other meal I made (more on that later.
I tried to reach into the cavity for more meat to throw into my stock when I discovered that the cavity was still full. I had no idea what to do. Even in my own butchery geekiness, I’ve never considered evisceration, even though it’s clearly a necessary part of prepping an animal.
In the end, I cheated. With no idea where to even begin, I just butterflied (Spatchcocked!) the bird. Removing the backbone gave me pretty easy access to the guts in order to remove them.
Colors tell a lot about which parts you want to keep and which you don’t, so I scraped out and tossed all the dark green and black bits and kept the rest. I stuffed the fat deposits under the breast and threw everything else in the stock. That included the stomach which was still full of seeds and grain. I never felt so close to the food I’ve cooked before. It was an amazing experience. And a pretty damned good meal, if I do say so myself.

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