Today in Tokyo, living a TRAVELIFE and almost heading back to Manila, I was asked to stay an extra day and make dinner for a group of people I can't say no to. Someone was celebrating something, you see.
So I asked: "What do you want me to make?"
Someone said: "Can you roast a Bresse chicken for dinner?"
ROASTING VS. EATING
A Bresse chicken? I can eat Bresse chicken -- in fact, I love Bresse chicken -- but I've only cooked it once in my life; and I can tell you that eating it is way more fun than trying to roast it.
That one time I laid a hand on a Bresse chicken was in my favorite seaside town, Deauville in France, when I found a store that had only one Bresse chicken on its rack.
Deauville, by the way, recently became famous as the setting for the movie on Coco Chanel's life, as her very first boutique was in Deauville.
A FAVORITE OF PARISIANS
But long before this, it's been a great favorite for weekends of Parisians, because of its horse racing, its lovely Belle Epoque hotels, and fantastic beach promenade -- perhaps the widest facing that part of the Atlantic.
Deauville's famous promenade
Personally, I like it because the town is quaint and yet chic, and it has a great food market open daily with some of the best produce I've ever tasted.
SIMPLE AND SIMPLY DELICIOUS
I used to buy moules by the buckets here, and one bucket cost five euros standard, and three euros if you were lucky. Then I'd cook these for dinner by simply chopping a bushel of garlic and some onions, placing the moules with it into a very large pan, and throwing in chopped tomatoes and herbs.
After getting these to simmer for a bit, I would empty half a bottle of very good local white wine into it and let everything evaporate.
We used to eat these for dinner with very cold white wine or champagne, and then mop up the sauce with pieces of baguette from the local baker.
I haven't been back to Deauville in ages, and now writing this blog entry has made me want to visit again. Normandy is so full of hidden jewels.
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SERENDIPITY WITH A CHICKEN
But back to my Bresse chicken story and how I found a chicken in a local food store in Deauville. This store ordinarily didn't carry Bresse chicken, but a regular customer had asked to order it and suddenly had canceled. So there it was sitting on a chiller rack unloved, so I snapped it up and did a simple pan-fry with truffle oil and herbs. It was delicious.
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I remember asking the store owner then, as I paid for my chicken: "What would you have done if I hadn't bought it?" It was chilled, and we both knew that freezing it would have changed it forever.
He gave that characteristic French shrug that the men over there like to do to express anything, and said: "I probably would have cooked it for dinner tonight."
THE BEST BRESSE CHICKEN
IN MY BOOKS
I can also eat Bresse chicken, and with great delight. In fact, I'll probably choose this as a main if I see it on the menu somewhere in the world, just because it's so hard to get Bresse chicken outside of France.
The best Bresse chicken I've had in Japan so far has been at Les Saisons at the Imperial Hotel, years ago, way before all these famous French chefs started opening up restaurants in Tokyo.
For years, Les Saisons was considered the best French restaurant in town, and once, just when I happened to be having dinner there, they'd just brought in a young new French chef with culinary pedigree. He had put Bresse chicken on his introductory dinner menu.
In Paris, the most delicious Bresse chicken in memory is from Pierre Gagnaire. I can't ever forget his deliciously moist Bresse chicken.
WHAT'S SO GREAT ABOUT IT
Bresse chicken, by the way, are the blue bloods of chickens. You can't fake a Bresse chicken by just plastering a Bresse label on it, by the way, as it has a very distinctive look. And taste. Once you've had Bresse chicken, there will never be any other chicken for you.
So, I agreed to roast a Bresse chicken for dinner.
THE REAL PROBLEM
The next problem was where to get it. In most countries, this is basically impossible as so few Bresse chickens are actually exported out of France.
But in Tokyo, anything is possible, and there's actually an online shop that can deliver to your doorstep A-N-Y-T-H-I-N-G in the world. For a price, of course. But just the fact that they have all the good food in the world at your beck and call is a great idea.
So I ordered my Bresse chicken from here, and it's arriving in two days.
THE COMPLICATED WAY
The harder part is deciding on which way to cook the Bresse chicken. I'm thinking of a complicated method that involves overnight brining and drying, and then dunking the chicken alternately in boiling water and ice water, before roasting.
And just in case you're interested in what they have at this online shop today, here's a rundown of some items I saw:
Caviar from Kazakhstan
Grouse from England
Lobster from Brittany
Butter from Normandy
It'll be a bit of a challenge to do justice to that Bresse chicken, but then challenges are what we usually have for breakfast everyday anyway at Travelife Magazine. So, if you really think about it, it's just another a day in my never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.
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