Friday, March 7, 2008

La Bresse and other French chickens

A caller stumped me yesterday asking about La Bresse chickens. He'd seen them written up in culinary magazines as the Best Chickens. I called around and asked my experts, but only one had heard of them. He thought someone in California had some a few years ago. Barry Koffler's lists them as not having yet been brought to the U.S.

Their blue legs and adoring press, such as and, certainly give them cachet. The difficulty of importing birds or even hatching eggs from Europe at this time makes it advisable to find a breed already here. There are many historic breeds in need of conservation.

The Marans, for instance, here pictured in the cuckoo color pattern in a photo by Corallina Breuer. It's a French breed, and although it doesn't have blue legs, it does lay chocolate brown eggs. The North American Marans Club attributes its development to crossing of the local chickens with the fighting chickens sailors brought with them on ships that visited this port. The local birds gave the breed its hardiness in damp, marshy climates.

Although not yet recognized by the American Poultry Association, a clean-legged variety is recognized in England. The French version has feathered legs. You may see both kinds in the U.S. The American Marans Club., was established in 2005.

The North American Marans Club compiled a cookbook, which is available through this site. It features recipes from celebrities such as Martha Stewart, who favors the breed,, members of the British Marans Club and myself.

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