​​​​​​​​​Sommerlad Chicken

A table bird from the pastures of New England in NSW could be Australia's answer to the French Bresse chicken.

Specifically bred to thrive in outdoor environments and produce quality meat with a unique texture and flavour, these birds truly are a cookery delight.

The Bresse chicken is something of a gastronomic wonder of the world from the North of Lyon in France and until now there has been nothing with a similar taste or texture in Australia.

The most defining feature of these famous birds is their age.  A Bresse chicken is no less than four months matured, roughly 90 days old.  Each chicken is given 10 square metres each to roam, and the result is a seriously sophisticated tasting roast chicken.

The special table bird, raised by the Sommerlad family is roughly 75 days old, compared to the average supermarket equivalent at just 35 days.  As a result, delicate handling is required because the bird has had room and time enough for activity, the meat will be naturally tougher.

I had the pleasure of cooking with this beautiful chicken, and as a cook I have a lot of respect for a product grown in a nurturing environment such as New England.

This beautiful chicken was handed to me cosily wrapped and bulging from its wrapping, much larger than a regular table bird, and much more handsome.

I patted down the chicken to remove excess moisture and there was no need to cut off excess fat as the fat to meat ratio was near perfect.

The bird was cooked on a roasting rack above a small layer of water in a low oven (150 fan forced) for three hours. The longer and slower cooking time is necessary as the meat is naturally tougher from all the activity the bird has sustained.

The result was a tender, melt-in-the mouth feast.  There is no other way to describe the flavour of the meat than, 'chickeny'.  It simply tasted more like chicken than any other chicken I have eaten before. The crisp skin and general fat that remained on the bird has a beautiful flavour and didn't give that fatty around the mouth feel that can sometimes occur with a roast.

This Special Table Bird version of the Bresse chicken is a truly marvellous meal.​

Chicken Couture

By Isabelle O'Brien