A Chicken In Every Pot
Or if not a chicken, a coq, a pintade, a duck, or a pigeon.
That’s your reward if you find your way, as we did today, to La Bruyerette’ s farm kitchen restaurant, hidden in a tiny hamlet deep in the countryside.
All they serve is poultry, and all the poultry they serve is raised right there, within clucking distance of your table. Although one can walk down and visit the birds, I advise doing so after you finish your meal. For one thing, you’ll need the exercise. For another, well, that duck may be somebody’s mother.
Today, for a Sunday lunch, the small place was packed with cheerful diners, and we felt lucky to be there. We loved it before we even tasted a bite, and I said so to our server, telling her that it was our first time there. “Oh, but you’ll be back,” she said. “Just wait until you try the food.” And she was so right. The menu is limited, ever changing, and carefully chosen.
We both started with the salad, thinking it would be the lighter choice, although I was sorely tempted by the endives with Roquefort, one of the best flavor combinations I know of.
One of the things about French life that initially took me by surprise was the fact that when you buy a chicken, or any fowl, you usually don’t get the giblets. The bird is clean as a whistle inside, and now we understand why. The gizzards are a prized ingredient for salad toppings, and in this case we got a heap of livers as well, although they often find their way into paté. The salad could have easily been a meal in itself, and we didn’t want to leave a bite, but seeing the dishes being whisked to tables near us inspired a modicum of caution and a certain amount of leftovers.
Shel’s quenelles, floating in a rich and deeply mushroomy sauce, were a knockout. I restrained myself from diving into his plate, but only with the greatest difficulty, out of a limited sense of propriety and a real fear that he’d stab me with his fork, defending his excellent choice. You used not to be able to get him to touch a mushroom, but he is so over that now, and proved it again today, with gusto.
My capon, in a sauce lightly flavored with hazelnut and truffle, was delicious too, and I especially appreciated the side dishes. I think this is the first time I’ve been served a pile of whole grains in France, and it was funny to think of it as what it very much resembled: chicken feed. The leeks were luscious too, and you can make them at home. Just sliver some leeks, sauté them gently in butter until they’re melting, and add a little splash of cream.
In a last-ditch attempt at lightness, we bypassed the tarte tatin, the moelleux au chocolat, the roll-your-own crèpe buffet, and both chose this frozen nougat, which comes in many incarnations, seemingly all wonderful.
So the next time you’re traipsing through the profondest of la France profonde, in the exact middle of nowhere, and in no particular hurry, if you’ve got a yen for a meal that came straight from the coop to your table, close enough to walk, in fact, even if you have very short legs and webbed feet, try to land yourself a table here. You’ll find a welcome as warm and cozy as a feather bed, you’ll eat a meal that’s perfectly suited to a day in the country, and if quenelles are on the menu, don’t even think about getting anything else.
Except maybe, as I did, you might ask for a little something to cook at home later. Actually, they’ll be keeping my chicken alive and well for me until we get back from our Valentine’s trip to Genoa, but normally you can leave with a fresh bird of your very own. Minus the giblets.