Once we got the butchers’ schedule more or less figured out (the photos of their hours still inhabit my phone, just in case), we informally moved on to the second and more serious job — who has the best roast chicken? Because you always need a side dish add in pommes dauphinoise, just to make things interesting.
We’ve gotten 2 chickens from each of 3 butchers. And from each, just by happenstance, a large one and a small one. All of them are spit roasted and seem to be seasoned in a similar manner, making for a pretty level playing field.
In general, my preference has been for the smaller birds, because they seem to be more tender, and they still have a lot more flavor than the ones we get at home.
The larger ones are all generally “poulet fermier” or farmer raised. When you’re at the butchers who specialize in poultry, the birds are neatly lined up, tied with ribbons, and have serial numbers. These are all well brought up chickens, free range, fed a breakfast of croissants and artisanal baguettes (hey, I’m kidding here, but who knows?). As far as the dark meat goes, the bigger birds don’t do it for me. This happened with some other precious chickens I got at home, so it’s not just a French thing. While it’s great that they’re free to run around and enjoy the great outdoors, it seems that some of these bigger chickens have been on their feet too long and the legs are scrawny and tough like they’ve been training for a marathon. It’s almost enough to make me think about liking white meat. Depending on what day of the week it is, if I had my choice, I’d get my poulet rôti, from Boucherie de France, a small butcher on rue de France. It’s a bit further walk than the runner up, Boucherie Meyerbeer, but they have the best pommes dauphinoise—nice hint of garlic, creamy potatoes but not soupy, just something you could eat and be happy. The closer butcher has very good chickens and he’s the only one who roasts baby potatoes in the chicken drippings, which is never a bad thing.
Then, to put a monkey wrench in all this, on our way to a paella lunch, we passed one of the Arab markets where there was a wall of perfectly bronzed poulets rôti. If we only knew what their hours were…