French Flavours: Poule Farcie, a Classic French Dish

Poule

This one’s not for stuffing

The ubiquitous roadside posters advertising French fêtes and other social events very often have “poule farcie” emblazoned across the centre. This dish has a number of advantages for large gatherings. It can feed a lot of people and much of it can be done in advance. Chicken is no longer the luxury item it once was, although a Bresse chicken might set you back a bit. And it has the virtue of providing the starter as well as the main course.

Royal mandate

King Henri IV of France is alleged to have said that he wanted every peasant in the land to have a chicken in the pot on Sundays. The statement was meant to symbolise greater stability and economic progress after years of the ruinous Wars of Religion. In reality, most peasants subsisted on much poorer fare than that. In fact, he was probably referring to laboureurs, people who ploughed with their own teams of oxen, who were better off than the majority of paysans.

 

Henry_IV_et_la_poule_au_pot

Henri IV extolling the virtues of poule au pot Wikimedia Commons

Henri IV was born in 1553 in Pau, in the southwestern former principality of Béarn. The poule au pot with which he was familiar may have been a chicken stuffed with vegetables and minced beef and simmered. It has now morphed into a classic dish, poule farcie or poule au pot farcie. Every region has its own version, but the Béarn naturally claims the dish for its own. And “good King Henri” (reigned 1589-1610), as he is remembered, is forever associated with it.

Culinary patrimoine

This dish is so seriously regarded as part of the French culinary patrimoine, that there even exists une confrérie (lit. a brotherhood ), l’Ordre de la Poule Farcie de Tarn-et-Garonne. The aim of this society is to preserve the traditions and gastronomy of the Quercy region, with special reference to la poule farcie. These confréries exist for all sorts of dishes or ingredients: garlic, snails, black pigs, even haricot beans from Tarbes.

Poule farcie recipe

The preparation of a poule farcie is relatively long, but simple, and much of it can be done in advance. Here is a standard recipe, which serves around 8 people.

Ingredients:

1 large chicken (3.5 kg)
3 large carrots
2 leeks
2 turnips

For the bouillon:

1 onion peeled and studded with 3 cloves
1 stick of celery
Bouquet garni
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp black peppercorns
2 lt water

For the stuffing:

200 g sausage meat or ham, chopped
The liver and heart of the chicken, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
200 g stale bread, crumbled
Bunch of parsley, finely chopped
2 eggs, beaten
Milk

  • Mix all the stuffing ingredients in a bowl. Wet with milk to bind. Stuff and seal the chicken (the recipes say with needle and thread).
  • Bring the water to the boil in a large casserole, add the chicken, the onion, the bouquet garni, the celery, peppercorns and salt. Cover and simmer for 1½ to 2 hours. Skim the fat from the surface from time to time.
  • Cut the carrots, leeks and turnips into chunks and add to the pot. Cook for a further 45 minutes.
  • Remove the chicken and vegetables and keep warm.
  • Serve the bouillon
  • Cut the chicken into pieces, place on a serving dish and surround with the vegetables and the stuffing cut into slices. Sometimes served with rice as well.

If you prefer to serve the bouillon as a sauce, you can thicken it with a beurre manié (butter and flour).

Voilà. A dish fit for a king.

You might also like:

You must be in France when there’s…an Egg Mayonnaise Protection Society
French Flavours series
Goose Fat and Garlic

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About nessafrance

My husband and I moved to an 18th-century farmhouse in SW France in 1997. I am fascinated by French history, rural traditions and customs and enjoy seeking out the reality behind the myths. I run my own copywriting business and write short stories and the occasional novel in my spare time. My husband appears here as the SF, which stands for Statistics Freak, owing to his penchant for recording numbers about everything.
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5 Responses to French Flavours: Poule Farcie, a Classic French Dish

  1. Blogs ou should be reading… […]Here is a Great Blog You Might Find Interesting that we Encourage You[…]……

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Osyth says:

    I always sew the stuffing into a poule or a dinde with a needle and thread and get very strange looks for doing it but it just seems logical. As ever this is a fascinating history to a go-to recette and your version does sound very tasty indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      I have never actually sewn up a stuffed bird, but I think it probably helps to keep the stuffing moist. And where you are cooking it in a bouillon, it’s essential, I expect, to stop the cavity flooding!

      Like

      • Osyth says:

        I generally semi steam bath my poultry which is the way granny taught me so I expect that is why … I rather fancy myself a surgeon when stitching my finest 😊

        Liked by 1 person

      • nessafrance says:

        I’m afraid I inherited my sewing skills from my mother. By her own admission, they were minimal, so my poor fowl would be rather hard done by. As well as splitting mid-simmer, I expect.

        Liked by 1 person

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