I love to cook with the seasons and to use seasonal products, provided they are not very expensive such as the morel mushrooms at the moment. One of the early manifestations of Spring is the appearance of young shoots of various vegetables and plants.
Such as bear garlic.
I first ran into this herb in Switzerland where you can find it in the shades in mountain valleys. In fact, you can smell it as the plants grow closely together and emanate a garlicky smell. They are full of vitamin c and have medicinal properties related to the prevention of arthritis, and it is also a slimming agent.
Apparently, bears eat the herbs when they get out of hibernation in order to get their digestive tract working again. The bear appears in the Latin, German, French and English names but in Dutch it is called “daslook’ which refers to the badger, and not a bear…perhaps because there are no bears in the Netherlands.
The plants look a bit like the Lilly of the valley, which also grows in the same areas but a bit later in the season. The Lilly of the valley is toxic and is popular as a plant on the first of May in France (muguet).
The flavour of the bear garlic is rather delicate and can easily be overpowered in a dish. That is why I opted for poached chicken and cream.
Bresse chicken is a special French chicken race with a red crest and blue legs, the colours of the French flag. It is a relatively expensive bird with delicate meat that would be a waste to use for a pot roast or grill. Poaching suits it very well.
I served the chicken with rice cooked in chicken stock, and white asparagus.
- One Bresse chicken.
- Two handfuls of bear garlic.
- One small package of cream.
- A sachet of chicken stock.
- A sachet of vegetable stock.
- Olive oil.
- Fill a large pan with water.
- Clean the chicken en put it in the pan, it should be entirely under water.
- Put a thermometer in the pan.
- Heat the water up to the boiling point and regulate the heat so that the temperature of the liquid remains at 100 °C.
- Add the stock sachets. Cook for an hour.
- Remove the sachets and remove the chicken. Set aside to cool.
- Drain the chicken stock and keep for later use. Heat an oven to 200 °C.
- Wash and dry the bear garlic, remove the hard bits at the stem.
- When the chicken has cooled down enough for handling, remove the legs and set aside. Then use a sharp knife to remove the breast and wings from the carcass. This is easier when you have removed the back. (The back also contains two meaty bits in the bone, called “le sot y laisse” – the fool leaves it – which is delicious and a nice morsel for the cook)
- Put the legs in a dish and in the oven. You can remove the skin before hand if you like and cut away the knuckle. Cook for some 15 minutes. Turn the over off and add the breasts to the hot oven (this will allow the legs to cook more than the breasts, as the meat is tougher, and you can keep the chicken warm).
- Cut up the bear garlic.
- Put some oil in a skillet, add the garlic and stir. Take from the heat.
- Take the chicken from the oven and put on a serving platter. You can pre-slide the breast if wanted.
- Give the pepper mill a few twists.
- Add the cream to the still warm bear garlic, stir and pour over the chicken.