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Historic black Gascony chicken makes a comeback

The black Gascony chicken is making a comeback after almost disappearing in recent years, with farmers seeking to champion the variety in farms and on dinner tables.

The chicken, which has black feathers with slate-green reflections, fell out of fashion in the 1950s, but has a prestigious history.

Now, a number of farmers in the Gascony region are seeking to promote the variety, and even hope to achieve Appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC) status, which would protect the region and recognise the quality of the produce, as reported by French news source France Info today.

The black Gascony is said to require at least 150 days of free-range raising to reach the quality and taste for which it is known.

It has also historically been prized for its distinctive, rounded taste; and for having a meaty consistency, which does not fall apart when cooked in liquid such as broth or stock.

It is mentioned in a number of historical French cookery books, including a recipe first created by the court of King Henri IV. The King himself was said to have lived in Gascony before ascending to the throne.

This involves stuffing a whole chicken with chicken giblets mixed with bread, tying it together with string, and then cooking it for a long time at a relatively-low temperature in a covered pot, with chicken stock and vegetables.

“The black Gascony chicken is coming back,” says Jean-Paul Beuste, chicken farmer in the Gers and black Gascony producer, speaking to France Info. “It is one of the prettiest and best chickens, from its feathers to its taste.

“It’s the kind of chicken that you would want to have on your table every Sunday - but every family has their own way of cooking it.”

Beuste himself conserves the chicken after it is cooked, packing the “Henri IV” recipe in tins along with its stock and vegetables, and selling them at his farm shop.

The historical region of Gascony - known as the land of d’Artagnan, the famous inspiration for the book The Three Musketeers - is currently spread across the region of Nouvelle-Aquitaine (Landes, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, southwestern Gironde, and southern Lot-et-Garonne) and the region of Occitanie (Gers, Hautes-Pyrénées, southwestern Tarn-et-Garonne, and western Haute-Garonne).

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