À Table: Poulet de Bresse en Soupière and Jacques Brel

A portrait from Bresse

Our weekly “À Table”dinner series gets its name from the mealtime call to the dining table. Since 2018, we have invited friends new and old to share a meal focusing on food, music and traditions from various places in the Francophone world. It has proved to be a fun way to connect with friends and practice our spoken French. Here on our site, we share portraits of some of our favorite meals so that you can easily do a version of the same chez vous Bon Appétit!

Gathered with friends and family around a steaming pot of chicken and vegetables, with Jacques Brel on the speakers, we are instantly transported to a wintery night in the French countryside.


A Pair of Classics

poulet en soupière, fresh out of the oven and on a table ready to be devoured

The classic crooning of Brel’s songs, some candles, a provençal-esque Indian table cloth and bit of nice French red wine while we waited for the chicken to finish cooking, all set the scene for the infamous cutting of the crust.

paul bocuse cookbook poulet en soupière recipe recette

The steam that escaped as I cut into the browned pastry crust with our guest circled ’round was indeed agréable, as promised in the very literally-translated recipe instructions. Last time we made it we caught a quick video of said steam.

a bit of that “agréable”steam, as the recipe noted

Though I am not practiced in the “usual way” of carving into the chicken, we certainly all agree that each time I have made this, the chicken was very tasty and the vegetables were indeed “excellent,” also as promised in the recipe instructions.


Jacques Brel

For an old-school recipe like Poulet de Bresse en Soupiere, it seems fitting to put on some old-school tunes.

The incomparable Jacques Brel is a Belgian singer/songwriter beloved in France and around the world. Culture Trip has collected some interesting tidbits about him, including a fun story about how he wound up on stage in a nightgown.

Driving through Annecy the summer of 2017, a friend had told me about Jacques Brel, and though I dutifully added his name to my notes, I completely forgot about him and his music until Marion and Tessa were over for an À Table” series dinner, November 2021 (remember them from the “Festival de Cornouaille in Brittany, France + Galettes Bretonnes Complètes” portrait?).

Still very much in my Brassens obsession, initially I had that playlist on while we cut into our steamy Poulet de Bresse en Soupière. By our second serving, Marion mentioned Jacques Brel, we changed the music and this perfect match was born.


Poulet de Bresse en Soupière

Poulet de Bresse is chicken from an area in France called Bresse, and it has appellation d’origine contrôlée status. “En Soupière” refers to a dish served in a large soup terrine.

poulet en soupiere ready to go into the oven
poulet en soupiere about to go into the oven

This became a favorite by accident. For one of our weekly À Table  French dinners, I had planned for raclette, then realized at the last minute that one of the guests didn’t eat pork. I soon realized that almost all of our go-to meals for the À Table series had some form of pork involved. In looking for a non-pork alternative, this recipe jumped out of the 1977 translation of Paul Bocuse’s 1976 cookbook “Paul Bocuse’s French Cooking” that I scored for $10 at a thrift store.

This recipe is both simple and delicious, and it’s enough to share with another family or put in lunchboxes the next day. It also looks way more impressive than it is, and it is pretty hard to mess up*.

Update: I jinxed myself with that last line. Soon after, I made it once more and not only did my pastry cover fall in in such a way that it was impossible to fix, the chicken took two extra stints in the oven to fully cook. Alors, faites attention, mais amusez-vous, aussi (So, be careful, but have fun, also!).


Rustic Cardamom Apple Tart

delicious looking and tasting apple tart fresh out of the oven. homemade rustic apple tart
as delicious as it looked

A simple dessert to throw together with pantry ingredients (plus apples, which are always around in our home), and cook along with the chicken. Easy, yet elegant, and fabulously delicious.


Story of A Jacques Brel Impersonator

Arnaud Askoy is an uncanny look-alike and sound-alike to Jacques Brel, and people come to see him pay tribute to Jacques Brel each Wednesday in Paris (at least at the time of this post!).

Episode 17: En scène avec Jacques Brel (In the Spotlight with Jacques Brel)

Duolingo French Podcast

You can hear him tell his story and practice your French listening skills thanks to the always inspiring and fascinating Duolingo French Podcast.

For another portrait to pair with an episode of the Du0ling French Podcast, check out the “Asma’s Tunisian. Home Cooking” portrait which features the music of Emel Mathlouthi.