AirFryday: A brace of petits poussins, gratinated hake, and air fryer shallots

AirFryday: A brace of petits poussins, gratinated hake, and air fryer shallots
A brace of petit poussin, roasted side by side in an air fryer. (Photo: Tony Jackman).

Baby chickens under 28 days old are a cheffy tradition which we see very little of today. Turns out that they’re a great choice for cooking whole in an air fryer. You can even cook two, perhaps more, at a time, depending on the basket size.


We have three air fryer recipes for you this AirFryday: petit poussin (find the recipe here), fresh hake au gratin, and air-fryer shallots. The last two were published during the week and are included in this week’s TGIFood newsletter for those of you who’d like to cook them this weekend. But first, let’s talk about the old tradition of the petit poussin.

Petit poussin, or poussin, is what butchers and chefs call a baby chicken. You don’t see them much these days but the fancy new Checkers FX stores have a brand called Brooder & Jones who promise that their tiny chooks are “raised to be tasty, juicy and delicious”, if not for very long. 

A bit of googling tells us that, typically, a young chicken is harvested as poussin, or petit poussin, at less than 28 days old, so they’re really young and, understandably, some will have qualms about that. (A grown-up chicken is called poulet in French.)

On the old hotel menus, petit poussin used to be called Spring Chicken, which was rather stylish and appealing. In the Sixties, “Chicken in a Basket” appeared on thousands of menus and was, correctly, a small roast or fried chicken served in a “basket” made of crisped potato.

The tradition died out, thanks no doubt to the high risk factor in assembling one. Later, “Chicken in a Basket” would appear in actual bamboo or even plastic baskets, which was just silly and could be seen more kindly as a misunderstanding of the term and concept, or less kindly as plain stupidity.

Wikipedia tells us that poussin is in fact a term from Commonwealth countries for a young chicken, and is also described as a butchers’ name for them. Call them what you will, they make a delectable meal-for-one and, given their size, can be made to look really pretty on a plate if cooking for friends.

They’re sold frozen, weigh about 500 g apiece, and cost close to R50 each which, dare we remind ourselves, is what a regular adult bird cost us not too long ago. Now we’re seeing those for in excess of R100.

Tuck in to AirFryday, and see you back here next week and every Friday for more stuff to do in, and with, that air fryer that we’re all getting to know. Here’s today’s recipe for petit poussin in the air fryer. DM/TGIFood

Follow Tony Jackman on Instagram @tony_jackman_cooks.


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