Spring Chicken for Mothers’ Day on the BBC: Norman Apple Poussin with Baby Spring Vegetables

Norman Apple Hens

Norman Apple Hens

How many times has your mother told you she’s no spring chicken? My maman tells me, usually, when I’m home, and she wants me to walk the dog, or run to the store, or lift something heavy–otherwise, to her chagrin, she is very spring chickenly. If your mom is like mine, make her feel young again on UK Mother’s Day! Make her spring chicken.

When Joel at the BBC asked me to do a Mothers’ Day menu, I considered it a very important, special assignment. I’m not sure there’s a better way to make the day special for maman than by doing what she’s always traditionally done for you: cooking. I would advise, of course, that you also purchase some jewelry, and tuck it into her cloth napkin. That never hurts.

The idea for this meal comes from the dichotomy of mother hen, and baby vegetables. Think of all the roast chickens your mother has made for you in your life. Cornish hens, or poussins, taste very similar to chicken, but can be elegantly and individually portioned. That’s the idea: take something simple, everyday, with which you’re familiar, and dress it up. I make this in the style of Normandy, coincidentally where my stepfather is from. Hey, if she likes one think from Normandy, chances are she’ll like another! I marinate the poussins overnight in cidre buche, a dry sparkling (and inexpensive) apple cider packed in Champagne bottles in Normandy. Then, I roast it with thyme, pancetta, and Calvados, an apple brandy, along with little pearl onions (what little girl hasn’t worn her mother’s pearls?) that become sweet little gems.

Because the dainty little hens are butterflied, they crisp up front and back, and stay overwhelmingly moist and flavorful from the apple liquors and the pancetta. To go with them, because Mothers’ Day falls just days after the start of spring, I put together a panoply of baby vegetables–from tiny zucchini and sunburst squash to spring peas and Chantenay carrots. They are simply braised with water and butter, and made decadent with creme fraiche. Everything here is dainty, flavorful, light, and, above all, thoughtful, but easy. This is actually one of the easiest meals I’ve ever created, and one of the ones of which I am most proud–proving that you don’t have to work too hard to make a dinner that is as special as your mom always made you feel.

Spring Vegetables with Crème Fraîche and Chives

Spring Vegetables with Crème Fraîche and Chives

Dedicated to toutes les mamans! Bonne journée…

To catch the replay of this episode on Joel Hammer’s BBC Radio Oxford Sunday Lunch, visit BBC’s iPlayer. Today’s show should be up later today, or early tomorrow. I hope you enjoy, and that you make this incredible Norman hens! The website with playback links and the recipes is not up yet, but I am assured it will be up by the next installment.

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Categories: BBC Radio Recipes, Series

5 Responses to Spring Chicken for Mothers’ Day on the BBC: Norman Apple Poussin with Baby Spring Vegetables

  1. Anonymous says:

    Can I buy the cidre buche in the US? I have Calvados but I have never heard of cidre. This recipe looks delish. I roast alot of chickens and I am always looking for a new recipe. BTW I had a french Maman too. She’s been gone seven years now and I miss her every day. Enjoy yours on Mother’s Day.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Absolutely! I bought mine at Whole Foods, in the refrigerated beer and cider section of all places. I hope you have a Whole Foods near you, but if not, call a well-stocked liquor store, and either they will have it, will refer you, or will order it in for you. It should be less than $10–a huge jump from the couple of Euros it costs in France! Just make sure you choose the dry variety (it also comes in sweet).

    Cheers to French mamans, and to beautiful memories.

  3. Anonymous says:

    We do have a Whole Foods in St. Louis and I also have a wonderful wine importer who may also get it for me since he specializes in Euro wines. I’m also going to find a nice Sancerre after reading your previous blogs. The egg souffles were great. I’m going to try them with egg beaters, I’m sure they won’t be as good but have to watch those dasterdly calories.
    Thanks for the info. Great job as usual.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Can you post an actual recipe, please? Sounds delicious – thanks!

  5. Anonymous says:


    I wish I could! The BBC has the rights to it now, so I cannot publish it before they do, and they have had some timing troubles getting the website for this series up and running. I have been assured that they will be posted in the next few days, and then I will publish the link. Sorry to inconvenience you!