A couple times since we moved here I’ve bought chicken or chicken pieces at the store and been grossed out when I got home because there were still feathery bits sticking out of the bird. At first I thought this was because the chicken pluckers (?) were lazy, but last night Julia Child cleared this up for me:
Usually American chickens have been plucked absolutely clean. If not, pluck and squeeze out feather follicles, then turn the chicken rapidly over a gas or alcohol flame to burn off any hairs or feather bits. –Mastering the Art of French Cooking, p. 236
Aha. So over here it’s more common to buy a bird a little, um, closer to his natural state. Yesterday I bought a whole chicken (hele kip, if you’re learning Dutch) to roast per Julia’s Poulet au Porto (chicken steeped in port wine). Armed with this new knowledge I plucked out little (and some truly large!) feathers and then tried to singe the remaining bits like she said (a lot less gracefully than intended, I’d imagine). It’s funny how a little knowledge can make things like this less intimidating.