Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Pot Roast Guinea Fowl with Onion Sauce

Recently I was invited to a French guinea fowl masterclass and what a fabulous evening it was.  Andy Stephenson, chef/propritor of Hallidays in West Sussex, gave a brilliant demonstration of the versatility of this wonder of the poultry world. It's been a while since I've eaten guinea fowl and it was good to be reminded of just how tasty it is.

Andy talked the group of assembled bloggers through the highlights of the bird - the simplicity with which it can be treated due to the richer than chicken flavour, low in fat it is a good source of protein particularly as the birds are raised to a high welfare standard. At the same time, with enormous skill, he demonstrated boning out and stuffing the legs with a truffled mousse, gently hot smoking the breast to be the star element of a sublimely French salad with black pudding, fried apple and toasted hazelnuts and then completed this fabulous hat trick with the balantine served atop a platter of spring vegetables with a gorgeous light cream sauce.

The following week I noticed the Ginger Pig was selling guinea fowl, not just French but label rouge from the Gers, where once we had a house, and a region well known for its fabulous poultry. Gotta be a sign! I bought one, vaguely wondering about my ability to bone and stuff the legs with mousse, but once home I set on another course. I found an English recipe of Frances Bissell's that pot roasted the bird with herbs and garlic lifted with citrus peel under the skin and finished with a cream sauce. I couldn't resist.

 Pot Roast Guinea Fowl, stuffed with herbs and garlic, with onion sauce

I do indeed mean a whole head of garlic here, but don't be afraid. The long wet cooking softens it down till it is just a deep flavour to the finished sauce.

1 free range guinea fowl
fresh herbs such as tarragon, chervl, parsley and thyme
1/2 lemon
1 head of garlic, new season if possible
55g butter
1 onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 tbspn brandy
75ml dry white wine 
2 tbspns cream

Gently ease the skin away from the breasts and thighs of the guinea fowl, inserting your fingers between skin and flesh at the end of the bird to make a pocket between the two. Push the soft herbs under the skin as well as small tender sprigs of thyme. Pare off thin strips of lemon zest and put them into the bird's cavity, together with any extra herbs. Squeeze the lemon juice and rub it over the outside then lightly season the whole both inside and out.

Peel all the garlic and, in a deep flameproof casserole, fry them in the butter with the onion slices for a few minutes without letting them brown. Turn the guinea fowl in the hot butter till the skin is well coated then add the brandy and wine. Cover with a lid and cook in a pre-heated oven at 175C/325F/Gas 3 for about 90 minutes.

Transfer the bird, whole, to a warm serving dish and cover with foil. Pour the cooking juices through a fine sieve, crushing the remaining juice from the garlic, into a small pan and bring to the boil. Add more seasoning if necessary, cream if you like, and perhaps sharpen with a drop of lemon.

Serve with the bird.

It made a wonderful dinner that night just with mashed potatoes and rocket garnish to soak up the gravy, and cold it was the star of salad the following night. I pulled the last of the flesh from the carcass and boiled the bones for stock, then froze the lot for a final future feast from my birdy of risotto with wild mushrooms.

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