13 June 2009

Guinea pigs for Guinea fowl

Friday night is usually our night to eat out in Paris, but since Karen had spent all week eating out while traveling for work, I figured she'd rather have a home-cooked meal on her return. After a week of eating mostly leftovers, I was ready to try something new. Which meant she'd be something of a guinea pig.

Beats tuna casserole: this week's leftovers were chicken with preserved lemon and green olives

One of the more memorable dishes from our last trip to Italy was guinea fowl (pintade, in France) cooked with vin santo, the Tuscan dessert wine. The best example I had was special for the inclusion of deeply browned onions, which went wonderfully with the fowl. I've never cooked guinea fowl myself, but it's widely available here, and so I've been meaning to have a crack at that tuscan version.

But somewhere in shopping for the ingredients, I started thinking I should do something Frenchier in Paris. First thought was to take it off the bone and stuff it with foie gras: you can't get any more French that stuffing foie gras into something. Maybe it's the shoe leather-like roulades I remember eating in Austria as a kid, but I've just never been big fan of stuffed meats. And even less of meats stuffed with foie gras. I prefer to eat it as close to as possible to as-is, as an indulgent featured item, rather than as an ingredient.

So instead of stuffing the meat, I wrapped it, cooking it en crepinette, or wrapped in caul fat, which is also très French. And since it was going to be wrapped, I decided to put those delicious deeply browned onions, softened in olive oil on the stove with a little garlic and bay and then topped with thin slices of chantere... uh, girolle mushrooms and finished for 3 h in a slow oven, under the crépine. Making the packets was pretty straightforward: break down fowl, season breasts (folded in half) and boneless thighs (formed back into their native shape) with salt and pepper, place a large spoonful of the room-temp slow-cooked onion/mushroom mixture on top (with the mushroom slices on top of the onions), place the whole thing topping-side down on the crépine, wrap tightly, and trim the crépine neatly. The “neatly” part was the only real challenge. It's just like wrapping a present with paper, and so it took me just twice as long as it'd take most 5 year olds to make the back tidy without too many layers of crépine back there. In the end, though, they were very pretty little bundles.

Ready to cook: the pintade and vegetables wrapped in my hard-earned webby crépine

Said bundles were pan-seared veggie side down until brown, turned to brown the 2nd side, then moved to the oven to finish before resting a few minutes.

Resting: my black steel sautee pan's handle is too long for our tiny oven, so I preheat this cake pan in the oven and transfer meats to it for finishing. Karen is not looking forward to the next cake cooked in this pan...

I used most of a reduction from the carcass and legs (browned chopped pieces deeply in oil, built a fond by deglazing with water, mirepoix, stock, simmered in diluted chicken stock, reduced) to simmer with girolles for ~30 min, adding a little butter and a drop or two of vinegar immediately before serving, the rest being used as a sauce on its own.

Sliced and served on top of pan-fried polenta and lightly garlicky sauteed spinach with those slow-simmered mushrooms and a little extra jus, the bird was superb. Though mild compared to squab (probably my favorite cooking bird) or duck, the meat was vastly more flavorful than chicken and wonderfully tender and juicy. The thigh was especially delicious, and the sweet onions and earthy mushrooms nicely complemented the flavors. Pintade is officially now in my rotation: I doubt I'll ever roast a chicken here.

Clumsy but delicious. Plating, like wrapping, is not my strong suit...

Home-made tagliatelle with artichokes and peas and home-made lemon tarts opened and closed. I should have covered the crust edges with foil before broiling the tarts to prevent home-burning, but after a bottle of soft and velvety Burgundy (perfect match with the pintade), that little flaw didn't much diminish the pleasure of the meal.

1 comment:

  1. ...and it was all as good as it looks, if not better. I'm happy to be home!