Sunday, October 14, 2012

What to Do With a Dozen Guinea Fowl Legs

When I purchased the Game Bird Fun Pack from D'Artagnan, I was so excited that I failed to notice an important detail regarding the 5 lbs of guinea fowl. At the time of purchase, I thought I was getting a 5 lb bird. What I actually got was a 5 lb bag of legs. My counterpart looked at them and said "What the hell am I supposed to do with that?"

A dozen guinea fowl legs

He figured out what to do with squab, and soon he had a plan for all those legs - quiche.

He used the pastry recipe in Le Gastronomique and prepared enough for two quiches - one for dinner tonight, and the second for quick assembly sometime around mid-week. We determined that four legs would equal one quiche. With a dozen legs, eight were prepped for cooking, and four were carefully wrapped and put back in the freezer for future use.

To prepare our legs for the quiche, my counterpart decided to roast them the way you would roast any other fowl. He seasoned them with salt, pepper, sage, and leek. He also added potato to the roasting pan so that all of our filling components could cook together.

Seasoned legs and potatoes

The legs roasted in about 45 minutes at 350. Once they cooled, the meat was removed from the bones. Meat and potato were then cut down and mixed with more fresh leek and placed in the pastry shell.

Roasted legs

Preparing the pastry shell

Filling the pastry shell

The rest of the quiche filling was fairly standard. Gareth added that to a mixture of eggs and heavy cream, seasoned with salt, pepper, and herbs, and poured it into the pastry. He topped it off with grated cheese. Our cheese was a Jarlsberg we acquired at Wegman's and had initially intended for the squab but which actually works out very well in quiche.

The main ingredient

Cheese please

Into the oven it went, and about 45 minutes later it was done. Once out of the oven, we let it stand for about 10 minutes to allow the egg to set and the quiche to cool a little.

The finished product

For those unfamiliar with guinea fowl, it is a distant descendant of an African chicken. Like a wide variety of small bird, its popularity in Europe did not carry over to The Colonies, and modern America does not know what it is missing. Or, we actually do if only we could remember. Guinea fowl does taste a lot like chicken, but not like the bland and tasteless chicken you find in the grocery store. It tastes like chicken out in the country tastes, chicken that has been allowed to roam around and eat something besides corn. It's still chicken, but more so, with a stronger flavor and leaner meat. Its flavor brought back some distant memories from childhood, when I was not eating guinea fowl, but most likely eating a fresh chicken from the farm.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Squab: You Never Know Until You Try It

Honestly, one of the best parts of my life is being able to share it with someone who punctuates it with really good food. Because I live with a cook, I can actually get away with doing things like spending the weekly grocery budget on a medley of game birds ordered off the internet. What we got for our $100 (including shipping) was:
  • 1 pheasant
  • 4 quail
  • 1 guinea hen
  • 2 squab
Here I have to give a shout out to the folks at D'Artagnan for taking the required care in packaging their game meats and birds. When you order form their website, you can select your delivery date to ensure you are actually at home to receive it. Plus, it all comes vacuum-sealed and these awesome styrofoam boxes filled with ice packs. So even though they are driving down from New Jersey, everything is well-protected for the journey and arrives safe and sound.

When my counterpart asked me to take out some of that bird for dinner this weekend, I grabbed the squab.

For those who do not already know, squab is a variety of pigeon. It's a little smaller than a Cornish game hen, but not nearly as popular. Neither one of us had ever tasted it before tonight  Yet, I feel I can make such a purchase and trust that he will know what to do with it.

For some guidance in how to prepare this little delicacy, he referred to Le Gastronomique. Even Larousse was a little vague on squab, but recommended cooking it on a pan and serving it with peas.

What Le Gastronomique has to say about squab

He decided to stuff our squab with a mixture of spelt and leek and sear it on the stovetop in lamb fat and butter. Stuffing such a small bird is a little tricky. He did not make a stuffing like you would for a larger bird like a turkey. Rather, he filled their tiny cavities with the individual components: chopped leek, cooked spelt, a pat of butter, and a little toasted bread. Because our birds were partially deboned, he was able to fold the skin up over the opening to keep everything together.

Squab stuffed with spelt and leek

Stuffed and ready to cook

Cooking on the stove top in a little fat

And, because we're really grooving on it this fall, he paired the birds with a pumpkin sauce made from pureed roasted pumpkin, heavy cream, butter, and a little Korean chili sauce. He served it on a bed of asparagus and peas.

Roasted pumpkin

Pumpkin sauce in progress

The finished product


Flying birds are very different from roosting fowl. Pigeon is dark and irony like a duck but not nearly as fatty. The slightly sweet peas and rich pumpkin complemented the strong meaty flavor of the bird without subduing the nice gaminess that always makes me feel like I'm actually eating food. A good pumpkin sauce is actually very versatile, and Gareth's sauce was so good that it tasted really nice on everything, even the asparagus. The spelt provided a chewy backbone to the very lean pigeon meat. Overall, I was completely satisfied and could't have asked for a better first experience with this very tasty little bird.

Squab with pumpkin sauce on a bed of asparagus with peas and spelt

It was only after dinner that Gareth let me know he thought this was all a ploy on my part to make rabbit seem more normal. While it was not what I had been thinking at the time of the purchase, if it works out that way, so much the better.