Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Mary Cooks: Poussin with Pomegranate Sauce

Someone once said that a man's reach should exceed his grasp. This was me in the kitchen tonight. With my counterpart away on business for a second week, I thought about what it was I really wanted to eat for dinner tonight. As we still have a surplus of small game bird from D'Artagnan, I decided that one little poussin wouldn't go missing and rolled up my sleeves to actually cook something.

Everything I need for perfect dinner

I knew I wanted to pair the bird with potato but was not sure how to proceed. A quick search of epicurious revealed a recipe of poussin with potato rosti. And, even though this recipe was created by a professional chef (Chef Einat Admony), tonight I felt I was up to the task.

The recipe as written serves 8. I cut it back for a single bird.

Preheat the oven to 375.

For the sauce you will need equal parts sugar and pomegranate juice. It must be real pomegranate juice, too, not cranberry or cherry juice with pomegranate flavoring, so check the label. For 8 birds, use 1 cup of each. For my single bird, I used 1/4 cup of each.

Whisk them together in a sauce pan over medium heat. Once they reach a boil, cook for about another 10 minutes or so until they form a syrup. Set aside and prepare your birds.

Pomegranate syrup

Cut out the necks if necessary, clean, and blot dry. Mix together:

2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1/8 tsp crumbled saffron threads

Sprinkle birds with spice mixture and work it in so that it sticks.

Sunny spice mix

In the pan you will use for roasting, heat about 2 Tbsp vegetable oil. I used coconut oil. Sear the birds until week browned, about 5 minutes per side. Work in batches if you need to. I did not as I only had the one bird. When all birds have been seared, remove the pan from heat and place all the birds in it. Pour the pomegranate syrup over them. And have a good sturdy scraper handy. While I was preparing my bird, my syrup cooled considerably and was quite thick and sticky by the time I was ready for it.

Pan-searing the bird

You will roast your birds for a total of 30 minutes, basting them with the pan juices every so often. About halfway through the roasting time, scatter 3/4 cup roasted walnuts into the pan.

Yeah, I said walnuts. Which is sure to get me into trouble. I don't like nuts. I dislike them so much that my counterpart is under a nut prohibition in the kitchen, which he laments regularly. In fact, I almost left them out. But, I felt that if I did, I would somehow be disrespecting the chef who created this recipe. So in they went. And, this does mean that the nut prohibition is officially over.

The birds are done when the thigh meat is about 170 and the juices run clear.

Almost there.....

While the birds are in the oven, you can make the rosti. Peel and coarsely grate 4 russet potatoes and mix them with:

1 Tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper

Potatoes with rosemary, salt, and pepper

Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a heavy non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add enough of the potato mixture to form an even layer that nearly fills the pan. You may have to do this in a couple of batches, depending on the size of your pan. Let it cook for about 10 minutes until the underside is nicely browned. Then, flip it. When you do this, you will get a most pleasant noseful of rosemary. Enjoy.

Rosti, A side

The recipe offers a suggestion on how to do this: Place a large plate over your skillet and flip it over to get the rosti onto the plate. Add a little more oil to the pan and slide the rosti back in to cook the other side for another 5 minutes or so.

Rosti, B side

So, once everything was done cooking, I was aware of the fact that I had actually created a really nice dinner. For the first time in my life, I produced a meal that required proper plating and a respectful presentation. I asked myself what my counterpart would do and figured something out.

How do I plate this?

The game meat was tender and delectable with a bright, sunny flavor from the spices and the pomegranate. The syrup mixed with the pan drippings to create a sauce that was thick and flavorful with just a touch of sweetness. While the controversial walnuts added to this flavor, they did not work well as a side and were discarded. The rosti, however, was crispy potato perfection and went well with the bird. As this meal was very light on veg, in the future I will add grated zucchini and carrot to the rosti to round things out.

Plated up and ready to eat

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