Guinea hen is a tasty alternative to chicken

New York TimesMarch 12, 2013 

It is just as easy to roast as a chicken but tastes immeasurably better. It is quite popular in Canada and Britain, and in France and Italy every butcher has it (cheaper than chicken, too).

I’m speaking of the guinea hen, the deeply flavored fowl that most Americans haven’t even tasted. Accessibility partly explains that; in the U.S., you can’t just drop into a supermarket and pick up a guinea hen for dinner. With the exception of new-wave butcher shops that feature heritage breeds, the choice is usually pork, lamb, beef, chicken.

Those who would like to roast the occasional duck or rabbit must seek out sources like these or rely on Internet purveyors like D’Artagnan, which specializes in odd birds, among other alternative meats. That’s changing (some D’Artagnan products are now available in certain supermarkets), but there are no signs that these meats are moving to the center of the American plate.

It wasn’t always so. Traditionally, American homesteads had a few guinea fowl running around. And tastes used to include more game, especially ducks and geese. Any decent poulterer would have had guinea hens, quail and capons in addition to stewing chickens.

Not that guinea hen tastes gamy. Some say it resembles chicken with turkey overtones. To me it’s more like pheasant, but juicier, and since the guinea is dark meat, the flesh really delivers flavor. Broth made from the carcass is intensely rich. Given the choice, I would always choose guinea over chicken – a better bird, hands down.

You don’t have to do anything special to show off these qualities. Buy a 3- to 4-pound bird, preferably with a nice amount of bright yellow fat. A handful of garlic, a lemon, rosemary and salt are all you need. An hour in a hot oven will give you a burnished, fragrant roasted hen.

It is a lovely thing to have year-round, but in cold weather it’s especially nice, served with grilled radicchio or roasted root vegetables.

For a printed copy of the recipe, click the link:

Roast Guinea Hen with Grilled Radicchio

Roast Guinea Hen With Grilled Radicchio 1 guinea hen, about 4 pounds Salt and pepper 6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped 2 tablespoons roughly chopped rosemary 1 large lemon, thinly sliced 3 strips pancetta or bacon, optional 1 large head radicchio Olive oil

HEAT oven to 400 degrees. Pat guinea hen dry and season generously inside and out with salt and pepper. Put garlic, rosemary and lemon slices inside the bird’s cavity. Tie legs together. Leave at room temperature for at least an hour (or refrigerate overnight and bring to room temperature).

PUT a rack in a roasting pan and place bird on its side on the rack. Drape pancetta strips, if using, over bird. Roast, uncovered, for 20 minutes, then turn the bird on its other side and roast 20 minutes more. (Remove and reserve pancetta when crisp, about 20 minutes into roasting. Chop and sprinkle as a final garnish.) Turn the bird breast side up and roast for a final 20 minutes, or until juices run clear when thickest part of the thigh is probed. Baste well with pan juices at each stage. Let rest in a warm place at least 15 minutes before carving. Spoon pan juices over the meat.

GRILL radicchio by placing a stovetop grill over medium-high heat. Cut radicchio into eight wedges. Season with salt and pepper and paint lightly with olive oil. Grill wedges for 3 to 4 minutes per side, until well colored and crisped. Alternatively, grill under the broiler. Yield:

4 servings

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