Sunday, September 27, 2009

A recipe for flavorful fowl

A goodly time ago, a fellow food historian came visiting in Arles. She brought with her a fount of knowledge of the Etruscan world and recipes that she and others had been working on recreating from the gorgeous frescos of feasts in Etruscan tombs. Interesting, eh? Well, we were all ears, and hearty appetites.

One of these recipes -- Duck with Leeks -- Erick took to with vigor and adapted to his repertoire. Amongst other differences I believe our colleague put in ground almonds (a traditional thickener) and Erick prefered slivered almonds. Over time, this recipe became a fall and winter favorite for our cooking classes. It is also an excellent recipe with which to practice cutting up a duck (or guinea fowl as I've done this time around) into its parts. Unusual, delicious, easy to serve and easy to freeze and pull out another day, I've always loved it. I tended to prefer more leeks and less meat (I'm a veggie nut) and Erick, being far more of a carnivore, would tend to serve the duck, with just a touch of the vegetables. To each his preference.

In this version, which I've adapted for my vintner's household, I've used a guinea fowl, pintade, as it is far less fatty than a duck, and yet still rich in flavor when compared with a chicken. I've also added -- by special request -- white turnips/daikon/navets longs. JP likes them, and they are lovely when cooked long and slow in a richly-flavored liquid. Otherwise, I've been true to the Erick's version of the recipe.

Etruscan Fowl with Leeks

1 duck or guinea hen
1-2 large leeks with their greens
a small bunch of parsley
1 yellow onion or half a large white onion
optional: turnips (two cups peeled and sliced)
1/2 cup slivered almonds
olive oil for browning
sea salt
a bottle of dry white wine
water to cover

I took apart my guinea hen as I'd watched Erick do so many times before -- myself, the ever-present assistant, I actually rarely did the cutting and chopping myself, but helped our guests and thus, though my fingers are not as adept as Erick's, the skill is nonetheless part of me now. I sliced the skin above the thigh joint, carefully cut down around the flesh under the back of the bird to remove the entire leg and thigh, not missing any nice chunks of meat. I then gently removed the breast meat with the wing attached. Once these were off the carcas, I separated the legs from the thighs, and the wings (with a small chunk of meat) from the breast meat. I now had 8 portions of meat -- enough for four very hungry people, or a family of 8 happy to have a small chunk of meat with their vegetables and grains.

Normally, I would now put the remaining carcas in a pot of water with some herbs to make stock, but as Filou was standing by looking rather hungry, I put it out on the terrace as a treat.

I sliced my onions, washed and chopped my leeks, peeled and sliced my turnips, and chopped coarsely a cup or so of the parsley. -- In the end, I'm limited by the size of my baking dish for this dish. The larger the dish, the more vegetables I could put in.

I then browned the meat in a frying pan with a bit of olive oil, and place the browned meat in the bottom of the baking dish. I put the onions and leeks into the frying pan to brown a bit and wilt with olive oil, and then added them to the baking dish. I then deglazed the pan with the white wine. I added the turnips, parsley and almonds to the dish, and poured the white wine over the top. I poured in the rest of the bottle, sprinkled on sea salt, and topped off the dish with water. I didn't want it all under the liquid, but sufficient liquid to fill the baking dish 4/5.

I then baked the dish for an hour in a relatively hot oven -- 200C/400F -- till nicely browned on top.

In fact, I made this Saturday evening, and will reheat it for Sunday lunch. The dish just gets better with time. Any left-overs can be put in a container on which I'd note the number of pieces of meat, and so be able to calculate how many guests I could serve at a future date.


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