Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Cider-braised guinea hen

You might recall that a while back I was in a recipe contest over at Marx Foods. I came thisclose to winning the contest - only four votes separated me from some glorious tomahawk steaks.

Four votes.


But Justin Marx is a really nice guy. Shortly after the contest ended, he sent me an email and asked if I would like a couple of guinea hens that he had left over from a photo shoot. He added that there was no obligation to review or post about the birds. He didn't say it was a consolation prize, either. Just - hey, I've got these birds - do you want them?

Um, yeah.

Right after that I started looking up recipes, because as far as I know, I've never even eaten a guinea hen. I found a lot of recipes for roasting them, with the caveat that they're very lean so maybe you want to lay some bacon over the top.

A few people told me they were sort of gamey.

And coq au vin came up. "Braise them in wine," people said.

But of course, I went my own way.

Cooked this way, I didn't notice any gaminess at all. The dark meat was darker than a typical chicken, but the taste was very much like chicken.

Guinea hens aren't big birds. I didn't weight them, but the average guinea hens are supposed to weigh about 2 to 2 1/2 pounds. I'm guessing the ones I got were about that size.

But even though they were small, we got a quite a few meals out that one bird I cooked. We got two meals from the braised bird, then I used the carcass of the hen to make a stock and used that and leftover meat to make soup.

Apple Cider Braised Guinea Hen

1 guinea hen
1 tablepoon olive oil.
2 onions, peeled and quartered
4 potatoes,peeled and cut in large chunks
1 cup tart pie cherries
2 cups dry apple cider
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon salt
White pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Rub be olive oil over the guinea hen and put the hen in a cast iron dutch oven. Arrange the onions, potatoes, and cherries around the hen. Pour the cider around the hen. Sprinkle the thyme, sage, salt, and pepper over everything.

Cover the dutch oven and cook at 350 degrees until the hen is tender and the juices run clear, about 2 hours. Cut the bird apart to serve, along with the vegetables. Skim the fat off the juices, and serve the juice on the side.

I was pretty happy with the braised bird - I think I'll try roasting the second one.