Happy Thanksgiving 2012!

Happy Thanksgiving, Americans!

If you haven’t made a dinner plan for Turkey Day, it’s not entirely too late:

As for your leftovers on Black Friday, you should be able to adapt some of these recipes:

  • The Turkey plov will help you repurpose both your gobbler and your butternut squash.
  • I could see the Guinea Hen Rillettes working with turkey leg and thigh meat.
  • The Kurnik can be done with white and dark meat, and will move a lot of leftover turkey. But of course, you may find yourself with leftover kurnik the next day 🙂

Guinea Hen Rillettes

As promised, here is a version of my Wild Pheasant Rillettes with farmed poultry instead of game birds.  I have a preference for guinea hen, but chicken or farmed pheasant will work just as well. The most important changes from my other recipe reside in the use of smoked salt, and the browning of the skin for added flavor.

Guinea hen rillettes
Yields 1 ramequin

2 guinea hen legs, about 3/4 lb
olive oil
smoked salt
black pepper, ground
4 thyme sprigs
6 oz duck fat
guinea hen liver (optional)

  • Sauté the guinea hen legs with olive oil in a hot pan, skin side down, until dark brown. Remove from heat, take the skin off of the flesh and reserve both.
  • Weigh the skinned legs [I got about 12 1/2 oz], and then measure 1.6% of that weight in smoked salt. Sprinkle the salt together with some black pepper on both sides of the meat, then transfer to a sous-vide pouch with the thyme and duck fat. Cook in a 166 F water bath for 12 hours. If you like a gamier flavor, you can add the liver.
  • Let the pouch cool for 30 minutes. Strain the fat and juices into a plastic container and place in the freezer for about 30 minutes, until just set. Bone the wings and legs, and reserve in the pouch.
  • You should have about 6 oz of boneless, skinless meat at this point. Measure 54% of this weight in duck fat, and 25% in jelly [the solidified juice] — for 6 oz of meat that’s 3 1/4 oz duck fat and 1 1/2 oz jelly.
  • In a blender, process the duck fat, jelly and reserved browned skin (as well as the liver if you used it) until smooth.
  • Transfer to the bowl of an electric mixer fit with the paddle attachment. Shred the meat between your fingers and add to the bowl. Whip on high speed to the desired texture. I like my rillettes on the smooth side, with very few chunks; some people prefer large chunks and will whip the mixture just long enough to distribute the meat. Transfer to a 12 oz ramequin, pack well, then cover with a thin layer of duck fat. Refrigerate until solid, then wrap in plastic film.
  • Take out of the refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving. Accompany with rye bread and pickles.

Chicken Tabaka

Chicken tabaka is a Georgian dish prepared in a special pan with a lid, called the tapaka. A small bird (usually a poussin) is flattened and fried whole until brown and crispy on all sides. You can get some very good pictures of the process here (the site is in Russian, but Google Translate does a decent job). The carcass is sometimes flattened with a meat pounder; it’s not rare in restaurants to hear loud banging noises coming from the kitchen just after you order your tabaka!

My main problem with the original recipe is that you end up with too little meat and too many bones.  I like replacing the poussin with a fleshier bird, like a guinea hen, and splitting it in half to serve two people. I get rid of the carcass and some of the wing joints, and keep only the bones that most people enjoy gnawing on. This also allows me to expose most of the skin to the frying pan.

The rest of my preparation focuses on optimizing two qualities of a good chicken: tender meat and crispy skin. To that effect, I brine the meat as with the Guinea Hen Satsivi, then fry it in a hot pan skin side down, before finishing it in a very hot oven without flipping it.

This dish is meant to be complemented with sauce or vegetables, which is why the recipe lists so few ingredients. Try it with tkemali or with a red pepper purée.

Chicken tabaka
Yields 2 servings

1 chicken (or guinea hen), 2 1/2 to 3 lb
kosher salt
3/4 tsp piment d’espelette
1 oz clarified butter

  • Cut off the last 2 wing joints of the chicken and reserve for stock. Separate the meat from the carcass in two halves, starting from the breastbone. Each half should now consist of a boneless breast and bone-in wing joint and leg, skin-on and in one piece. Reserve the carcass for stock, as well. Place the chicken halves in a pot, cover with a brine made of cold water blended with 7% salt, and refrigerate for 6 hours.
  • Discard the brine and soak the chicken in fresh cold water for 1 hour, changing the water every 15 minutes.
  • Pat the meat dry with paper towels, and sprinkle with piment d’espelette on all sides. Melt the clarified butter in a hot pan, add the meat skin side down, and sauté over high heat until brown. Transfer to a 500 F oven for about 15 minutes without flipping. Remove from the pan, let rest for a couple minutes, and serve.

Guinea Hen Cutlets and Unlaid Eggs with Autumnal Vegetables

There are some rare and amazing products to be found at the Union Square Greenmarket, if you go there early enough and get a little bit lucky. While I was buying a guinea hen last week, I found, buried in a cooler, a bag full of livers, hearts and unlaid eggs:

Notice how large and yellow some of the livers are: this is pretty much natural guinea hen foie gras; you could almost eat them raw. The unlaid eggs are the other gems of the bundle: gently heated, they offer a burst of rich egg yolk flavor and texture when you pop them in your mouth.

I wanted to combine these outstanding rarities with the already delicious guinea hen meat available at the market, using as much of the bird as possible. The livers go very well with ground meat, hence the idea for a Russian cutlet, wrapped in the tender breast meat. The carcass is used to make a stock, reduced to a sauce together with the hearts. And to accompany the dish, I picked a mix of seasonal vegetables.

Guinea hen fabrication
Yields 4 servings and leftover ground meat

1 guinea hen

  • Separate the wings, legs and breast from the carcass.
  • With the skin still on, place each breast between sheets of plastic wrap, and pound to obtain two 4″ x 6″ rectangles. Cut each rectangle in half, wrap and refrigerate.
  • Bone the legs and wings, and pick the meat from the carcass. Process this meat with the skin in a meat grinder using a large die, cover and refrigerate. This will yield more than the amount needed for the cutlets. (You could use the extra ground meat to make more cutlets, without wrapping them in pounded breast meat. You might even be able to pound one of the boned thighs and use it to make another cutlet. You could also use the leftover meat for pelmeni or pirozhki.)
  • Use the bones and carcass to make stock.

Guinea hen cutlets
Yields 4 servings

9 oz ground guinea hen meat
3 oz fatty guinea hen livers, coarsely chopped
1 oz onion, sliced
1/2 oz butter
1 oz bread without crust, small dice
3/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp curing salt
garam masala, to taste
ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp whisky
guinea hen breast, pounded into 4 rectangles

  • Place the ground meat and livers in the freezer for 15 minutes.
  • Sauté the onion in half of the butter over medium heat until golden brown, then let cool. Sauté the bread in the same pan with the rest of the butter until brown on all sides, and reserve.
  • In a bowl, mix the ground meat, livers, onion, salt, curing salt, garam masala, black pepper, and whisky. Process in a meat grinder using a small die, then mix with the bread.
  • Season the breast rectangles with salt, place the stuffing in the center, and roll — do not overstuff. Tightly wrap the cutlets in plastic film and refrigerate for at least a couple hours.

Guinea hen sauce
Yields 4 servings

8 guinea hen hearts, coarsely chopped
olive oil
3 cups guinea hen or chicken stock
1/2 oz butter

  • In a saucepan over high heat, saute the guinea hen hearts in olive oil until brown on all sides.
  • Add the stock, and reduce by three quarters. Strain, return to the saucepan, and reduce until the sauce coats the back of a spoon.
  • Whisk in the butter and reserve.

Yields 4 servings

7 oz peeled fingerling potatoes, cut into 2-3 pieces each
7 oz peeled sunchokes, cut into pieces about the same size as the potato pieces
4 guinea hen cutlets
olive oil
4 oz guinea hen or chicken stock
6 oz chanterelles, cleaned
1 tbsp chives, finely chopped
guinea hen sauce
16 unlaid guinea hen eggs

  • Place the potatoes in a pot of cold salted water, and cook over medium-high heat for about twenty minutes, until almost done. Shock in ice water and reserve.
  • Boil the sunchokes in the potato water for about 10 minutes, until tender. Shock in ice water and reserve.
  • Sauté the cutlets in a hot pan with olive oil until golden brown on all sides. Add the stock and cook in a 200 F oven for 30 minutes.
  • Sauté the potatoes and sunchokes in a hot pan with olive oil until golden brown on all sides. Add the chanterelles, season with salt, and cook until soft. Sprinkle with the chives and reserve.
  • Reheat the guinea hen sauce in a small saucepan. Add the unlaid eggs and cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Remove from heat immediately.
  • Dress and serve, as pictured above.

Guinea Hen Satsivi

Satsivi is a thick Georgian sauce made with walnuts, onions and spices. There are many Georgian nut sauces, but this is the most famous. The sauce is served with poultry — especially turkey — or sometimes with fish. Although this is traditionally a cold dish (tsivi means cold in Georgian), I prefer to serve it warm. I choose guinea hen because it produces a moister and more flavorful meat than chicken or turkey. It goes particularly well with wild mushrooms like porcini.

This recipe is as much about satsivi as it is about the best way to cook poultry. Although the process I describe below is time-consuming, it gives outstanding results. The brine guarantees that the meat is salted throughout, which accentuates its flavor. And because poultry legs and breasts do not cook at the same temperature, I prepare them separately instead of cooking the whole bird and ending up with undercooked legs or a dry breast.

Guinea hen sous-vide
Yields 4 servings

1 guinea hen, 2 1/2 to 3 lb
kosher salt
4 oz butter, sliced
2 tsp chopped fresh herbs (thyme, rosemary, parsley, basil…)

  • Place the guinea hen in a pot. Cover with a brine made of cold water blended with 7% salt, and refrigerate for 6 hours.
  • Discard the brine and soak the guinea hen in fresh cold water for 1 hour, changing the water every 15 minutes.
  • Remove the guinea hen from the pot. Separate the wings and legs. Break the carcass lengthwise to obtain one piece with the breast on the bone, and one back piece. Reserve the breast on the bone, and the legs. The other pieces (wings, back, neck) can be used to make stock.
  • Place the legs and half of the butter and chopped herbs in a sous-vide pouch. Cook in a 166 F water bath for 8 hours.
  • Place the breast in another sous-vide pouch with the rest of the butter and chopped herbs (if you don’t have a pouch large enough, remove the bone). Cook in a 146 F water bath for 2 hours.

Guinea hen satsivi

Yields 4 servings

guinea hen sous-vide
3/4 oz butter
2 1/2 oz onion, thinly sliced
1 large garlic clove, thinly sliced
1/8 tsp ground star anise
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp garam masala
3 stems saffron
2 tbsp red wine
3 oz walnut halves
2 oz ice cubes
2 oz heavy cream

  • Take out 6 oz of liquid from the guinea hen sous-vide pouches. Keep the pouches warm.
  • Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic, and cook until golden brown. Add the star anise, black pepper, garam masala, saffron, and red wine, and stir for 1 minute. Add the walnuts and the liquid from the guinea hen, bring to a boil, cover with a lid and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes.
  • Transfer to a blender, add the ice cubes and heavy cream, and process until smooth.
  • Return to the saucepan, cover and keep warm.
  • Take the legs and breast out of the pouches. You can either discard the skin or cook the meat skin side down in a very hot pan with olive oil until brown and crispy. Cover with the sauce and serve.