Guinea hens are much more popular in France than in the United States. Aficionados find the bird’s flavor very similar to pheasant. Since Guinea hens are very lean, this method of cooking ensures a moist bird. And what’s even better, the recipe is versatile: Two pigeons may be used instead of the two partridges, or two 1-pound Rock Cornish game hens instead of the guinea hen.—David Leite
1 green savoy cabbage
3 carrots, peeled and quartered
5 1/4 ounces salt pork or bacon, diced
Bouquet garni, made of thyme and bay leaf (see Note)
2- to-2 1/2-pound guinea hen or 2 partridges
2 thin slices fatty bacon or salt pork
Salt and pepper
7 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup hot water
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
2. Cut out the base of the cabbage and discard, and then cut the cabbage into quarters. Wash it under cold running water, then boil for 15 to 20 minutes in a large pot of lightly salted boiling water with the carrots, diced salt pork or bacon, and the bouquet garni. Drain in a colander. Discard the bouquet garni.
3. Place just the cabbage in a roasting pan in the oven to dry out for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven and reserve with the salt pork and carrots.
4. Clean the bird(s); if using freshly killed partridges, pluck them just before cooking. Cover the thighs and breast of each bird with the slices of salt pork or bacon and attach with kitchen string. Sprinkle generously with pepper, but salt lightly because of the pork.
5. Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a pot large enough to hold comfortably the bird(s), and cook for 10 minutes, turning frequently to brown evenly. Cover the pot and finish cooking, 20 to 25 minutes for the partridges, or 35 minutes for a guinea hen, turning from time to time. Remove the pot from the heat but leave the bird(s) inside, covered, for 5 minutes more.
6. Meanwhile, reheat the cabbage, carrots, and diced salt pork by sauteing them together in a frying pan with the 3 remaining tablespoons of butter.
7. To serve, lift the bird(s) out of the pot, discard the bacon, and carve. Place on a hot platter, surrounded by the vegetables and diced salt pork, and keep warm. Pour any carving juices into the pot, add the hot water, bring to a boil, season with a little pepper, then pour the sauce into a sauceboat and serve.
Note: Bouquet garni is an aromatic bunch of herbs that’s bundled together at the last minute before being added to the pot. In France it’s made by tying together a sprig of thyme, a bit of bay leaf, and some parsley. (Sometimes celery and leek are included in the bouquet). The bouquet garni is always removed before serving the dish it’s cooked with. It’s never large — often no more than a thumb-sized bundle of herbs — but it subtly flavors liquids in which it cooks. If fresh sprigs of thyme are unavailable, you can make a bouquet by placing dried thyme leaves and a bay leaf inside a little square of muslin or doubled-over cheesecloth, tying it closed, and tying this to the parsley, leek, or celery.
Recipe © 2007 by Flammarion. All rights reserved.