Guinea Hen with Sweet Corn Fregula

This guinea hen with sweet corn fregula is an easy meal of grilled guinea hen or chicken legs and a simple side of small pasta with sweet summer corn.

A piece of grilled guinea hen with sweet corn fregula beside it, all topped with chopped scallions.

Guinea hen? It’s lovely. It tastes a little like pheasant and looks a lot like chicken, though it’s far less tough and dry than pheasant and infinitely more intriguing than chicken (though chicken legs work quite well in lieu of guinea). As Mario Batali says quite simply in The Babbo Cookbook, from which this recipe hails, “We love guinea hen legs because they’re so moist and juicy.”–Renee Schettler Rossi

LC Got Guinea? Note

Never seen guinea at your local market or butcher? That may have a lot to do with the fact that you’ve never looked for it. It’s often there, particularly in late summer and fall. If not, just ask. Often a simple request is all it takes to get your butcher to stock it or, at the very least, to special order it for you. Once it’s in, smile sweetly and ask him to bone it for you—though we’re offering no guarantees on that front. And don’t write off fregula just yet. Also sometimes known as fregola, it’s a diminutive and different kind of semolina pasta. If you can’t find it—and you don’t know that until you try, right?—Israeli couscous works splendidly in its place.

Guinea Hen with Sweet Corn Fregula

  • Quick Glance
  • Quick Glance
  • 40 M
  • 50 M
  • Serves 4
Print RecipeBuy the The Babbo Cookbook cookbook

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  • For the guinea hen
  • For the sweet corn fregula


Marinate the guinea hen

In a large, nonreactive casserole, combine the onion, thyme, black pepper, vinegar, honey, and olive oil. Place the guinea hen or chicken legs in the marinade and turn to coat on all sides. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.

Make the sweet corn fregula

Bring 3 quarts (12 cups) water to a boil and add 1 tablespoon salt. Set up a small ice bath. Cook the fregula, couscous, or pasta in the boiling water until somewhat tender but not cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes. Drain the fregula, refresh it in the ice bath, and spread it on a tray lined with paper towels to dry.

Meanwhile, heat the grill or broiler. Brush the ears of corn with the olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and place on the grill, turning every 2 minutes until all sides are nicely charred and the kernels are just beginning to burst. Remove the corn from the grill with tongs and, when the ears are cool enough to handle, cut the kernels off the cob with a sharp knife. Leave the grill on for the hens.

Combine the fregula, sweet corn, and chicken stock in a large skillet or saute pan and cook over medium-high heat until the stock boils and is mostly absorbed by the grain, about 5 minutes. Add the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and salt and pepper and toss for 1 minute more. Remove from the heat.

Grill the hen

Remove the guinea hen or chicken legs from the marinade and pat them dry. Place the legs, skin side down, on the hottest part of the fire and grill until dark brown and crisp, 6 to 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, turn, and cook on the meat side until just cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes. Keep warm.

Divide the sweet corn fregula among 4 plates. Place two guinea hen or chicken legs on each plate and serve immediately. Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and some freshly cracked black pepper, if desired.

Print RecipeBuy the The Babbo Cookbook cookbook

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Recipe Testers' Reviews

I was unable to find fregula at two local grocery stores (Whole Foods and Safeway), so I substituted another soup pasta — orzo — which seemed to work fine. To adjust for the cooking times suggested on the orzo package, I decided to skip the first step of pre-cooking the pasta until tender. Instead, I simmered the orzo in chicken stock for 10 minutes total. After about two minutes of simmering the orzo, I added corn, cut from oven-roasted cobs. We do not have a grill, so I roasted the corn in the oven wrapped in tinfoil. At 10 minutes of simmering, I added the black pepper and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. After tasting the dish, I decided it didn’t need any additional kosher salt. The resulting dish was tender and creamy, but the orzo still had just enough firmness to create a pleasant texture. We really liked how the freshness of the corn added brightness to the creamy pasta. Served with the grilled guinea hen (or chicken) dish, the sweet corn and pasta tasted even more creamy. We would definitely make these two dishes again. I realize we adapted the recipes a bit to fit our kitchen constraints, but we were very happy with the results.

I couldn’t find fregula pasta in our markets. I had some Israeli couscous, but not enough for this recipe. Since I had some tiny star pasta, I decided to use that. My packet of pasta said to cook five to seven minutes, and since this recipe said to undercook the pasta a bit, I only cooked it for four minutes then proceeded with the recipe. I grilled my corn over charcoal. My tasters loved the charred corn with the creamy pasta, which was enhanced by the Parmesan. Hubby thought it needed a little something more, so he squeezed some lemon juice on his, which he said made it perfect. I served it with some tuna grilled on cedar planks.


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  1. I would just like to make some clarification about the use of the term “guinea hen” in this recipe. They are actually referred to as “guinea fowl”. The females are “hens” and the males are referred to as “cocks”. I doubt the person selling the bird to you knows whether it is male or female. Unless you spend a lot of time with them it is very difficult to tell the difference in the sexes. I do not know if there is any difference in the meat between the sexes. I have never eaten any of mine but we do eat their eggs. They are a great bird to have around as they eat weed grasses, Japanese beetles, and, best of all, Lyme disease-carrying ticks. For more info about them, this site is the best

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