Thinking small: roast guinea fowl
A roast guinea fowl with the right stuffing will help you keep things simple for an intimate holiday celebration
Text Susan Jung / Photography Jason Joseph Bonello / Styling Nellie Ming Lee
While the Norman Rockwell version of a holiday celebration is gathering with a large group of friends and family for a feast, many people prefer something more intimate. Drinking fine wine and starting with caviar or foie gras might not be possible when you're feeding 20, but a smaller celebration means you can be more extravagant.
Roast guinea fowl
Guinea fowl has a firmer texture than chicken and the meat tastes sweeter. You'll need to get the bird on special order if you want it fresh; you can also buy it frozen from City'super.
1 guinea fowl (about 1.4kg), thawed, if frozen
About 100 grams pancetta, in very thin slices
1 small thyme sprig (optional)
½ a lemon
½ a medium-sized onion
About 60ml unsalted chicken stock, preferably home-made
25 grams unsalted butter, chilled, plus extra for greasing the dish
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Use tweezers to pull out any feathers remaining on the guinea fowl. Salt the bird inside and out, then put it in a plastic bag and refrigerate for at least eight hours. Let it come to room temperature before cooking it.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Butter a casserole dish (use one with a tight-fitting lid) that is slightly larger than the guinea fowl.
Lay the bird breast-side up on a cutting board. Lay the pancetta in slightly overlapping slices over the entire breast, tucking the pieces under the legs and trimming them as needed. Tuck the thyme and lemon into the cavity of the guinea fowl. Slice the onion about 5mm thick and put it in the bottom of the casserole dish. Put the guinea fowl breast-side up over the onion. Pour the chicken stock into the casserole, cover with the lid and bake at 180 degrees for about 45 minutes. Turn the heat to 200 degrees, remove the lid and cook until a meat thermometer inserted into the meatiest part of the bird's leg (but not touching the bone) reaches 72 degrees (cook it to 78 degrees, if you don't like any hint of pink on the dark meat). Put the bird on a cutting board and leave it to rest for about 15 minutes.
Make the sauce. Use a slotted spoon to remove the onion from the casserole dish. There should be about 80ml of liquid in the pan (from the chicken stock and meat juices); if there's not enough, add more chicken stock. Place the casserole dish over a medium flame and use a wire whisk to scrape up any solids from the bottom. Taste the liquid and season as needed with salt and pepper. Turn off the flame, add 25 grams of butter and swirl the pan until it melts.
Carve the bird then serve it with the sauce on the side.
Cornbread, porcini and chestnut stuffing
If possible, bake the cornbread a day before making the stuffing. And if you like, make the stuffing in advance; to reheat it, cover the pan with aluminium foil and bake at 180 degrees for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for another 15 minutes. Buy the chestnuts from a roasted chestnut vendor and remove the shells and papery skin while they are hot.
For the cornbread:
115 grams coarse cornmeal
100 grams plain (all-purpose) flour
15 grams granulated sugar
½ tsp fine sea salt
1½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda, sieved
180ml whole milk
1½ tsp fresh lemon juice
1 large egg
50 grams sour cream
60 grams unsalted butter, melted
15 grams honey
For the stuffing:
The cornbread, cut into 1cm cubes
20 grams dried sliced porcini mushrooms
About 30ml cooking oil
½ a small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves
Hot water or unsalted chicken broth, as needed
150 grams roasted chestnuts, peeled then quartered or halved
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Butter, for greasing the baking dish
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Lightly oil a 15cm square pan.
In a bowl, thoroughly combine the cornmeal, flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Mix the milk with the lemon juice and leave until curdled. In a bowl, whisk the egg with the sour cream, then add the butter, honey and milk/lemon mixture. Whisk until the liquid ingredients are combined, then pour them over the dry ingredients. Mix briefly, just until the dry ingredients are moistened. Scrape the batter into the baking pan. Bake until fragrant and pale golden and the cornbread is pulling away from the sides of the pan. Cool to room temperature.
Put the porcini in a bowl, cover with 100ml of warm water and leave until rehydrated. Squeeze the liquid from the mushrooms, then strain the liquid through a sieve.
Heat the oil in a large skillet, add the onion and garlic and cook until soft. Add the cornbread cubes and mix the ingredients, letting the cornbread brown slightly (add more oil if it sticks to the pan). Drizzle in the mushroom soaking liquid then add hot water (or chicken broth) as needed until the cornbread is lightly but evenly moistened. Add the porcini and chestnuts, season with salt and pepper, then cook for a few more minutes, turning over the ingredients often. Transfer the mixture into a buttered baking dish. Bake at 180 degrees for 15 minutes, or until the surface is lightly browned.
This recipe is by food stylist Nellie Ming Lee.
170 grams fresh or frozen cranberries
25 grams dried cranberries
100ml fresh orange juice
50 grams sugar
The zest of one orange, removed from the fruit in long strands with a citrus zester
1 cinnamon stick
Put the ingredients in a saucepan and add 50ml of water. Stir well then bring to the simmer and cook until the cranberries burst. Taste for seasonings, adding more sugar, if you like. The sauce will thicken as it cools; if it's too thick, stir in more water.