On my trip back from France I made sure to stock up on products that are harder to find in the States. Amongst my findings was a lovely Terrine de Pintade, what I later found out is made of Guinea Fowl. It was decadence in a jar and I knew immediately that I needed to taste and learn more about this delicious bird.
Guinea fowl originally came from Africa and was exported and have been bred for food in other countries for hundreds of years. Because of their abundance, there was no need to produce domestic flocks at that time. Guinea fowl figures can even be found on drawings on the walls of pyramids as far as 2400 B.C. After Christopher Columbus made his first landing in Africa, guinea fowls were brought in Spanish ships into the islands of the Caribbean. Today, it is extremely popular in Europe (Belgium, France, Italy).
If you are planning to raise chickens, you may consider Guinea Fowl instead. They feed mainly on insects that damage plants, (and make amazing eats) so if you’ve got a nice little farm, it will keep pests controlled. They also act as guard dogs, and will let you know when people get close to your house. One hen can produce up to 100 eggs in a year, they are smaller than chicken eggs and have a more delicate flavor. Their shells are ivory with brown flecks.
Guinea fowl is a great alternative to chicken because it has a subtle gamey flavor, like pheasant but a bit more gentle. Let’s face it, chicken is pretty darn bland. Guinea fowl is also high in protein and low in cholesterol as well as a good source of niacin, selenium and vitamin B6. It is a small bird, so it can dry out quickly, so it is better to utilize methods like braising to maintain the juiciness of the bird. You can also bard it (wrap it with bacon or strips of back fat). It works great in sautees as well.
If you’re ready to buy a guinea fowl for cooking, these are things to look for. First, your bird should weigh around 3-4 lbs. Feel the skin to make sure it is supple and has a flexible beak and breastbone, all signs of a young tender animal (around 3 months). Younger animals should be barded and roasted or sauteed. If you happen upon an older animal it will have tougher flesh and a hard breastbone. These can be used for braising or stews. Refrigerate it as soon as you get home if you are not cooking it right away and make sure to prepare it within 3 days of purchase. If you aren’t going to prepare it right away, put it in the freezer, but throw it out after 3 months.
Basic Guinea Fowl Recipe:
Pre-heat your oven to 400° F.
Rub your guinea fowl with it with butter and oil. Season it with your favorite spices.
Add a quarter of an onion and a quarter of a lemon to the cavity.
Put your bird in a roasting pan.
Put water in a separate oven proof dish and put it next to your roasting pan.
If your bird weighs one pound, put it in the oven for 25 minutes. Add another 25 minutes for each additional pound.
Baste your bird to help it retain moisture.
Take your bird out of the oven and set aside for 15 minutes.
Sauteed Guinea Fowl
1 breast of guinea fowl
3 T olive oil
2 tbsp wholegrain mustard
3 T butter
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 clove garlic
1 sprig of thyme
1/2 cup chardonnay
1/4 cup heavy cream
Blend the olive oil with thyme, mustard, salt and pepper.
Rub the breast with the olive oil mixture.
Heat your butter (I used a cast iron skillet).
Place the breast in the pan, fry for 10 minutes on each side.
Put on a plate with a lid and set aside.
Heat your butter in the cast iron pan.
Add the rest of the spices and cook until the shallots are soft (takes about 3 minutes).
Add the chardonnay and bring to a boil while stirring, reduce to half and add the cream.
Serve the breast and spoon sauce over it.
Pair it with the rest of the chardonnay.