Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Jacob Kennedy’s guinea fowl cacciatore in wine and vinegar abruzzo

This is not my recipe. However, in the spirit of this being a collection of recipes I want to remember because they are brilliant and because I want to use them time and time again, I am adding this. I hope Jacob Kennedy doesn’t mind the plagiarism. Well actually its not since I am attributing all creative credit to him. I hope whoever reads this may forgive the seeming lack of inspiration that apparently led me to post someone else’s recipes.

I can’t help thinking that all recipes are really someone else’s, in some form or another. I am sure that like scientists, cooks too may will have their 'Eureka' moments, but how many recipes are the result of reading bits and pieces from different places, wanting to try something you’ve seen or read or heard about, or wanting to recreate a memory of a wonderful dish? I tasted a watermelon, feta and mint salad once and it was so delicious I now make it every summer. My friend Tony makes it too and tells his friends it's his recipe. Originally I felt indignant – how dare he steal my creative genius?! But then, oh wait, I ‘stole’ it from someone else. And actually he made the damn dish himself, so it was his dish, his doing.

Recipes should be more like helpful guidance rather that dictatorial instruction. A way of doing things that worked for the author. If you like the author then perhaps the other ways he/she does things might be helpful to you too. Perhaps it is just that you happen to have the same sized hands and so your pinch is the same as their pinch. Or the words they write translate in the same way into your head as they do in theirs. That’s what I think should be called a good recipe. The only reason that I care who wrote it is in case I can find more good recipes from the same source. To this end territorial approaches to recipe writing seem rather futile.

What I really like about this recipe is the idea about adding vinegar to ‘lift’ the dense earthiness associated with most slow cooked casseroles, and using white wine instead of red, again to the same effect. I would never have thought about adding vinegar. Funnily I’ve been thinking more about vinegar recently, and verjus, citrus and other acids...Rene Redzepi seasons with salt and acid, rather than salt and pepper, and I think I am beginning to see why. But that’s another post...

Serves 3-4 as a main course

a guinea fowl, jointed into similar sized and large pieces, separating out the wings and other bony bird bits (I’ve also used pheasant which was delicious)
6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
a medium sized onion, cut into small dice (it does not need to be to fine, this is a rustic dish)
a carrot, diced to the same size as the onion
two bay leaves
a couple tablespoons of plain flour (you can omit this, but it does help to thicken the sauce)
a couple of celery stalks, diced to the same size as the onion (you want roughly equal amounts of onion, carrot and celery)
three cloves of garlic, sliced
a generous sprig of rosemary, with all the leaves picked off the tough branch
80ml of white wine vinegar
200ml of white wine (I used a light Soave)

First make your stock. Take the guinea fowl wings and other un-meaty bits such as the spine and any bony parts left over after you jointed the bird, put them in a saucepan with a tablespoon of the olive oil and brown over a medium to low heat. When the wings and bones smell tasty, add half only of the diced carrot and onion, sweat for a few minutes with the meat and then add the bay leaves and enough cold water to just cover everything. Turn the heat up to get the stock boiling and then allow it to reduce while you prepare the casserole.

Heat a heavy based pot over a medium heat for a few minutes. Meanwhile toss the jointed meat pieces in the flour. Add the rest of the oil (five tablespoons roughly) to the hot pan and add the floured meat pieces, along with some salt and pepper. The meat will stick to the pan. Keep the heat on medium and allow the meat to brown, it will then naturally release from the pan and you can turn it onto its other side. Take your time doing this - 10, 15 minutes even. If the meat darkens too quickly turn the heat down. The idea is to produce a lovely deep brown crust on the skin of the bird, and to release a rich roasted aroma. All that flavour will transfer to the finished casserole.

When the meat is a deep bronze colour and smells roasted and savoury, turn the heat down a bit and add the rest of the carrot and onion along with all the celery, garlic and rosemary. Add a bit more salt and sweat the vegetables until they soften and turn golden. Add the vinegar and the wine and scrap the bottomof the pan with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula to dissolve all the dark caramelly sediment into the wine and vinegar. Finally add your boiling stock, straining it through a sieve first. You should have enough stock to cover the meat, if not add a bit of hot water to make up the difference. Once you have just covered the meat stop pouring over stock and keep the rest aside.

Let the whole thing bubble gently for about an hour. You might want to taste the meat and make sure it doesn’t get too dry. The sauce should thicken to the consistency of double cream – add some stock if it thickens too much. Give the pan a good shake every now and then to emulsify the fat and juices in the sauce, and a final shake before you serve. The casserole is ready as soon as the slow cooked meat is tender.

A big pile of buttery mash is a lovely accompaniment. We also pan fried thick slices of fennel and quince in butter and olive oil with plenty of rosemary and thyme, adding a glass of cider when the vegetables were browned and allowing the liquid to reduce to a lovely glossy syrup.