A typical autumn and winter dish that one will find, in some guise or another, in many areas of Northern and Central Italy. I find guinea fowl (as well as pheasant) to have a more interesting taste than chicken and these days you can find free range birds even in some supermarkets. Pairing guinea fowl with chestnut is traditional, as is the sausage and minced beef stuffing. I used rosemary but sage would be a good choice too. The stuffing is kept moist by a typical Italian touch: some stale breadcrumbs soaked in milk. The bird is wrapped in pancetta to keep it moist and for extra flavour. The potatoes become almost gooey and imbued with delicious meat juices. We had this with a winter salad but steamed buttered cabbage would be a very good accompaniment too.
Faraona arrosto ripiena con castagne e patate
Roasted boned guinea fowl with chestnut and potatoes
1 guinea fowl, about 1.2kg; boned: ask your butcher to do it; salt it lightly
plain coarse-cut Italian pork sausages – 300g
minced beef – 200g
cooked chestnuts (I use the vacuum-packed ones) – 200g
Italian unsmoked pancetta, finely sliced – 150g
dry Marsala (Cognac, Port, even gin are fine too) – 2tbsp.
chopped fresh rosemary – 1tbsp.
garlic – 1 small clove, smashed to a paste
stale bread- 200g, cut up
full fat milk –
200ml enough to cover the bread
grated lemon zest- ½ tsp.
black pepper, nutmeg to taste
dry white wine or dry white vermouth – 120ml
roasting potatoes, cut into chunks – 1kg
A roasting tin or an oven casserole where the guinea fowl and the potatoes can fit snugly.
Remove the bird and the stuffing ingredients at least one hour before you intend to begin cooking. Meanwhile, soak the breadcrumbs in the milk. When you are ready to proceed, squeeze the bread thoroughly.
Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/350°F.
Prepare the stuffing by mixing the minced beef, sausage meat, squeezed breadcrumbs, Marsala, rosemary, garlic and lemon peel. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste. Easy on the salt, you can always add more later. If you want to be absolutely sure about the seasoning, fry a walnut size sample of the stuffing, taste it and correct if necessary. Add the chestnuts, halved: you want to be able to taste them in the end, so do not break them up too much. Mix thoroughly – using your hands preferably.
Shape the stuffing into a sort of meat loaf.
Place the guinea fowl on your counter, skin side down, put the stuffing in the middle and roll up the bird: the aim is to create a neat parcel. Press and prod the bird to give it a regular shape. Lay it aside.
You now have to bard the bird with pancetta. Place the pancetta slices on your counter, slightly overlapping; you want a sort of rectangle, large enough to wrap around the bird. Place the guinea fowl in the middle of the pancetta rectangle and lift the slices up the bird, pressing lightly to “glue them” on the skin. Lay more pancetta over the uncovered top and press it to glue it on the slices you used for the bottom. Try to give the guinea fowl a regular shape.
Place a sprig of rosemary on top and secure the whole bird-stuffing-pancetta parcel with butcher’s string.
Peel the potatoes and cut them into large chunks. Place them in a buttered tin or casserole, salt them and drizzle with some olive oil. Place the guinea fowl on top, pour the wine around and roast in the oven until the internal temperature is 65°C , basting once – it will take roughly one hour (but it depends on the size of the bird). I have also cooked it at 200 C with equal success.
Remove from the oven and let it rest for 20 minutes, loosely covered. Cut in thick slices, taking care to remove the string first.
Boning a guinea fowl/chicken is not very difficult if one does it a few times, but the first time it will likely be frustrating and messy (and you do need a very sharp knife). I prefer to get my butcher to do it. Still, if you want to learn this technique, check this Jaques Pipin video.
What to do with the carcass?… make a stock obviously!
Salt the guinea fowl as soon as you come home from the butcher – this early, dry curing makes for a tastier bird because the salt has enough time to penetrate the meat. Salt thoroughly but remember that the bird will be wrapped in pancetta, which can be salty. I tend to salt all my meat a few days in advance and leave it uncovered at the bottom of the refrigerator.
The Italian pancetta you use can be either the flat, squat type (now sold already sliced in some supermarkets) or, my preference, pancetta arrotolata, the round one, generally sold by Italian delis. It must be unsmoked, it must be paper thin.
The stuffing will be better if you can make it a few days in advance. This is common practice for paté, terrine, meatloaf and meatballs.
To reheat the guinefowl: first warm up any juice left. If it is not enough, just add a little water, a knob of butter and a little meat extract or crumbled stock cube. When the liquid is boiling, add the meat and reheat very gently, covered.
A simpler approach: If you do not want to go through all the boning & stuffing, just place the stuffing inside the bird (you will need much less though), cover it with pancetta, then roast.