Fowl play

This morning I popped into Rhône-Alpes. The culinary heritage of the region is arguably the richest in all of France. Indeed, the city of Lyon is considered the food capital of the country and the reputation of local chefs owes much to the areas boundless edible riches. Bresse chicken. Fresh water fish. Meat pies. Strong cheeses—I certainly remember enjoying cheeses from the Savoie and Haute Savoie. Charcuterie delicacies. I fancy something called Farcement. It looks like a bunt cake made with potatoes, streaky bacon or pork belly, raisins and prunes, all bound together with eggs and cream. What else! Then, of course, this is the home of Côtes du Rhône. That said, one of the French chefs particularly recommended wine from Cornas.

Breakfast anyone? The menu says, Jambonnette de Pintadeau au Vinaigre de Miel avec Gratin Dauphinois. Oh god I lurvvvvvv potato gratin—for breakfast, lunch or dinner. This really is a treat. I had to contain myself. This potato dream came with a stuffed leg of guinea fowl—also known as African chicken—in a honey vinegar sauce.

Do the important things first. Milk and double cream for the potatoes, warm-infused with garlic, salt and pepper. Spuds sliced on the mandolin. Built up layers in a gratin dish of all things. Who’d have thought? Foil. Oven.

At the start of the practical, chef asked how long we estimated for the butchery. I replied 20 minutes. 40 minutes later…still at it. I bet chef was chuckling inside. This bird is one greasy mother. Hip bone removed. Thigh bone removed. Oyster preserved. Drumstick knuckle trimmed. Cartilage removed. Thigh meat extracted. Skin in tact. Scrape and scrape and scrape away excess fat. French trimmed. Sinews pulled. I tugged every one out with a big grin on my face. Thigh meat cleaned up—silver skin and more fat removed. Have I told you how much I love butchery? :-) Every bird has 2 legs. So I had to do it again.

Pop quiz: How many legs does a lamb have? No looking at the answer.

2. Not 4. Trick question. From a butchery perspective a lamb has 2 legs and 2 shoulders.

Guinea fowl legs stuffed with forcemeat and wrapped in pig’s caul fat

The thigh meat was quickly blitzed with a Panade, shallots sweated in butter, double cream and chopped tarragon to create a Farce or forcemeat. This is the third dish with forcemeat in Intermediate Cuisine. The Farce was stuffed at the top of the drumstick and encased by the excess skin. The legs were then wrapped in pig’s caul fat. A quick spell in the blast chiller. Meanwhile, the bones were browned. Then the mirepoix. The legs were fried for colour and deglazed with honey vinegar. Gasp. Gulp. Bones and mirepoix added. In with white chicken stock, tarragon stalks and Bouquet Garni. Simmer. Lid. Oven. The sauce was later passed and reduced.

Chef said my Dauphinois could’ve done with more gratination. I should’ve cheated and stuck it under the Salamander. Naughty. In the end I scarified colour for arrangement. The plate required a cut out section with a 9cm diameter. I opted to centre this over an area where many potato slices came together reflecting the rosette structure rather than in a location where there was more colour.

Nothing left but the asparagus. Delicately shaved at the bottom and the higher fronds clipped for visual effect. Blanched and brushed with butter.

In the demo, chef also prepared Salade Lyonnaise. The leaves were dandelion, curly endives and chervil. Pancetta was fried and deglazed with sherry vinegar. The sudden fumes took your breath away but the aroma was mmmmmm. A vinaigrette was made from more sherry vinegar, walnut oil and shallots. All tossed with croutons and topped with a poached egg. Quite lovely.

Salade Lyonnaise