Table of Contents
- Guinea Hen with Cabbage
- What’s So Special About An Old Bird?
- How To Cook A Tough Chicken
- Recipes To Use An Older Chicken
- How to cook a fowl tips needed
- Rosemary-Brined Guinea Hen
- Food glossary
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the guinea hen in an iron skillet large enough for it to fit or in a heavy roasting dish. (Enameled cast iron is best.) Using your hands, rub 2 teaspoons of the olive oil all over the bird, inside and out. Season again all over with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with thyme leaves. Scatter the garlic cloves around the pan.
- Place in the oven and roast 15 minutes. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil and roast, basting every 10 minutes with pan drippings, until a thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh reads 160 degrees; this should take 40 to 50 minutes.
- Remove the hen from the oven and transfer to a cutting board. Drain excess fat (leaving some!) from the pan and place over medium-high heat. Pour in the chicken broth. Using a wooden spoon, scrape up the pan drippings and bring to a boil. Reduce until the sauce is syrupy. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cut the hen into 6 pieces and pour the juices from the cutting board back into the sauce. Serve on a platter and pass the sauce with a big spoon.
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Guinea hens are much more popular in France than in the United States. Aficionados find the bird’s flavor very similar to pheasant. Since Guinea hens are very lean, this method of cooking ensures a moist bird. And what’s even better, the recipe is versatile: Two pigeons may be used instead of the two partridges, or two 1-pound Rock Cornish game hens instead of the guinea hen.–Paul Bocuse
Guinea Hen with Cabbage
- Quick Glance
- Quick Glance
- 50 M
- 2 H
- Serves 4
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- 1 green savoy cabbage
- 3 carrots, peeled and quartered
- 5 1/4 ounces salt pork or bacon, diced
- Bouquet garni, made of thyme and bay leaf (see Note)
- 2- to 2 1/2-pound guinea hen, or 2 partridges
- 2 thin slices fatty bacon or salt pork
- Salt and pepper
- 7 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 cup hot water
Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Cut out the base of the cabbage and discard, and then cut the cabbage into quarters. Wash it under cold running water, then boil for 15 to 20 minutes in a large pot of lightly salted boiling water with the carrots, diced salt pork or bacon, and the bouquet garni. Drain in a colander. Discard the bouquet garni. Place just the cabbage in a roasting pan in the oven to dry out for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven and reserve with the salt pork and carrots. Clean the bird(s); if using freshly killed partridges, pluck them just before cooking. Cover the thighs and breast of each bird with the slices of salt pork or bacon and attach with kitchen string. Sprinkle generously with pepper, but salt lightly because of the pork. Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a pot large enough to hold comfortably the bird(s), and cook for 10 minutes, turning frequently to brown evenly. Cover the pot and finish cooking, 20 to 25 minutes for the partridges, or 35 minutes for a guinea hen, turning from time to time. Remove the pot from the heat but leave the bird(s) inside, covered, for 5 minutes more. Meanwhile, reheat the cabbage, carrots, and diced salt pork by sauteing them together in a frying pan with the 3 remaining tablespoons of butter. To serve, lift the bird(s) out of the pot, discard the bacon, and carve. Place on a hot platter, surrounded by the vegetables and diced salt pork, and keep warm. Pour any carving juices into the pot, add the hot water, bring to a boil, season with a little pepper, then pour the sauce into a sauceboat and serve.
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- Bouquet garni is an aromatic bunch of herbs that’s bundled together at the last minute before being added to the pot. In France it’s made by tying together a sprig of thyme, a bit of bay leaf, and some parsley. (Sometimes celery and leek are included in the bouquet). The bouquet garni is always removed before serving the dish it’s cooked with. It’s never large — often no more than a thumb-sized bundle of herbs — but it subtly flavors liquids in which it cooks. If fresh sprigs of thyme are unavailable, you can make a bouquet by placing dried thyme leaves and a bay leaf inside a little square of muslin or doubled-over cheesecloth, tying it closed, and tying this to the parsley, leek, or celery.
Have you ever heard the saying ‘tough old bird?’
That is what my mom use to say when referring to my great grandmother. There was no disrespect there because she was tough. She was born in 1911, lived through the Great Depression, farmed her whole life, survived many illnesses and surgeries, outlived her husband, daughter, and her 5 siblings, and still lived to almost 90 years old. That takes courage to face all of those things, and I’d say that would deem someone as ‘tough.’
The saying itself came from the fact that as birds get older they get tougher. Which means you have to prepare them in a special way.
Which is what I’m bringing your way in this post. I want to discuss with you how to prepare and cook a tough chicken. Plus, I’d like to share a few recipes that might work well when using an older bird.
Let’s get started:
What’s So Special About An Old Bird?
An older bird has to be prepared a little differently than a younger bird.
You may not realize that the tender birds you eat from the store were actually just babies. Most of them are culled somewhere between 4 and 6 months. The reason is that they are still tender at that age.
However, as a bird gets older the meat begins to get tougher. So you have to keep that in mind if you are culling an older bird.
But I don’t want that to deter you from utilizing the meat if you cull an older bird. An example of why you might decide to cull an older bird is because she has stopped laying. When you live on a homestead, you can’t afford to feed something that isn’t giving back.
So you must cull that animal for financial purposes. Well, you certainly don’t want to waste the meat of an animal that has given so much to you over the years.
Which is why I think it is so important to know how to properly prepare an older bird because that is usually what you are going to have in the freezer unless you raise birds specifically for meat.
However, another instance when you might have to dispatch an older chicken is with a rooster. Some roosters just have bad attitudes and sometimes they don’t develop until later in life.
But if you have a rooster with an attitude, then you need to put that rooster in the freezer. I say this from experience. When roosters flog constantly you run the risk of a child being seriously injured. Their spurs are serious business.
And there is no reason to keep a mean bird around when there are so many roosters that have much better (and safer) dispositions. One flogs in the wrong direction and someone could easily lose an eye.
So take my advice and learn how to cook a tough chicken so you don’t feel obligated to tolerate a hateful rooster.
How To Cook A Tough Chicken
When you cull an older chicken, you’ll process it the same as you would any other bird. The steps following the actual culling and dividing out of the bird is where the difference comes in. There are a few different options:
1. Brine the Bird
Photo by Kegerator.com
Placing any meat in a brine has a way of tenderizing the meat. We do this around Thanksgiving with our turkeys so that the meat is much more tender.
But how do you create a brine? And do you go with a wet or dry brine?
Well, you create a wet brine by adding salt, sugar, and water into a large pot and then placing the chicken in it. You’ll let it sit for anywhere from 12-24 hours. In addition to this mixture, you’ll want to add different spices like garlic and onions. You could even add some crushed red pepper for some spice or some oregano.
Basically, anything that you’d like to taste in this chicken would be a good addition. The secret to a wet brine is to make sure that you heat the water and anything else you place in it to a boil so that everything will dissolve. You want to especially do this for the sugar to dissolve.
However, after you complete this, you’ll have to let the brine cool completely before adding the chicken or you could end up with a foodborne illness. So keep safe food handling practices in mind.
If you’d prefer to go with a dry brine, you’ll add all of the same ingredients to the brine excluding the water. Then be sure to rub it all over the chicken and let it sit in the fridge for a few hours while it marinades.
Finally, you’ll want to rinse the chicken and pat it completely dry so you don’t end up with soggy skin. If you skinned your chicken, then making sure that it is dry shouldn’t matter so much. Then you’ll prepare the chicken however you desire.
Here is one of my favorite brines. I’m a huge fan of soaking anything in buttermilk. I think it gives it a little extra flavor while also making the meat that much more tender.
2. Put Some Pressure On It
If you think you have a tough bird then add a little pressure to it. You’ll be surprised how fast it will loosen up. What I’m referring to is using a pressure cooker.
However, I first learned this when I was processing rabbit. I was really concerned about processing an older meat rabbit. I was worried that the meat was just going to be inedible.
Then one of my friends suggested I just canned the rabbit. That the process of canning and the time it sits on the shelf would certainly help it become more tender.
So I took her advice and was stunned. The rabbit came out so tender looking but when we went to eat it, I found my new way of preferring to eat rabbit. It tastes so good!
Which leads me back to chicken, if you have a tough bird, then put her in a can. You can pressure cook a tough chicken if you want to eat the bird right away. The time in there should help tenderize the meat.
However, if you aren’t in a hurry to eat the chicken, then can it and allow the meat to tenderize through the canning process and the time spent sitting in its juices. It should be a slice of wonderful tender meat that will hopefully make great chicken salad.
3. Low and Slow…Cooker
Photo by Cooking With Sugar
If you’d like to eat your older chicken today, or if you froze the bird, then don’t worry. You can throw the chicken into a slow cooker with some fresh vegetables and some stock. Place the cooker on low and let the bird cook all day.
Plus, I love this method because then absolutely nothing goes to waste. If you left the bird whole, you can eat the meat off of the bone, then throw the veggie scraps and bones back in the crock pot on low and let it cook overnight. In about 12 hours you will have a delicious stock.
4. Put That Oven On Low
Photo by About Food
If you don’t have a slow cooker or if you just prefer using an oven, then place the older bird in a roasting pan. I usually rub the chicken down with oil and then salt and pepper it.
Next, you’ll want to add some vegetables to the pot and then cook your tough chicken on around 250-300 degrees Fahrenheit all day long. Be sure to keep an eye on your chicken since different ovens perform differently. Use a thermometer to determine when the chicken is done.
Recipes To Use An Older Chicken
1. The Slow Cooker Whole Chicken
This whole chicken looks absolutely delicious. You can see all of the wonderful spices all over it. It makes your mouth water just by looking at it.
Plus, this recipe would be great for an older bird because it is cooked in a slow cooker. This will definitely allow the meat to tenderize. You could also presoak the chicken in a brine to give it an even better flavor and an extra chance to tenderize.
Make this recipe
2. Crock Pot Chicken And Dumplins’
I love chicken and dumplins’. The fact that this recipe allows this wonderful dish to be created in a slow cooker makes it even that much better.
So if you love this comfort food as much as I do, then you’ll probably want to check this recipe out. Plus, it would be a great way to incorporate your older chickens into a recipe. Not only does it get to cook in creamy soups, but it also gets cooked low and slow in a crockpot.
Make this recipe
3. Slow Cooker Hawaiian Chicken
I love sliders. They are a great way to change things up at the dinner table without complicating things.
So if you are in the mood for something simple (it’s cooked in a slow cooker so you know it’s simple), something different, and something that will allow you to utilize your older chickens while also tenderizing them, then you’ll want to check out this recipe.
Make this recipe
4. Slow Cooker Chicken Noodle Soup
I guess you can guess I’m a huge chicken fan. I love it because you can fix it in so many different ways. But I also love chicken noodle soup. I think it is a great classic that has lots of different variations.
So this variation is one that I love because it looks very fresh. It includes a lot of different vegetables that can be grown in your own backyard. Plus, it is done in a slow cooker which means you can incorporate an older bird into this recipe. You can cook the rough chicken on low and slow which obviously helps tenderize the meat.
Make this recipe
Well, there you have it guys. I hope this helps you in figuring out what to do with your chickens that have gotten too old to lay or maybe even your chicken friends that are just too old to endure another winter.
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How to cook a fowl tips needed
Grandmas Chicken Gumbo
Make a dark roux with 2 cups of flour and about 1 cup of oil.
(You can buy ready made roux but homemade is the best, if you want to make you own but don’t know how…Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the oil and flour into a 5 to 6-quart cast iron Dutch oven and whisk together to combine. Place on the middle shelf of the oven, uncovered, and bake for 1 1/2 hours, whisking 2 to 3 times throughout the cooking process.)
1 gallon of water
1 large hen (an old hen makes the best gumbo)
6 chicken bullion cubes
1 pound of good smoked sausage (Cut into bite size pieces)
1 large onion (Chopped)
1 bell pepper (Chopped)
2 stalks celery (Chopped)
3 tablespoons liquid smoke (leave this out if using smoked meat)
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 tablespoons dried parsley flakes
1 bunch green onions (chopped)
Salt and pepper to taste
Cut the chicken in half and place it in a large stockpot with the water and the rest of the ingredients. Simmer uncovered for a couple of hours, or until chicken is tender, remove the chicken from the pot place it in a bowl and put it in the refrigerator to cool. Turn the fire off under the pot, allow to sit while chicken is cooling, all the fat will rise to the top.
With a large spoon skim fat off the top of the gumbo.
Pick the chicken off the bone and add it back to the pot and heat it through; season with salt and pepper to taste.
You can substitute just about anything for the chicken. Guinea foul and wild game works very well, squirrels, ducks, geese, rabbits, turkey, quail, pheasant, ect. Just make sure to simmer it long enough to get it tender.
Serve over rice in soup bowls.
Rosemary-Brined Guinea Hen
1. In an 8-quart stock pot, combine 10 cups of the water with the garlic, rosemary and thyme. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer on low for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the remaining 10 cups water, the sugar, salt and peppercorns. Let the brine completely cool.
2. Add the guinea hen to the cooled brine, making sure it’s completely submerged. Refrigerate for at least 24 hours and up to 3 days.
3. Preheat the oven to 350º, then line a baking sheet with foil and place a rack on top. Remove the hen from the brine and dry completely with paper towels. Truss the legs with butcher’s twine and lay the guinea hen on top of the rack.
4. Roast until the hen has reached an internal temperature of 145º, 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and raise the temperature to 450º. Let the guinea hen rest outside, while the oven is heating.
5. Rub the butter all over the skin of the bird, then place back in the oven until golden brown and the bird has reached an internal temperature of 165º, 12 to 15 minutes.
6. Remove the guinea hen from the oven and let rest for 5 to 7 minutes before carving and serving.
Guinea fowl are medium-sized birds, originally from Guinea on the west African coast. They have a slightly dry flesh and a subtle game flavour that is similar to that of partridge. Guinea fowl tend to be cooked as game, although they are reared as poultry. Whole free-range guinea fowl, naturally reared in the Loire Valley in France, are available from Waitrose. One guinea fowl serves 2-3.
Uses: Guinea fowl are best roasted.
To store: Keep in the fridge in the original wrapping, below and away from cooked foods and any ready to eat food. Store until the use by date. To freeze, freeze on the day of purchase for up to 1 month. To defrost, remove from the original packaging and place on a plate or tray and cover. Defrost thoroughly in the bottom of the fridge, below and away from cooked foods and any ready to eat food, before cooking. Never re-freeze raw meat that has been frozen and then thawed. Wash work surfaces, chopping boards, utensils and hands thoroughly after touching raw poultry.
To prepare: Remove all packaging. Guinea fowl are quite lean and should be basted during cooking to prevent them from drying out. They can also be wrapped in streaky bacon before roasting.
To cook: Preheat the oven to 230oC, gas mark 8. Place the guinea fowl in a roasting tin and roast for 15 minutes per 500g plus 15 minutes. Cook thoroughly until the juices run clear when pierced with a fork and there is no pink meat. Do not reheat once cooled. Cool any leftovers to room temperature, refrigerate within 2 hours and consume within 2 days.
Remove the birds from the fridge about an hour before cooking so they come up to room temperature. Preheat oven to 200°C. To make the black pudding stuffing, peel, core and dice the apple. Remove the black pudding from its skin. Crumble into a mixing bowl. Combine with half the chopped sage, the soft butter and the diced apple. Mix well. If the birds are trussed, cut the strings and remove. Place the birds in a large roasting dish. Pull the legs and wings away from the body a little so hot air can circulate. Carefully lift the skin that covers the breasts at the front of the bird – it should run down into the neck area. fill the breast cavities with the stuffing (be careful not to tear the skin and try not to overfill the birds). fold the skin back, tucking it under and tidying it up a bit. Trickle the olive oil over the birds and season them generously with salt, pepper and the remaining chopped sage. Put the fowl in the oven for 25 mins, then remove and baste the birds. Reduce the oven to 180°C and return to the oven. Cook for a further 40-50 mins (if you have a very small guinea fowl of only 1kg or so, 30 mins should do it). Check that the bird is cooked by sticking a skewer into the thickest part of the meat, where the leg joins the body – the juices that run out should be clear. If there’s blood, the meat isn’t cooked: return it to the oven. When nicely cooked, rest for 10-15 mins in a warm place before serving.
Serve slices of the guinea fowl with the rich black pudding and apple stuffing, and some cider gravy.
Roasting tin juices
1 tbsp flour
250ml chicken or beef stock
A good spoonful of red currant or other fruit jelly
To make a simple gravy add 1 tbsp flour to the roasting tin juices from the guinea fowl and combine to a loose roux. Cook this over a gentle heat for 1-2 mins. Pour in cider and chicken or beef stock along with a spoonful of red currant jelly. use a whisk to bring this together as it comes up to the boil. Simmer for 2-3 mins, season and pass through a sieve.