Even if you don't keep Kosher--even if you're not Jewish--Jonathan Lindenauer's Guinea Hen with spicy dried fruit chutney is easy, festive, and great for just about any special occasion, any time of year. As a side dish, our featured chef suggests an arugula salad, wilted spinach, or roasted Brussels sprouts; all represent the requisite 'bitter' flavor that is part of the Passover tradition.
'My guinea hen recipe is based on some of the ingredients on the Seder plate,' says Lindenauer, Bon Appetit magazine's Chef de Cuisine. The dried fruit, nuts and wine nod to charoset, a sweet fruit and nut spread (like chutney) symbolizing the mortar used by the Israelites when they labored for the pharaohs. Lindenauer's take on the Seder is different from the one of his childhood, which included helping his Bubbe make old fashioned matzo balls.
According to tradition, four glasses of wine must be drunk by each participant during a true Seder. Jewish or not, this is cause for wine lovers to rejoice and partake! Try the 2004 Golan Heights Cabernet Sauvignon with the hen. For a lighter red, the 2006 Galil Mountain Pinot Noir is a mouthwatering choice. Shalom!
For the Charoset (chutney):
2/3 cup diced peeled Granny Smith apple (1/2-inch dice)
1/3 cup diced dried figs (1/2-inch dice)
1/3 cup diced dried apricots (1/2-inch dice)
1/3 cup diced pitted dates (1/2 inch dice)
1/3 cup brandy, preferably kosher brandy such as Montaigne Cognac, Bokobsa Selection, or Givon
1 ½ cups sweet white wine such as the 2005 Golan Heights' Moscato
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne)
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch each kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
¾ cup toasted, roughly chopped walnuts
¼ cup chopped flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
To make the charoset: Place the apple, figs, apricots and dates in a medium saucepan. Add the brandy, sweet white wine, cinnamon, red pepper, ginger, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook for until all the liquid has been absorbed, about 3 minutes. Add walnuts and cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate. Can be made up to 2 days in advance up to this point. When ready to serve, bring to room temperature and fold in the parsley.
For the Guinea Hen and Sauce:
One 3- to 4-pound guinea hen, cleaned and quartered
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
12 shallots, peeled
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/3 cup brandy, preferably kosher (see suggestions, above)
1 cup dry red wine, such as Golan Heights 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon
3 cups chicken broth, preferably kosher
An herb bouquet with 6 sprigs fresh thyme, 6 sprigs fresh parsley, 1 bay leaf and 4 whole black peppercorns wrapped in cheesecloth and tied with kitchen twine
2 teaspoons sugar
10 small new potatoes, washed but not peeled, and quartered
• Season the guinea hen with salt and pepper and set aside.
• Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and sear until golden brown; remove shallots and set aside.
• Add the guinea hen to the Dutch oven and sear until golden brown on all sides. Sprinkle hen with the flour and cook about 2 minutes more, taking care that the flour does not scorch.
• Add the brandy and simmer until the liquid has reduced by 2/3; this will take 2 to 3 minutes. Add the wine, bring to a boil, and reduce liquid by one-half.
• Add the chicken broth, the herb sachet, and the sugar and bring to a boil. Reduce heat so that the liquid simmers and cook, partially covered, until the breasts are cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove breasts with a slotted spoon to a shallow bowl or baking dish, cover with foil to keep warm. Continue to cook the thighs and legs 10 to 15 minutes longer, or until cooked through.
• Remove the herb sachet and discard. Add the reserved shallots and potatoes and cook until tender, about 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Return the meat to the pan with the shallots and potatoes and simmer gently to reheat the hen, about 10 to 15 minutes.
• To serve, place a portion of guinea hen alongside the charoset, shallots and new potatoes and drizzle with the pan juices.