So I think we may have cracked the formula for not-fried-chicken-but-looks-and-tastes-like-fried-chicken-heaven. Or rather, not-fried-yet-seems-fried-guinea hen, which is what we tried at dinner the other night with our buddies Tim and Alina. The key is to wash and pat dry your fowl thighs (always thighs!) very thoroughly, then add to a hot, hot, hot skillet shimmering with a good amount of melted duck fat. Adam seared the thighs until golden brown and crisp (be patient, don’t peek) and then finished them off in a moderately hot oven (about 375 degrees) until cooked on the inside. The hens emerged with crackling, golden skin, and moist, tender insides — exactly what we were looking for.
Of course, the meal was really a lame excuse to open a bottle of knock-your-socks-off-good Aloxe-Corton burgundy that had been burning a hole in our pantry since Adam bought it last year, and we fleshed out the rest of the meal with other autumn-appropriate side dishes, like roasted Jerusalem artichokes (scrub them well, keep the skins on, and cut into very thin coins); stewed red cabbage with roasted chestnuts (so bready and delicious), guanciale and juniper berries; and the baby fennel confit that I once made for Cool Fest and is extracted from an old issue of Gourmet (the original recipe can be found here). It’s a very popular dish of which I never seem to tire— full of deep flavor from the saffron and coriander seeds, plenty of crunch from the chopped almonds and fennel fronds, and the pleasing plump and chew of raisins puffed up by olive oil and orange juice.