Of all those classic French stews, Coq au Riesling is my favourite. Fall off the bone chicken, mushrooms, lardons, cream! What ‘s not to love? And of course the titular ingredient – The Riesling. The wonderfully recognisable wine works splendidly with the aforementioned ingredients to deliver what I consider the best white wine cream sauce around. Traditionally the ‘Coq’ portion of Coq au Riesling was Cockerel – an older, tougher bird that required the slow cooking to achieve tender deliciousness.
These days, Cockerel tends to be a little harder to come by and is usually replaced with chicken. We have decided to make ours with Guinea Fowl. A slightly gamier, more robust flavour, as cockerel would be, Guinea Fowl brings an added sense of occasion to this dish – A perfect dinner party piece!
1 Guinea Fowl, jointed
100g Lardons, cubed
200g Chestnut Mushrooms, halved or quartered depending on size
1 Large Onion, finely diced
2 Garlic Cloves, minced
250ml Guinea Fowl or Chicken Stock
100g Crème Fraiche
25g Plain Flour
2–3 Bay Leaves
1 Small Bunch of Thyme
1 Small Bunch of Parsley
Generous Pinch of Salt & Pepper
PREPPING THE GUINEA FOWL & MAKING STOCK
When making this dish, I usually buy a whole Guinea Fowl and joint it to give two breasts, each cut into two even pieces, two thighs, two drumsticks and two wings. I do this for a couple of reasons – buying a whole Guinea Fowl is generally far easier and more widely available, and saves you asking a butcher to joint it for you. You also get the carcass. Which is a very good thing.
Using the carcass, you can make your own Guinea Fowl stock, to use in the recipe later. It’s a little extra time but will yield a more complete and homogeneous dish. Or at least the impression of one! In all honesty, the difference in taste is very negligible and using chicken stock will absolutely give you a delicious dish, but if you feel inclined, as we do, to make your own stock, the results are deeply satisfying. If choosing to make stock, please follow the below steps.
1. Place a large, casserole pan over medium heat with a lug of olive oil. Add the Guinea Fowl carcass into the pan and try to achieve a little colouring all over.
2. Once suitably browned, add in any desired aromatics and herbs to enhance the flavour of the stock. As a minimum, I usually add a roughly chopped onion and carrot. For deeper flavour, try adding any/all of the following: Garlic, Celery, Leeks, Bay Leaves, Thyme, Dried Mushrooms, Fennel. A dash of Soy Sauce or Worcester Sauce also adds umami depth.
3. Top the pan up with cold water until the carcass is fully covered. And bring to a rolling boil. Reduce the heat to the pan until you achieve a bare simmer.
4. Cook for 2-3 hours, skimming off any impurities every hour or so until the liquid has reduced and a golden stock is achieved. You will need approximately 250ml for this recipe.
5. Strain the stock through a fine, metal sieve, discarding the pan contents.
6. Refrigerate or freeze the stock until necessary.
MARINATING THE GUINEA FOWL
Many traditional recipes for Coq Au Riesling call for the meat to be marinated in the wine overnight. Marinating the meat overnight gives it a richer deeper flavour and arguably helps with tenderising the meat. It is not essential however, the difference between marinated and non-marinated meat is subtle. I would argue that the dish is better for it, but marinating your meat is certainly not a deal-breaker for a delicious dish. If choosing to marinate your Guinea Fowl beforehand, please follow the below steps.
1. Season the Guinea Fowl pieces generously with salt and pepper and place into a bowl or zip-lock bag. Add a small bunch of thyme and a bashed garlic clove to the chicken and 100ml-200ml of the Riesling, ensuring the Guinea Fowl pieces are suitably covered.
TIP – Re-sealable zip-lock bags work extremely well for this and require less wine to cover the Guinea Fowl as it can be more easily manipulated in the bags.
2. Leave the Guinea Fowl to marinate in the fridge for up to 24hrs.
3. When ready to cook, remove the Guinea Fowl pieces from the marinade about 30mins before, reserving as much of the wine marinade as possible, and pat dry. You will be dredging the chicken in flour, so you want the meat to not be too damp.
THE GUINEA FOWL AU RIESLING
1. Place a large, casserole pan over medium heat with a lug of olive oil. Add the flour into a large bowl and season generously with salt and pepper. Dredge the Guinea Fowl pieces in the flour until evenly coated.
2. Add the Guinea Fowl pieces to the pan and brown on all sides until golden and crisp. This should take about 8-10 minutes. You may need to work in batches to do this. Once browned, remove from the pan.
3. Lower the heat to the pan and add the lardons into the pan, Cook the lardons, gradually increasing the heat to a medium-high as the fat renders out. Once sizzling and the lardons are just starting to crisp, remove from the pan.
4. Add the mushrooms, cut side down, to the pan and increase the heat to high, leaving undisturbed for 2 minutes. This will help them take colour and develop flavour. Once the mushrooms are sizzling and the cut side has developed a golden brown colour, move them around the pan and cook for a further 2 minutes. Once cooked remove from the pan.
5. Lower the heat to a medium and add a splash of olive oil. Add in the onion, and cook for 3-4 minutes until starting to colour. Add the garlic and cook for a further 2 minutes. Deglaze the pan with a splash of the Riesling, scraping off any fond at the bottom of the pan, before returning the lardons, Guinea Fowl and mushrooms to the pan.
6. Add the Riesling to the pan and increase the heat. Allow the wine to reduce by half before topping up with the Guinea Fowl/Chicken stock until the Guinea Fowl is almost entirely covered. You may need to add more or less stock than specified depending on the size of your pan.
7. Reduce the heat to a very gentle simmer before adding the thyme and bay leaves to the pan, cover with a lid and allow to cook for about 45 minutes – 1 hour, stirring occasionally until the meat is tender and cooked through.
8. Stir in the Crème Fraiche and cook for a further 10 minutes until light chestnut brown. Serve immediately.
Serve the Guinea Fowl Au Riesling with mashed potato and steamed greens or crusty bread and salad. And, of course, a glass or two of Riesling. A comforting and delicious crowd pleaser.