Afro-Spiced Fried Guinea Hen

Food & Wine - - DECEMBER RECIPES - J.J. John­son CHEF AT HENRY, NEW YORK CITY, AND AU­THOR OF BE­TWEEN HAR­LEM AND HEAVEN

“When I serve fried guinea hen, I call it sim­ply ‘fried bird,’ be­cause it truly is the best fried bird. It’s so for­giv­ing and full of flavor. I also re­ally like the his­tory of this recipe and the con­nec­tions that it makes. You’ve got this African bird, so loved by the French that some peo­ple call it the French bird, and I’m putting chiles, cin­na­mon, and peanut but­ter on it and fry­ing it in a South­ern tra­di­tion. It just makes so much sense to me.” AC­TIVE 40 MIN; TO­TAL 4 HR 40 MIN SERVES 2 TO 4

Grains of par­adise, also known as melegueta or Guinea pep­per, is a West African spice with a slightly cit­rusy, flo­ral burn that gives this peanut but­ter– and lime-based mari­nade lin­ger­ing heat. The mari­nade’s heavy use of spice (plus an ex­tra dose in the coat­ing) turns the crust aro­matic and dark when fry­ing. 1 (21/2 - to 3-lb.) guinea hen or chicken 1/2 cup veg­etable oil, plus more for fry­ing 1/4 cup creamy peanut but­ter 2 tsp. lime zest plus 2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice (from 2 limes), di­vided 2 Tbsp. garlic pow­der 2 Tbsp. onion pow­der 2 Tbsp. smoked pa­prika 2 red Thai chiles, stemmed and finely chopped 2 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. kosher salt, di­vided 1 Tbsp. ground cin­na­mon, di­vided 1 Tbsp. finely ground grains of par­adise, di­vided 2 cups white rice flour (about 101/2 oz.)

1. To cut guinea hen into 8 pieces, first re­move the leg quar­ters: Tug one leg away from body, and insert a knife tip into joint that con­nects thigh to back­bone. Sep­a­rate leg quar­ter from back­bone, and re­peat on op­po­site side. Turn each quar­ter skin side down, and lo­cate the white mem­brane line that runs be­tween the leg and thigh. Use line as a guide to cut through the joint sep­a­rat­ing leg and thigh. Next, us­ing sharp scis­sors or poul­try shears, cut through rib bones along both sides of back­bone, and re­move back­bone. (Save back­bone to make stock, or fry along with rest of hen for a cook’s treat.) Turn breast por­tion bone side up, and use tip of knife to un­cover and re­move the thin, rigid breast­bone. Cut down mid­dle (where breast bone was) to cre­ate 2 breast halves. Cut each breast half cross­wise on an an­gle, re­sult­ing in one piece with wing at­tached and one with­out.

2. Whisk to­gether oil, peanut but­ter, and lime juice in a medium bowl un­til smooth. Stir in garlic pow­der, onion pow­der, pa­prika, chiles, 1 ta­ble­spoon salt, 2 tea­spoons cin­na­mon, 1 tea­spoon grains of par­adise, and lime zest. Trans­fer to a large zi­plock plas­tic bag; add guinea hen pieces. Seal bag, press­ing out air, and turn un­til hen pieces are well coated. Chill 4 to 8 hours.

3. Pour oil to a depth of 1 inch into a deep, heavy skil­let, and heat over medium to 350°F. Set a wire rack in­side a rimmed bak­ing sheet. Whisk to­gether rice flour, 1 ta­ble­spoon salt, re­main­ing 2 tea­spoons grains of par­adise, and re­main­ing 1 tea­spoon cin­na­mon in a pie plate or 8-inch square bak­ing dish. Re­move guinea hen pieces from mari­nade (do not scrape off ex­cess), and add to sea­soned flour; dis­card mari­nade. Turn to evenly coat guinea hen pieces; shake off ex­cess sea­soned flour.

4. Us­ing tongs, care­fully lower 4 coated guinea hen pieces into hot oil. Fry, turn­ing ev­ery 3 min­utes, un­til pieces are very dark and crisp and a ther­mome­ter in­serted in thick­est por­tion reg­is­ters 165°F, 8 to 12 min­utes. Trans­fer to pre­pared rack to drain, and sprin­kle with 1/2 tea­spoon salt. Re­peat with re­main­ing 4 guinea hen pieces and re­main­ing 1/2 tea­spoon salt. Serve hot.

WINE Earthy, ro­bust Monas­trell: 2016 En­rique Men­doza La Tre­menda

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