Made from slow-cooked meats, aromatic vegetables, and fragrant herbs, hearty ragùs make classic fall toppings for pasta and polenta. Their luxurious flavor is often a result of using rich beef or wild game, but this week's Cook the Book author Sara Jenkins manages to coax the same sumptuous taste from poultry. The secret to her Braised Guinea Hen Ragù is to brown the meat in plenty of extra-virgin olive oil before braising it in red wine. She does this because, in her words, "the caramelized meat juices add depth of flavor, while the wine gives complexity."
This recipe is incredibly flexible. Substitute any other bird for the guinea hen (but be sure to adjust the cooking time—more for chicken, less for duck or goose), or use white wine instead of red. Add sautéed wild mushrooms or grate some fresh Parmesan over the finished sauce before serving.
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- 2-2 1/4 pounds guinea hen legs and thighs (about 4)
- Fine sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 carrots, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 celery stalk, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
- 3 leafy fresh thyme, rosemary, or sage sprigs, leaves removed and coarsely chopped
- 1 cup dry red wine
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste, preferably double-concentrate
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Heat oven to 300ºF.
Season guinea hen generously with salt and pepper.
Heat oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium-high heat. Brown hen pieces, about 5 minutes per side, removing them to a plate as they brown.
Add carrots, celery, onion, garlic, herb, and 1 teaspoon salt to pot. Cook stirring occasionally, until vegetables start to brown, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Drain vegetables in a colander, and discard fat from pot.
Return hen and vegetables to pot, then add wine and tomato paste, stirring to dissolve paste. Bring to a simmer, then add 1 cup of water and bring to a simmer. Cover and braise in oven until meat is tender, about 40 minutes. Remove from pot and let cool.
Pull meat from bones in large chunks; discard skin and bones. Puree vegetables with braising liquid in a food processor or blender. Return to pot, along with meat, add remaining 1/2 cup water, and bring to a simmer over low heat. Cover and cook for 30 to 45 minutes more to allow flavors to meld.
Remove from heat and stir in parsley. Serve, or cool and refrigerate for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 6 months.