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French in a Flash: Quatre Épices Poussins Under a Brick

[Photographs: Kerry Saretsky]

My love of turkey is only a recent development. And even at that, I only consent to eat it when it's freshly roasted, usually on Thanksgiving. Anything else—turkey sandwiches, turkey soups, turkey whatevers—just aren't going to happen. So I have a high sensitivity to those who want to try something other than turkey for Thanksgiving.

To me, these Quatre Épices Poussins are the perfect holiday bird. Something about Thanksgiving requires a bird, and I feel compelled to uphold that. But sometimes you want something smaller to alleviate leftover overflow in your apartment fridge, or something quick-cooking to disguise the fact that you were actually at work until two hours before your mother-in-law arrived, or something different from what you had last year. Tradition, after all, isn't for everyone. These young chickens are holiday poultry that cook quickly, are perfect for one (you can portion it for an army or a sweet dinner for two), are entirely unique, and have tremendous stage presence.

The stage presence comes from a traditional French spice blend called quatre épices, or four spices. Consisting of cracked black pepper, cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg, the blend is reminiscent of rich medieval dinners, centered around a great long table on which a roasted pig reclines, clenching an apple in its mouth. Highly spiced, and lightly spicy, it is a seasonal je ne sais quoi that makes these little crispy-skinned, succulent game birds special enough, and festive enough, for the holidays.

About the author: Kerry Saretsky is the creator of French Revolution Food, where she reinvents her family's classic French recipes in a fresh, chic, modern way. She also writes the The Secret Ingredient series for Serious Eats.

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