Guinea Hen Confit and Dumplings with Poached Egg
J.C. Holdway, Knoxville, TN
Joseph Lenn’s ultra-rich riff on classic chicken and dumplings employs the French method of confit. The technique isn’t difficult, but it does take time: the process must be started two or three days before you want to prepare the rest of the dish.
Guinea Hen Confit:
2 guinea hen leg quarters
1/2 cup salt
2 tablespoons sugar
Leaves from 10 sprigs thyme
4 cups chicken fat or duck fat, warmed to its liquid state
4 eggs in their shells for poaching
2 medium (1 pound) Idaho potatoes, peeled
2 tablespoons salt
1 cup flour
2 quarts plus 1 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon chicken or duck fat
1 tablespoon chopped chives
Salt and black pepper to taste
To make the guinea hen confit, combine the salt, sugar, and thyme leaves in a small bowl. Coat the guinea legs in the salt mixture. Place in a sealed container and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, preheat the oven to 250ºF. Rinse the salt mixture off of the guinea legs and pat them dry. Place the legs in a deep, ovenproof pan or roasting dish. Add the chicken or duck fat, making sure the legs are fully submerged. Cover, place in the oven, and cook until the meat is tender, approximately 2 to 3 hours. Use a pair of tongs to transfer the legs to a wire rack; let cool for 30 minutes. When cool enough to handle, pick the meat off of the bones. Discard the skin and bones. Refrigerate the meat until needed.
To poach the eggs, bring a pot of water to 146ºF. Carefully lower 4 eggs into the water and cook for 55 minutes over low heat. (Make sure the temperature of the water doesn’t rise above 150ºF.) Carefully remove the eggs and reserve until ready to serve. (Poaching can be done the night before. Refrigerate the poached eggs in their shells until needed, then run them under hot water to warm them up before serving.)
To make the dumplings, preheat the oven to 350ºF. Bake the potatoes until tender, about 45 minutes. Run the potatoes through a food mill or ricer. (If you don’t have a mill or ricer, you can mash them with a fork.) Transfer the potatoes to a large bowl. Mix in the eggs and salt. Gradually mix in the flour by hand until the mixture comes together to form a dough and is no longer sticky. (You may not need all of the flour.) Roll the mixture into 1/2-inch-wide ropes and cut into 1/2-inch-long pieces.
In a sauce pot over medium-high heat, bring 2 quarts of the chicken stock to a simmer. Add the dumplings and boil until they float, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking at a boil for an additional 30 seconds to 1 minute, until the dumplings are tender. Remove with a slotted spoon and reserve until ready to serve.
Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the chicken fat and heat until shimmering. Place the dumplings in the pan and toast until golden brown, occasionally shaking the pan so that the dumplings color on all sides, about 5 minutes total. Add the guinea meat and the remaining cup of chicken stock; cook until heated through. Remove from the heat; finish with chives and season with salt and black pepper. Divide among 4 serving bowls. Crack a poached egg over the top of each dish.