La Pintade Farcie
The Pintade is a wild breed of bird (un oiseau sauvage) which began to be imported into France in the 1900s and has since become domesticated and raised in France and other countries. The taste is more pronounced than chicken. It also dries quickly when being cooked, therefore it is usually tied up to retain not only the stuffed contents but also the juices. The fat in the stuffing also helps keep the bird juicy.
Depending on the establishment where you purchase the Pintade, and your level of interest in preparing the bird yourself, you will either buy it plucked but with head, feet and entrails (minus the intestines), or stuffed and unroasted, or stuffed and roasted and ready to eat, which is what Le Poulailler d’Augustin in Bordeax offers.
If you are daring enough, willing enough and time-rich enough to want to prepare the bird and stuff it yourself, here are the steps, some of which I may have left out or gotten wrong, but if in doubt, have an expert demonstrate for you so you can try it on your own another time! In this case, the expert was the patient employee of Le Poulailler d’Augustin, Edouard Remont, who willingly demonstrated his speed and skill in preparing and stuffing a bird. (I love French culinary vocabulary and expressions, so I have included a number of them for your enjoyment.)
Preparing the Pintade:
Cut off the feet (les pattes) at the joints.
Slice at the neck (le cou).
Then cut off the head (la tête).
Separate the skin (la peau) from the carcass (la carcasse).
This is where things get tricky. Separate the stomach membrane from the inside of the carcass and cut it off with the trachea. (I was trying so hard to understand what was happening, that I forgot to take a picture of this step!)
Turn the bird around and make an incision into the back to be able to remove the organs.
Remove the organs by making an arc around the top of the bird and then a small curve below left and right to remove the lungs and pull out the entrails.
Also remove the testicles and ovaries – Pintades are grown to adolescence, both male and female. (I didn’t catch a shot of these organs, either.)
Carefully remove the green bile sack, as this contains bitter material that can make you sick.
Clean off the gizzard (le gesier).
Make an incision into the fatter side of the gizzard without cutting into the stomach (sans écarter l’estomac!), and rinse the gizzard, heart (le coeur), and liver (le foie).
Now burn (cramer) all around the outside of the bird to remove feather (les plumes) residues.
If you are going to tie up the bird yourself, you will need a sturdy trussing needle and cotton cooking twine.
Push the needle through the thigh (la cuisse) and through the body of the Pintade.
Push the needle through one wing, through the middle of the back and into the other wing.
All this threading is better for the cooking (c’est mieux pour la cuisson), as it will help retain the juices (garder le gras).
Edouard rotated the bird several times, knotting here and there, a bit too fast for a novice like me to catch every detail! A true pro, he made it look easy!
Tightly closed, the pintade will roast in its own juices. (Bien serée, mieux la cuisson dans son jus!) But don’t knot it off just yet, as you still need to stuff it!
After finishing the threading, put into the fridge to cool it down while you prepare the stuffing, unless you have made the stuffing in advance.
For the Stuffing (la farce):
The stuffing keeps the meat from drying out. It’s also a delicious, nutritious bonus to the meal, arguably more nutrient dense than the bird itself, but who’s arguing? This already is an unique bird that one doesn’t eat every day, which already makes it diverse in terms of nutrients.
You’ll basically only need about 150 grams of stuffing per bird, which typically weigh about 2.5 lbs.
I don’t have exact amounts for each ingredient as Edouard was working with ingredients to make 3 kg (6.6 lbs!) of stuffing, so for one bird, just eyeball it and freeze whatever is left over for then next bird! At some point I will come back and add more precise quantities for one Pintade.
Shallots (les echallottes), minced (Probably you’ll only need one. Edouard chopped 10 for his purposes, but that’s for a very very large batch of stuffing!)
Tomatoes (les tomates), chopped
Parsley (le persil)
Ratio of 80/20 Pork Back (échine de porc) to Veal (le veau)
Chicken Breast Meat (le blanc de poulet), puréed
Mushrooms (trompettes entières are used here but one can also use girolles, or else not add mushrooms, if, like me, you are allergic to molds and fungus)
90g (3 oz.) Porto
Dab of Honey
Sea Salt (Sel de Mer) & Pepper (le poivre)
Pinch of Dried Thyme
Mix all the stuffing ingredients by hand.
- Using gloves keeps the ingredients from being oxidized by contact with one’s skin.
- You can add raw chicken livers or the Pintade’s own liver, heart and gizzard, adding richness to your stuffing. These can be puréed or left whole in the stuffing.
- You can also add a raw egg.
- You can also add a pinch of mixed spices, such as mustard seed powder, coriander, turmeric, cumin, or a premixed curry powder.
- Smell the stuffing, make sure it smells well spiced (bien épicé!)
Stuff the Pintade, but beware: stuffing it too full won’t allow you to sew the opening closed, making the stuffing ooze out annoyingly.
Allow 15 minutes extra in the oven (au four) than you would cooking an unstuffed chicken (1 hour and 15 minutes for a typical chicken, un poulet) at 185C (365F), for a total time of 1 hour and 30 minutes. At Le Poulailler d’Augustin, they roast their birds over the fire!
An added tidbit about the Pintade, or Guinea Fowl, apparently, they are low maintenance and good for pest control, in case you are considering raising some yourself: http://www.motherearthnews.com/homesteading-and-livestock/raising-guinea-fowl-zmaz92aszshe.aspx
Thanks to his enterprising spirit, the proprietor, Augustin Jallon, allowed me to observe the preparation of this dish in action! Visit his rotisserie Le Poulailler d’Augustin, full of delightful goodies when you are in Bordeaux!
The ingredients are fresh and the fowl come from local farms around the region.
They even have rosé wines and seasonal lavender honeys from Provence, local foie gras, crème brulée, fresh farm eggs, and a variety of side dishes (potatoes, Brussel sprouts, carrots, green beans) to go with their roasts, yum!
May the Farce be with you!