You’ve fed turkey to your family every holiday for as long as they’ve lived. You’ve prepared roasted turkey, smoked turkey, deep-fried turkey, and grilled turkey. You’ve cooked so much turkey that you’re weary of that same old bird, and so is everyone on your guest list. So, why not break the turkey routine this holiday season and cook up another breed of bird?
Alternative fowls are available at your supermarket, your meat market, and your specialty store, just waiting for you to pick them up and thrill your friends and kinfolk with a new, exciting dining experience. Try these other birds for this year’s Thanksgiving or Christmas feast.
1. DUCK. Smaller than turkeys, most ducks weigh about four to five pounds, with each duck capable of feeding two to three people. Ducks have an abundance of skin fat, which gives the meat a delicious flavor, and have a high content of dark meat. Duck can be prepared in a variety of ways, a popular style being roasted with an orange glaze.
2. GOOSE. Known In many popular novels as the traditional English Christmas feast, the average goose is similar to duck but larger in size, weighing approximately 11 pounds and feeding about six people. Goose has a large amount of fat between the skin and the meat, is self basting, and has a richer flavor than most other poultry. All goose meat is dark. To absorb excess fat, many cooks place an apple, an onion or a carrot in the bird’s cavity, discarding these items after cooking. Roast a whole goose, or slow-cook smaller pieces in a fruit or wine sauce.
3. CORNISH GAME HEN. These little birds are hybrid chickens, raised on farms like other chickens. The average hen weighs about one pound, is primarily breast meat, and can comfortably serve one person. The hen can be roasted with or without stuffing, and should be basted frequently. With a wild rice stuffing and a marmalade or honey glaze, a small hen can be a delicious single-serve entree.
4. PHEASANT. A small game bird perfect for roasting, pheasant is a relatively low-fat and low-cholesterol fowl. Farm-raised pheasants are plump and mild tasting, while “free-range” birds are leaner and slightly gamy in flavor. Some type of extra fat, such as bacon or salt pork, should be added to pheasant while cooking, in order to preserve moistness. A two-to-three pound bird will serve two to four people. Pheasant can be roasted, grilled or smoked, in the same way any other bird would be prepared.
5. QUAIL. Sometimes sold fresh, but more often frozen, a single quail is so small that two are needed to serve one person. Because this bird is so tiny and lean, it will dry out unless it is cooked with liquid. Quail meat is dark and juicy, and has a delicate flavor for a game bird, more akin to a chicken or turkey thigh. Roast or braise quail in a flavored sauce, and avoid overcooking.
Other kinds of birds to explore for your holiday dinner:
• Guinea fowl (Guinea hen)
• Pigeon (Squab)
• Dove (Wood pigeon)
Your holiday feast will be a hit, simply because of its uniqueness.
Who else do you know who is serving duckling a l’orange on Thanksgiving?
Louise Whiteside might be serving duckling a l’orange this Thanksgiving.
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