Fowl Language: All About Game Birds

Have you experienced game birds yet? What are you waiting for? Get in the game!

Game birds are smaller – and quicker cooking – than chicken; plus they offer richer flavors and a change from the monotony of everybody’s favorite bird.

D’Artagnan has offered fresh game birds since the early days. Back then, Ariane, the founder, and owner of the company found that chefs trained in Europe were not thrilled with American game offerings (they were non-existent or meager). When D’Artagnan began to supply fresh quail, pheasant, guinea hen, and squab, of quality they expected, game birds began to appear on menus.

We offer wild Scottish game birds in season, usually October – February (keep posted, they are coming soon!), and domestically farm-raised game birds the whole year through.

Tiny But Tasty: Quail

We think of quail as game bird 101. Quail is not as mild and white as chicken meat, but not as dark and musky as, say, squab. The meat is reddish with a delicate texture and quite lean. Few game birds are as versatile, simple to prepare and enjoy as quail. They make every cook – from the novice to the professional – look like a kitchen champion.

Whether baked, roasted, pan-seared, grilled or braised, quail takes all types of seasoning and marinades well. Just remember these little birds can dry out if overcooked. It’s best to cook them quickly and leave them medium rare. Whole quails are often wrapped in bacon before roasting to maintain moisture; this technique is called barding.

Try Chef Daniel Boulud’s recipe (seen in featured photo) Roast Quail in Beet, Apricot & Tomato Chutney.

Whole quail.jpg
Each quail is about 4 ounces, so serve 1 for an hors d’oeuvre, 2 for a main course.

We also offer a unique jumbo quail (twice the size!) imported from France. Learn more about this bird in our blog post.

Favorite Game: Pheasant

Much larger than quail, at 2 – 2.75 lbs each, pheasant is arguably the world’s favorite game bird. Great flavor begins with the breed. Unlike many commercial pheasant farms, which rear bland Milan-white breed birds, our small New Jersey farm raises old breed ring-necked pheasants.

As with all lean game birds, barding, braising and otherwise adding fat is encouraged. Our favorites methods include: baconventrècheduck fat and truffle butter.

Often, the pheasant breast is removed and pan seared, while the legs are braised or confited. Pheasant can be roasted whole with the breast down, or in its side, so that juices will run and keep the whole thing moist. Remember: baste, baste, baste—and do not overcook pheasant.

Whole pheasant
Lean and tasty pheasant

Try our Herb-Roasted Pheasant recipe, which is simple and satisfying.

Not An Ordinary Pigeon: Squab

What’s a squab? Just a young pigeon that has not yet flown. Squab offers red, tender and lean meat with a unique taste, which makes it a popular choice on game menus.  It definitely does not taste like chicken.

With red, tender meat and a plump breast, this is a bird that has been eaten forever, as far as we can tell. Around the world, across cultures and history, the squab has appeared on the best tables, from castles to farmhouses. Why not on yours?

Whole Squab.jpg
Squab offers dark red meat that is fine-textured and tender.

Squab meat is richly flavored, silky in texture, and though lean, is known for its singular ability to retain moisture during cooking, in part because the fat in the skin renders out during cooking.

It is perfect for classic French recipes but adaptable to many cuisines. Just remember, squab is at its best when served rare to medium rare.

This excellent recipe for Squab with Bacon-Wrapped Plums and Frisee is by Chef Marcus Samuelsson, and so worth a try.

Fowl To Fall For: Guinea Hen

With lean, dark and delectable meat, the guinea hen is our vote for best bird of the year. It’s a tie for the most-likely-to-be-eaten award, too.

Somewhere between pheasant and chicken lies the guinea hen; darker, leaner and slightly more delicious than either. In France it is called pintade, but is also known as the Sunday bird. The moniker points out its popularity.

Guinea Hen.jpg

We’d like to see more guinea hen served on American tables. How about fried guinea hen restaurants on the nation’s highways? We may be dreaming on that one. But once you try guinea hen, you’ll be inspired to join the campaign.

Enjoy the whole bird roasted, as you would a chicken; though remember with 50% less fat than chicken, you’ll want to add some bacon. Or duck fat. Or braise the bird with cider, wine and demi-glace.

If you try our game birds, let us know how you like them! Share pics with us on social media – just tag @dartagnanfoods on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. We love to cheer on our culinary enthusiast friends! 


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