What is the Secret to a Unique and Impressive Holiday Meal?

Are you looking for a holiday-worthy centerpiece for your table? Perhaps something unique and unexpected? The December issue of Food & Wine magazine features D’Artagnan duck on the cover, and inside, recommends our game birds for your holiday feast. The gorgeous spread  – called Flights of Fancy – offers recipes from different chefs that may just inspire you to serve game this year. Read on for the details and find out which birds they chose.

We always recommend game birds for festive meals at any time of the year. As author Molly Stevens says in this Food & Wine article, “With more distinctive flavor and a finer texture than chicken or turkey, game birds are perfect for special occasions.”

Buttermilk-Marinated Quail with Herbed Raita and Blood Oranges

Maneet Chauhan, cookbook author, TV personality, and chef-owner of Chauhan Ale & Masala House in Nashville, designed this dish to help get through a long, cold winter. All of the components may be prepped ahead of time, leaving only the last-minute broiling and plating of the dish.

Buy quail then click over to Food & Wine for the recipe.

Working Title: Feature - Better Birds / Published Title: Lights
Buttermilk-marinated quail recipe by Maneet Chauhan. Photo: Christopher Testani for Food & Wine

Broiling gives the quail a crisp, charred surface while keeping it tender and moist on the inside. What I love about this recipe, in terms of the ingredients and method, is that the mint and charred flavors are reminiscent of summertime despite the chill of winter.

– Maneet Chauhan

Juniper-Rubbed Roast 
Duck with Cherry Jus

Angie Mar, chef at The Beatrice Inn in New York City, models her roast duck on the one her father made every Christmas. After a prolonged salt cure, he’d cold-smoke it so the fat picked up the whiff of sweet smoke. Then he’d slow-roast the bird until it resembled the crisp-skinned, mahogany-hued ducks that hang in the windows in Chinatown. Chef Angie serves hers with a rich sauce of reduced duck broth and tart cherries as a nod to the cherry trees in the Pacific Northwest where she grew up. If you have a smoking gun, use it to give a hint of smoke to the duck. If you don’t, no worries; the duck is plenty delicious smoke-free.

Buy duck then click over to Food & Wine for the recipe.

Working Title: Feature - Better Birds / Published Title: Lights
Juniper-Rubbed Roasted Duck recipe by Angie Mar. Photo: Christopher Testani for Food & Wine

When we were opening The Beatrice we wanted to do a duck that was reminiscent of my childhood. I remember seeing the ducks hanging in the windows in Chinatown, lacquered and beautiful, and then having my father’s smoked duck at Christmas. These are such vivid food memories for me. I love this technique as it allows the fat to render and the meat to cook slowly and evenly.

– Angie Mar

Afro-Spiced Fried Guinea Hen

JJ Johnson, chef at Henry in NYC and author of Between Harlem and Heaven, uses grains of paradise, also known as melegueta or Guinea pepper, a West African spice with a slightly citrusy, floral burn to give this peanut-butter-and-lime-based marinade a lingering heat. The heavy use of spice in the marinade (plus an extra dose in the rice flour coating) turns the coating extra dark when frying. Like all good fried poultry, this is delicious hot and crisp from the fryer, and leftovers are also super-tasty and enjoyed cold.

Buy guinea hen, then click over to Food & Wine for the recipe.

Working Title: Feature - Better Birds / Published Title: Lights
Afro-Spiced Fried Guinea Hen recipe by JJ Johnson.  Photo: Christopher Testani for Food & Wine

When I serve fried guinea hen, I call it simply ‘fried bird’ because it truly is the best fried bird. It’s so forgiving and full of flavor. I also really like the history of this recipe and the connections that it makes. You’ve got this African bird, so loved by the French that some people call it the French bird, and I’m putting chiles, cinnamon, and peanut butter on it and frying it in a Southern tradition. It just makes so much sense to me.

– JJ Johnson

Bulgur-Stuffed Poussin with Preserved Lemon–Honey Glaze

Cara Chigazola-Tobin, chef and co-owner of Honey Road, a Mediterranean mezze restaurant in Burlington, VT takes tender poussin to a new level with a Persian-inspired, spicy-sweet marinade and preserved lemon-honey glaze. The dried fruit-stuffed bulgur filling gives you a built-in side dish.

Buy poussin then click over to Food and Wine for the recipe.

Working Title: Feature - Better Birds / Published Title: Lights
Bulgur-Stuffed Poussin recipe by Chara Chigazola-Tobin. Photo: Christopher Testani for Food & Wine

Stuffing poultry with a mixture of grains, dried fruit, and nuts is very common in Middle Eastern cuisine. At the same time, I’m a sucker for a sticky-sweet barbecue sauce on poultry. That’s my jam! The combination of honey and tart-salty preserved lemon works really well with the meaty poussin. It’s like Levantine tradition meets American tradition.

– Cara Chigazola-Tobin

Which of these recipes tempt you most? Will you serve one at the holidays or at your special occasion meal? Connect with us on social media to share your cooking adventures. Tag @dartagnanfoods on FacebookInstagram or Twitter.

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