06 June, 2010

Smoked Guinea Fowl

Continuing on from where I left off earlier...I had a brace of guinea fowl which I bought at Impoco Poultry Market in Springfield, and I decided to smoke them.  This decision was made partly because I love smoked poultry, and partly because it was so uncomfortably hot and humid that I really didn't want to make the kitchen any less comfortable by running the stove.

The birds were plump enough and young enough that I decided not to brine them first.  Although not as fatty as common domestic chickens, some areas of the skin had thicker layers of subcutaneous fat, mostly at the joints (just like most birds.)  Guinea fowl also have much more dark meat on them - they haven't been selectively bred over the past 70 years to be mostly white meat and to pass their entire lives in tiny cages. I felt that the meat would be more resistant to drying out during the relatively short time and low temperature it would be in the smoker.

I mixed up a dry rub to use on the birds:

Dave's Poultry Rub

¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup kosher salt
2 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
¼ cup sweet Hungarian paprika
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1½ teaspoons Turkish Aleppo pepper (or use crushed red pepper) - optional
2 tablespoons coarsely ground mustard seed

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly; this makes about 1½ cups of rub, which is enough for four or five chickens or fowl.  Keep leftovers in a tightly-covered container and they'll stay at full potency for a couple of months.  It's great on all poultry, not just guinea fowl.

Once I had the rub ready,  I cleaned and prepped the birds, removing the heads and feet (which I froze, reserving for later) and rinsing out the cavities.  That's when I found out that one of my "guinea hens" was a "guinea cock:" His nads were still inside, clinging to the backbone.

(Fun trivia:  When you get a whole broiler or roasting chicken and find two little yellow kidney-shaped things in the cavity, you've got a male bird.  Those aren't the kidneys, they're the testicles.  The kidneys in a bird are the dark brown livery bits tight up against the backbone, tucked in where the ribs and backbone meet.)

Anyway, I rinsed and dried the birds and spread some newspaper down on the kitchen table to make cleanup easier, and rubbed the fowl well with the spice mixture.  Then I put the birds, neck side up, on a pair of heavy-gauge wire hangers I made for hanging chickens in the smoker.

I always cover the work surface with newspapers before applying a barbecue
rub to meats.  The paper absorbs excess liquid from the meat and the paprika
and other spices stay off the table so they don't leave stains.
 This is the chicken hanger.  I have a roll of fence-tensioning wire that I use for general purposes - whenever I need a hook, a hanger, or metal loop I cut off a length and fashion what I need.

You can form the shape of the wire with a bending jig, a pair of fence pliers, or just any set of pliers you have on hand.

To use it, pass the hook through the cavity of the chicken, from the ventral opening up and out through the neck.  The small hook at the end is to hang from the rack in the top of the smoker.  The big round loop at the bottom stays outside the bird and supports it.

Here's a picture of the guinea fowl hanging in the smoker.  You can see how the top hooks of the hangers link up with the rack in the top of the smoker, and how the legs and tail of the birds fit inside the bottom hanger loop to support the poultry while it cooks.

They went into the smoker for about 2 hours at just under 300 degrees over apple and citruswood smoke.  I used a remote digital thermometer to monitor the temperature of the meat and took them out when the temp reached 160 F.

And here they are, beautifully browned and fresh from the smoker.
Sliced and ready to eat, the white meat of the guinea fowl came out juicy and meltingly tender from the slow cooking and low temperature.  The spice rub gave the meat a good spicy enhancement, but the smoke flavoring and the rich gamebird flavor of the fowl were the real stars.



Marc said...

I was waiting to see what you were going to do with them! Looks good. I'm gonna have to give it a try. By & by: I get reserving the feet but the head???

Dave said...

Marc - Hahaha, yeah, I reserved the heads, too. I give them to the dog - they're a crunchy treat that's also very good for his digestion.

Anonymous said...

The nads huh.. i dunno about that.. LOL!
The fowl look wonderful. I really need to invest in a smoker.