Menus & Entertaining

Not quite turkey: Smaller birds for a condo-sized festive feast

Author: Canadian Living

Menus & Entertaining

Not quite turkey: Smaller birds for a condo-sized festive feast

For many Canadians, the Norman Rockwell, multigenerational holiday feast has become a thing of the past. Today, family members can live continents apart, young career-driven couples dwell in tiny urban condos and lofts, and seniors and empty-nesters have pared-down their lives and homes.

While digs this small are not conducive to preparing and serving up a 20-pound bird with all the fixin's to a hungry crowd of extended family, it doesn't mean you shouldn't celebrate the season.

If you're short on space, or if you find yourself on your own this holiday season, you have options. Create a festive and delicious meal for one, two, or many as you can hold in your small space, with this flock of smaller feathered friends.

Quail
This tiny, tender, and, tasty bird has been a mainstay of European and Asian cuisine for hundreds of years, while here in North America it's still a relative newcomer.

But that's changing, and we're seeing quail on menus—from tandoori to peri peri—and even at the meat counter of national grocery chains. For home cooks, quail is joining the ranks of preferred meats for easy, elegant grilling. This feather-weight is about one-quarter of a pound, so count on two to three per person.

Recipe: Broiled Quail with Braised Fennel

Squab

Squab, now doesn’t that sound a lot nicer than pigeon? And again, squab is mostly an overlooked bird on this continent, but considered a delicacy in France, Italy, Morocco, and Asia.

It too is starting to gain in popularity here thanks to a few daring chefs who are putting the bird on the menu. At about one-half to three-quarters of a pound, you will need one squab per person.

Partridge
Flying right out of that pear tree and onto your dinner table, this pretty bird is native to Europe, Asia, North Africa, and the Middle East.

A smaller member of the pheasant family, it may be a harder to find, but well worth the hunt, and it just sounds great. Partridges usually weigh about one pound, so you’ll need one per person.

Recipe:
Partridge or Pheasant Pie

Page 1 of 2 -- Find delicious recipes for Cornish hen, duck and goose on page 2
Cornish Hen
When looking for Cornish Hen you might also see it referred to as: Poussin, Rock Cornish Hen, Cornish Game Hen, or simply Rock Cornish.

Whatever you call it, it’s a great choice for an elegant holiday bird. But names can be deceiving, as it is not a game bird at all, but rather a breed of chicken that was developed in California in the 1950s. These birds are approximately one pound each, so plan on one per person.

Recipe:
Glazed Cornish Hens with Hazelnut Cranberry Stuffing

Poussin
This is the French name for a young chicken—usually only 28 days old at time of slaughter—but may also be called a Coquelet or Spring Chicken. Weighing no more than one and one-quarter pounds, one of these plump chicks could feed two light eaters, or someone game for holiday indulging!

Recipe: Spring Chickens on a Bed of Watercress

• Pheasant
Prized for its stunning plumage almost as much as its meat, this beauty is an Asian native that was introduced as game, and has been naturalized in many parts of the world.

The bird’s long, striped tail feathers are often placed back onto the roasted bird for dramatic effect at the table. Farmed pheasant runs between one and one-half to two pounds, and has very rich, gamy meat, so one bird will do nicely for two.

• Guinea Fowl
Also known as the Jumbo Ring-neck Guinea Fowl or Guinea Hen. An African species, they are now raised in North America and France, and according to Marlon Pather of The Butchers in Toronto, “These guys are mean when they’re alive.”

Fortunately, they redeem themselves in the afterlife, by being moist and delicious. Each two and one-half pound bird will feed two.

• Duck
Ducks can be fairly big, up to 8 pounds, so ask your butcher for a small female—the males are always bigger. You should be able to find a duck weighing about three and one-half to four and one-half pounds.

With its irresistibly rich meat and crispy, addictive skin, two or four duck lovers will make short work of just one duck. Just remember, ducks have a good layer of fat between the skin and meat. That makes for juicy meat, crispy skin, and a lot of rendered fat in your roasting pan.

Duck-cooking tips
: Make sure your pan is deep enough, and raise the bird up on a rack, so the fat can drip away. But don’t get rid of that yellow gold. Duck fat is considered a delicacy and in the French farmhouse kitchen, and essential for roasting potatoes and even deep-frying.

Recipe: Magret of Duck with Fig and Port Sauce

• Goose

Create your own Dickensian Christmas with a roast goose. As with the duck, this might be a special order from you butcher, so tell them what size you want. You can find geese as small as six pounds—and a six-pounder will easily feed four—so ask for that. And just like duck, geese are chubby, so the same cooking advice applies.

Recipe: Roast Stuffed Goose

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Read more:
Harvest special: Pumpkin pie collection
Test Kitchen Video: How to cook a turkey
10 dos and don'ts of holiday entertaining
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Not quite turkey: Smaller birds for a condo-sized festive feast

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