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French Thanksgiving

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Chestnut-Stuffed Guinea Hens With Rosemary-Roasted Fingerling Potatoes and Celery Root  

Laurent Tourondel
Chef-owner, BLT restaurants

Laurent Tourondel, the French chef behind the ever-expanding BLT empire (BLT Steak, BLT Fish, et al.), first celebrated Thanksgiving when he arrived in America thirteen years ago. I didn’t understand it then, but now I enjoy it more than Christmas, he says. It’s inclusive and nonreligious. I always have a big party at my house. For the main course of his Thanksgiving dinner, Tourondel re-creates a family tradition of his own from rural France. Instead of turkey, he roasts guinea hens. They remind me of my grandmother; her guinea hens tasted of the wood-fired oven she roasted them in. In keeping with the French-countryside theme, Tourondel stuffs the hens with fall chestnuts and pork sausage, roasting them on a bed of fingerling potatoes, celery root, and carrots. For his side dish, Tourondel serves sautéed Swiss chard with bacon, and stirs in butter at the last momenta Gallic touch that makes the chard silky. It’s a little tweak on creamed spinach, he says. For dessert, Tourondel makes an apple cake that’s based on his grandmother’s flognarde, the French baked dessert. People love that I serve apple cake instead of traditional pie, says Tourondel. Perhaps we know why: He drowns the finished product in a Calvados sauce.

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Chestnut-Stuffed Guinea Hens With Rosemary-Roasted Fingerling Potatoes and Celery Root
Braised Swiss Chard
Gâteau Aux Pommes With Calvados-Caramel Sauce

Chestnut-Stuffed Guinea Hens With Rosemary-Roasted Fingerling Potatoes and Celery Root
CHESTNUT STUFFING
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 pound pork sausage, casings removed
4 tablespoons butter
1 small white onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
2 1/2 cups country-style bread, crusts removed, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1 tablespoon chopped thyme
1 tablespoon chopped sage leaves
2 teaspoons chopped rosemary
4 ounces roasted chestnuts, peeled and sliced
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 cup chicken stock
Sea salt and pepper

In a large sauté pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the sausage meat and sauté, breaking it up with a fork until cooked through.

In a large skillet, heat the butter over medium heat until foaming, and add the onion and celery. Cover and cook until softdo not allow it to brownabout 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, and add the bread, herbs, chestnuts, egg, and stock. With a slotted spoon, add the sausage to the bowl, and mix until combined. Season with salt and pepper, and allow to cool before stuffing the birds.

GUINEA HENS AND VEGETABLES
1/2 cup olive oil
3 pounds fingerling potatoes, sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 medium onion, cut into a large dice
4 medium shallots, cut into a large dice
8 large garlic cloves
2 celery roots, peeled and cut into a large dice
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into a large dice
10 large fresh sage leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
3 bay leaves
Kosher salt and pepper
3 guinea hens (available at dartagnan.com)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup white wine
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Oil a large roasting pan.

In a large bowl, toss the potatoes, onion, shallots, garlic, celery root, carrots, sage, rosemary, and bay leaves with the oil. Season with salt and pepper and transfer the vegetables to the roasting pan.

Stuff each hen with 1 cup stuffing and close the opening with skewers. Brush the hens with 3 tablespoons melted butter and season with salt and pepper. Set the hens on top of the vegetables. Roast, basting occasionally, for 1 hour or until the skin on the hens is golden brown and crisp and the juices run clear when a hen is pierced with a knife at the joint of the leg (165170 degrees). Transfer them to a platter, cover loosely with foil, and keep warm.

Turn the broiler to high. Toss the vegetables, and cook until they are well browned and tender, 5 to 10 minutes more, stirring and turning once or twice. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the vegetables to the platter with the hens and keep warm.

Remove any excess fat from the juices in the roasting pan. Heat the pan over medium heat, add the wine, and reduce by half. Add the broth and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits in the pan, and reduce liquid to 1 cup, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat, add remaining butter, and whisk until melted and well blended. Pour into a pitcher and keep warm.

Carve the hens into quarters, and serve on top of the vegetables with the jus on the side.


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