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Guinea Hen Roasted with Pistachio Butter

Game birds such as wild turkey, quail or pheasant were traditional Thanksgiving fare on the prairie. Moist and tender guinea fowl, the "watch chickens" of the Midwestern farmyard, might persuade you to put squawk instead of a gobble in your holiday menu. This recipe is from the American Restaurant in Kansas City, Mo.

Pistachio butter:

1/3 cup shelled pistachios
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped (2 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon snipped fresh savory
Pepper to taste

Guinea hens:

2 guinea hens, about 21/2 pounds each, or 3 or 4 1- to 11/2-pound Cornish game hens
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup finely diced onion
1/2 cup finely diced carrot
1/2 cup finely diced celery
1/4 cup chicken stock or broth

Pistachio butter: Arrange the pistachios in a single layer in a shallow baking pan. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 5 to 10 minutes or until lightly toasted, stirring once. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes.

Place the toasted pistachios, butter, shallots, lemon juice and savory in the bowl of a food processor. Process until the nuts are finely chopped. Season with pepper to taste; set aside.

To prepare the hens, carefully separate the skin from the breast and legs by easing your index finger between the skin and the meat of each hen. Spread 1/4 of the Pistachio Butter between the skin and the meat of each guinea hen with your finger or a narrow rubber spatula. (Use about 2 tablespoons for each Cornish game hen.) Reserve the remaining Pistachio Butter for basting. Cover and chill the hens for 1 to 2 hours.

Sprinkle each body cavity with salt and pepper. In a bowl, combine the onion, carrot, and celery. Divide the mixture evenly among the body cavities. Tuck the ends of the drumsticks under the band of skin across the tail. If band of skin is not present, tie the drumsticks securely to the tail. Twist wing tips under the back. Place the hens on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine the chicken stock or broth and the remaining Pistachio Butter. Cook and stir over low heat until butter is melted. Brush the hens with the Pistachio Butter-chicken stock mixture. Return the hens to the oven. Bake, uncovered, for 1 to 11/2 hours more for guinea hens (40 to 50 minutes more for Cornish game hens) or until thermometer registers 180 degrees, or until drumsticks move easily in their sockets and juices run clear. Remove hens from oven and cover with foil. Let stand 10 to 15 minutes before carving. Serves 6 to 8.

Sources for guinea hen: You can order locally from Jo-Mar Provisions, Strip District, 412-471-1760; ask for Kenny Zvirman or Ed Gorrell. Hens are also available through mail order from D'Artagnan, Inc., 399-419 St. Paul Avenue, Jersey City, NJ 07306, 1-800-327-8246.

Calories: 340; Protein: 29; Carbohydrate: 5; Fiber: 1;Fat: 23; Cholesterol: 130; Sodium: 109.

Thursday, November 16, 2000

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