roasted poussin, cinnamon-cumin sweet potatoes, cress

For weeks I’d been saving a recipe I’d recently found, ‘Poussin with quince and myrtle’, only because I had become interested in the use of myrtle in Mediterranean food recipes. I had even managed to accumulate a decent stash of it. Poussin may be even more difficult to find than myrtle, even in cosmopolitan New York, so when I spotted some good local candidates at Eataly Flatiron recently, I jumped on them.

Having concentrated so much on the myrtle, I had forgotten that one of the other somewhat scarce ingredients in the formula was “1 quince”, a wonderful fruit, but one which can only be found in this area in the fall.

I had to start over. Apparently I don’t have enough French, or French-oriented cookbooks, because I couldn’t find any recipes for poussin in my bookshelves, even in Julia Child’s 2 fussy volumes. It was back to the internet, and there I found a recipe after my own heart: It was simple, virtually foolproof, required no attention once it was slipped into the oven, it asked for no ingredients other than those that I already had, and those it did specify were among of my favorites.

The recipe was from Nigella Lawson, and it became the basis for what I cooked last night. Oddly, I thought it was actually a little too simple, and, either intentionally or not, too abbreviated: one or more errors in its transfer to that web site may have been the source of my confounding.

In any event, my adjustments at home included seasoning the cavities of the birds and including thyme sprigs and a lemon wedge in each, and cutting the potatoes into slightly smaller sizes. I did rest the poussin on thick pieces of bread, as she wrote she had done in the past, and I roasted both birds and sweet potatoes in the same oven pan. I forgot about Lawson’s suggestion of serving the dish with English mustard (had I included it, I would have added grated fresh horseradish to a Dijon), but I think, in the end, the herb and the lemon was just the right amount of excitement.

The meal was terrific, and the wine a perfect pairing.

  • two 20-ounce local poussin (Griggstown Quali Farm, Inc., Princeton, NJ) from Eataly, seasoned inside and out with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, with one bruised Keith’s Farm Rocambole garlic clove, a sprig of thyme, and an organic Whole Foods Market lemon wedge placed in the cavity of each, arranged on top of a thick piece of a French sourdough levain from Bread Alone inside a large rectangular enameled cast iron oven pan, roughly one tablespoon of olive oil poured over the 2 birds, which were then surrounded by just under a pound of Japanese sweet potatoes from Lani’s Farm, that had been scrubbed, left unpeeled, cut into pieces about one and a half inches in size, and tossed in a bowl with a little olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon each of hand-ground cumin and cinnamon, sea salt, and freshly-ground black pepper, the pan placed inside a 425º oven for 50 to 55 minutes or so, removed, the poussin sprinkled with a bit of Maldon salt and drizzled with a little lemon juice, potatoes and bird arranged on 2 plates with a tangle of wild watercress from Lani’s Farm
  • the wine was an Italian (Piedmont) red, Barbera d’Alba, Oddero 2014, from Astor Wines
  • the music was Handel’s ‘Ariodante’,  Alan Curtis conducting Il Complesso Barocco