When I go to southern France and mushrooms are in season, I look forward to the particularly meaty, pungent ceps (also called boletus and porcini or “little pigs’, the Italian name). Ceps dry wonderfully well, an intense, fragrant addition to sauces and soups. They are outstanding with game birds such as guinea hen or pheasant, or with a large Cornish hen.
1 guinea hen (about 3 lb)
2 tablespoons sliced dried ceps (about 1 oz)
1 cup warm water
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons butter
2 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup crème fraîche, more to teste
2-3 tablespoons chopped parsley
1. Heat the oven to 350F°/175C°. Tie the hen neatly with string and sprinkle it with salt and pepper. Heat the oil and butter in a medium casserole until sputtering stops. Add the hen and brown it on all sides over medium heat, turning often, 12-15 minutes.
2. Take out the bird and set it aside. Stir in the ceps and liquid with the stock and bring to a boil. Replace the hen, cover the casserole and bring it just back to a boil. Transfer it to the oven and simmer, turning the bird once or twice, until it is tender and the legs can be pulled apart easily, 3/4-1 hour.
3. Transfer the hen to a cutting board and cover it with foil to keep warm. Bring the sauce to a boil on top of the stove — the ceps will be tender and their juice will have thickened the sauce slightly. If still too thin, boil to thicken it,5-8 minutes. Whisk in the crème fraîche and parsley, taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning, adding more crème fraîche if you like.
4. Cut the bird in two, discarding the backbone. If necessary, reheat the halves briefly in the sauce and arrange on two serving plates. Spoon a little sauce over the top and serve the rest separately.