Tuesday night at La Cacciata is nearly always a big dinner at the Belcapos’ villa. The guests have been away for the day, shopping and absorbing the splendours of Umbria. On returning, there is no class. They’re obviously too tired to prepare their own dinner, and so am I.
Dust the pieces of guinea fowl with the seasoned flour. Take a wide pan or casserole which will hold the meat in one layer. Heat a little oil in this over a medium heat and gently brown the guinea fowl. Be careful not to burn, as the taste of scorched flour is impossible to get rid of. When the pieces are uniformly golden brown add the pancetta and a little more oil. Continue to cook steadily until this turns translucent, then add the mushrooms and onions. Continue sautéing carefully, turning the pieces of fowl occasionally, for about 10 minutes or until the vegetables have coloured slightly. Add the vinegar and boil for 1 minute then pour in the red wine and add the bouquet garni. Return to a simmer and then turn the heat to low. The pieces of bird should be about half covered in the wine; if not, add a little water. Braise gently for an hour, turning and basting often. If the liquid level drops too much, add a little water; the final level should have reduced by approximately one-half, and be a deep red colour with a glossy sheen. Check that the bird is very tender, nearly falling off the bones; if not return it to cook for a little longer. Check the seasoning.
Serve with crostini spread with liver paste under the pieces of guinea fowl, and the mushrooms, pancetta, onions and syrupy sauce spooned on top. Scatter with a little coarsely chopped parsley. Italian Coq au Vin!
© 1996 Alastair Little. All rights reserved.