Poussins with Asparagus and Vermouth Sauce

Poussins are good for a small dinner party as fewer people always seem to eat more, and a whole bird makes a generous portion. They look like a special treat and the flesh is fine textured and moist. You only need the lightest first course, such as a clear soup.

Serve with new potatoes and a salad of halved cherry tomatoes with chopped fresh mint.

Ingredients

  • 225 g/8 oz thin asparagus
  • 4 poussins
  • 12-16 thin rashers rindless smoked streaky bacon
  • 750 ml/ pints dry vermouth
  • 300 ml/½ pint double cream
  • 4 tablespoons milk
  • 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
  • sea salt
  • black pepper

Method

Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/gas mark 5. Remove any tough lower part of the stalk from the asparagus and then cut the tips off and put on one side. Steam or boil the stems until really soft and put them aside too. Then steam or boil the tips for a few minutes, until just tender but still bright green. Rinse with cold water to cool quickly and set aside.

Put the poussins in a roasting pan and place the bacon rashers closely together over the breasts and thighs of the birds, cutting the bacon to fit. Cook the birds in the centre of the oven for 40-45 minutes, pouring the vermouth into the roasting pan about 15 minutes before the end of cooking. At this stage put the cooked asparagus stems into a food processor with the cream and milk and whizz to a purée. Then rub this purée through a sieve into a bowl.

When the poussins are cooked, transfer them to a warm serving dish or individual plates (emptying any juices from their body cavities back into the roasting pan). Add the sherry vinegar to the pan juices and bring up to bubbling on top of the stove, then stir in the puréed asparagus mixture and bubble again, stirring all the time, for about 1 minute. Finally, stir in the reserved asparagus tips, remove from the heat, season to taste with salt and black pepper and pour into a bowl to serve with the poussins. If the birds are on individual plates, spoon the sauce on to each plate around them.

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