Top Five Under-Appreciated Fowl Meats

All fowl should be fair game for eating, but many Americans, me included, seem fixated on chicken and turkey. Next time you're in the mood to eat some feathery friends, consider this list of under-appreciated fowl. Hunting down some of these birds will have to be a figurative rather than literal gesture unless you 1) own a gun, or 2) spend substantial time in foreign places not Texas. Try Whole Foods, Central Market, specialty markets, and the interwebs for eligible (already dead) specimens.

5. Cornish Hen. Perfect if you want something like chicken but are only feeling slightly adventurous. Cornish hens are very similar in taste to chicken but smaller in stature, so it's possible to eat a whole one by yourself. Because the meat has a tendency to be dry, I recommend marinading a Cornish hen in citrus juice or buttermilk to soften the flesh. This recipe from Martha Stewart is also terrific.

4. Pheasant. Less expensive than other "exotic" fowl, the pheasant is a bird best roasted. The thin skin crisps and crackles, and the rich meat becomes soft and juicy. Serving pheasant at your next dinner party will impress your guests and substantiate your claims to be descended from British royalty. Preparation, however, can be complicated, so here are some guidelines.

3. Goose. The Cratchit family in Dickens' A Christmas Carol may live a rather pitiable existence, but by God, I am jealous of them when they chow down on that Christmas goose. The flavorful flesh of this voluptuous bird is overlooked in favor of its liver, most often consumed in the form of foie gras, aka "meat butter." But if you're a fan of dark meat and rich creamy fowl fat, the goose should be your bird of choice for holiday dinners.

2. Ortolan Bunting. Here's a quick and dirty description in case you haven't heard of the ortolan (I hadn't until two years ago). Granted, I've only eaten OB once in my life (in Asia), which is probably a good thing because they're, um, highly endangered and the preparation process is rather barbaric. But, oh, the OB was so tasty, bones and all! I surely won't go to hell for relishing just one.

1. Ostrich. Ostrich is creeping onto some menus, but it's still a distant third behind cow and turkey. But ostrich combines the best of both worlds: it's a red meat with a similar taste and texture to beef but relatively low in cholesterol, calories, and saturated fat. Make a great, fast-cooking burger with ground ostrich or, if you're feeling fancier, check out this recipe.

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Joanna O'Leary