Primal Supply Meats, the South Philly- and Brewerytown-based whole-animal butcher shop, faced a curveball this summer when Center City’s Russet closed: a glut of guinea hens, a meatier, gamier relative of the chicken.
When the farm-to-table BYOB closed, Primal Supply owner Heather Thomason called up her longtime Amish poultry farmer, Henry, to tell him to put a stop to her standing order of hens, which went to Russet each week. Problem was, Henry had just put an order in with the hatchery that wouldn’t arrive for another month — and then the hens would take another 12 weeks to reach harvest weight. Which means “the guinea hen faucet,” as Thomason puts it, only just stopped dripping.
“I haven’t found another chef who wants to commit to having them on their menu,” she says. The occasional intrigued customer bought one out of the butcher case, but in the end, “we froze a whole bunch.”
So what’s a shop to do with all that fowl?
Primal Supply’s culinary team figured it out recently, when they started cooking up items for the shop’s new prepared foods program in their Brewerytown kitchen. The answer? Pot pie.
Tender pieces of guinea hen go into a hearty stew of carrots, celery, onions, white wine, butter, and poultry stock. It’s ladled into a buttery pie crust, then — to raise the decadence bar a little higher — topped with a thin layer of creamy béchamel sauce before its sealed in a pastry lid.
In-house chef Elise Polentes tested out the original recipe on Thomason. “‘I just want you to eat it first before you say anything,’” Polentes told her. “I took a bite and I was like, ‘This is really good.’ She said, ‘Does it taste like a heart attack?’”
After further tests, Polentes pulled back a bit on the béchamel, so that one pot pie would still be enough for two or three people, but not leave them strung out on the couch.
“When you heat it up, it all kind of melts together,” Thomason says. “Sip some wine to wash it down.” After all, she adds, “If you’re eating a guinea hen pot pie for dinner, you’re definitely treating yourself.”