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Hamam Mahshi (Braised Pigeons & Fireek)

8 T butter,1/4 pound stick
1/2 c onion,finely chopped
1 pigeon giblets,finely chop
2 1/2 c fireek,(coarsely crushed
1 ,green wheat grains)
2 t mint,fresh,finely cut or
1 ,1 ts. dried mint, crumble
1 1/2 t salt
1 black pepper,freshly ground
4 pigeons,(1 pound each) oven
1 ,ready, or 4 1 pound doves
1 ,young partridge, baby
1 ,pheasant, quail, woodcock
1 ,or grouse
1 1/2 c water,cold
2 1/2 c chicken stock,fresh or can
1 parsley sprigs

Over moderate heat melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a heavy 10 to 12 inch skillet. When the foam begins to subside, add the onions and the pigeon giblets and, stirring frequently, cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the onions are soft and light brown. Add the fireek, mint, 1 teaspoon of the salt and a few grindings of the pepper and stir for 2 or 3 minutes until the grains are coated with butter. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (F). Pat the pigeons thoroughly dry inside and out with paper towels and sprinkle their cavities with the remaining salt and a few grindings of pepper. Then stuff 5 tablespoons of the fireek mixture into the breast cavity and 1 tablespoon into the neck cavity of each pigeon. Set the remaining fireek aside. Fasten the neck skin to the back of each bird with a skewer and close the breast openings by lacing them with skewers or sewing them with heavy white thread. Truss the birds by tying their legs together and brush the skins with the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter. Place the pigeons, breast side up, in a heavy 4 to 5 quart casserole and pour in the water. Bring to a boil on top of the stove, cover tightly and braise in the middle of the oven for 45 minutes. Baste the pigeons with the liquid in the casserole, and continue braising for 1 hour longer. To test for doneness, pierce the thigh of a bird with the point of a small, sharp knife. If the juices that run out are slightly pink, cook for another 5 to 10 minutes. A half hour or so before the pigeons are done, bring the chicken stock to a boil in a 2 to 3 quart saucepan over high heat. Stirring constantly, add the reserved fireek mixture and bring to a boil again. Reduce the heat to low, cover tightly, and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the grains are tender and have absorbed all the liquid. To serve, arrange the pigeons on a heated platter and remove the trussing strings and skewers. Moisten the pigeons with the liquid remaining in the casserole, and garnish the platter with parsley. Fluff the fireek with a fork and serve it separately in a heated bowl.

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