When Partridge meets Single Malt there is not much room for error.
Most of us have been there, you spend a small fortune on hunting gear, you have practiced with your shotgun religiously in anticipation for the season, you have hiked miles and miles in search of your quarry, and you finally bag your first bird or two to bring home to the family as an accomplished hunter. Now what? If you were anything like me chances are you didn’t invest much time in honing your cooking skills for this big day so that you could get the absolute best from the game meat you now have in your possession -which seems so counter intuitive when you consider the fact that at least on paper the primary reason for hunting is food, so it might be best to cook our game in a way that makes it truly shine.
The solution many culinary beginners take often requires drowning the wonderfully exotic wild game meat in a salty and sloppy, ordinary and mundane, canned cream of mushroom soup. It’s a great way to cook a game bird the wrong way and still make it palatable, because when it finally comes out of the oven its going to taste like cream of mushroom soup and not much like overcooked bird.
Here is a simple recipe that is almost as easy as cracking a can of soup, but will bring out the flavor of that game bird to levels you never dreamed possible, and really what better way is there to honor the game you harvested, honor yourself, and all the passionate hard work you put into obtaining that clean wild meat.
1.This recipe is for a grouse or partridge sized bird, but really you could use any white meat breasted game bird, just increase or decrease the cooking time to account for the bird’s size. I like to leave the feet on as an extra reminder to me and my guests that dinner was a wild animal and not some diseased hunk of meat crammed into a cage at a mass production poultry farm.
2. About half of a stick of softened unsalted butter.
3. Bacon? Plucking birds is a good skill to learn, the difference in flavor and juiciness in a plucked bird vs one that has only been skinned is absolutely night and day and more than worth all the trouble. Plucking is another skill of the hunt to master and it takes practice, if you are still learning to properly pluck birds or you have one that is too shot up to pluck you can wrap the bird in bacon to create an artificial skin to help lock in moisture. *note bacon will add extra salt to the dish so that is something to keep in mind when seasoning.
Single Malt Sauce:
A. At least one table spoon of your favorite single malt scotch. The smoky peaty flavor really goes well with the earthiness of the grouse and mushrooms… If you don’t like single malt, bourbon is an excellent substitute!
B. 1/2 pound of mushrooms. Get what ever is in season, if nothing is in season generic baby portabellos from the supermarket will do.
C. 1 minced shallot or half a cup of onion
D. two or three sprigs of fresh thyme
E. 1.5 cups of cream
F. salt and pepper
G. drippings from the roasting pan.
1. Smear each bird with softened butter inside and out, then generously salt and pepper. If your birds are skinless wrap them in bacon and arrange in the pan.
2. Cook uncovered in the oven for 25-30 minutes at 425 degrees. If the birds are larger sized grouse or partridge then it may take up to 35 minutes for them to cook fully. It is always best to under cook and return to the oven than to overcook and ruin that delicate meat.
3.When they are done transfer the birds to another pan and broil them for five minutes for wonderfully crispy skin.
4. Take the the birds out and cover them in foil while you make the sauce. *It is Important to let delicate game bird meat rest for a few minutes after cooking, if you cut right into it much of the moisture escapes in the form of steam and the meat will be unpleasantly dry.
Making The Single Malt Cream of Mushroom sauce.
1. Melt two tablespoons of butter in a large pan at medium heat. Throw the mushrooms in with some salt and pepper and stir until the mushrooms soak up most of the butter.
2. Next throw in your shallots or onion and cook them until they soften and carmalize a little -about five minutes.
3. Now is the part where a certain obnoxious celebrity chef would start talking about “Flavor town“… It is time to pour in the pan drippings- all the fat and essence of the birds is contained in these drippings and you are going to infuse it into the mushrooms.
4. Toss in the sprigs of thyme and let this simmer until the fluid in the pan reduces by half.
5. Now stir in the cream and single malt and let simmer until it thickens.
Serve by pouring the sauce over the bird and garnish with fresh thyme sprinkled on top. Its just that easy and more delicious than you would ever believe if your old standby bird recipe involved a can of cream of mushroom soup.