Friday, April 23, 2010

A Scottish Grouse meets an 1850 Madeira and a dream is realized

“The Red Grouse is never far from heather and its Gaelic name is Coileach-fraoich (Cock of the Heather). No one really knows where the name Grouse originated from – it could come from two old French words: groucier - to murmur, grumble or greoche – speckled”, reports the delightful Sue Stephen’s at Ladies with Bottle

Grouse are Galliformes like chickens and range in size from 11 oz to 14 lbs! Stephens says they are mostly vegetarians “living on heather shoots, seeds and insects”. This diet gives them their distinctive flavor. Their feathers (especially those of the black grouse) were popular as ornaments for hats during the Victorian age (and are still used on hunting hats) although grouse are most prized today as a game bird. Hunters refer to the opening of Grouse season in the UK as “The Glorious 12th” (of August) and the date has been the start of grouse season since the Game Act was passed in 1831.
Galliformes go waaaay back, 56 million years and more (don’t you love this fossil?)

Palaeortyx skeleton, Muséum national d'histoire naturelle, Paris

I think most of us think of grouse as the prey of the leisure-hunting class in so many British novels and Hollywood films.

Lord Saville by Spy 1908

The hunt begins with dozens of ‘grouse beaters’ crashing about the brush to frighten the poor birds into taking flight so they can be shot by sportsman in tweedy Plus-fours (at least that’s what they wear in 40’s Hollywood B&W hunting parties). Dining on pheasant and quail and grouse served from giant silver domed dishes from sideboards the size of airplane runways has come to represent a certain lifestyle of upper-class British society that is fast disappearing. I just had to try some.

Red Grouse

What started all this grousing??? Madeira! 
Mannie Berk by C. M. Glover for The New York Times

Those of you who have read my blog for a while know that Mannie Berk at The Rare Wine Company has been my Madeira Genie, granting my wish to cook with antique wines (as was done in centuries past when they were an indispensable ingredient for legendary chefs like Carême). In an exchange of emails I told him I dreamed to try a pre-Civil War Madeira. He told me he had an 1850 (that had been in cask for 100 years before it was bottled in the 1960’s or 70’s). I fell on the floor when a small sample arrived in the post. When I tasted it, I heard supernal music (think Caruso and Ancona as their voices join and rise heavenward in the Pearl Fisher Duet (LISTEN HERE) — close your eyes as you listen to the century old recording, the pellucid voices rising through a mist of sound — time stops for a moment— are you with me?? YES, THAT GOOD). To make a dish with this celestial elixir I had to find something that could complement the wine’s great age and ethereal beauty.

I once had a pheasant in England that had been hung until it dropped from its hook. The flavor was dark and mysterious as if legend and ancient moors and forests had come together to cast a spell over its succulent flesh.

Heather Fields by Gordon McBryde

I thought that grouse, redolent of heather, might have some of that quality and would be a perfect foil to the Madeira. A foie gras sauce with that Madeira would be the alpha and omega.

My Grouse comes from Scotland via the lovely people at D’Artagnan. I have come to rely on them for game birds and they are my Jersey neighbors.

Ariane Daugin

D'Artagnan was founded by Ariane Daugin, the daughter of Andre Daugin who ran Gascony’s famous Hotel de France in Auch. They provided the grouse and the ducks for the stock as well as the foie gras for the sauce. We could say this meal is a D’Artagnan production!

Since it was game, I wrote to the Game Guru Hank at Honest Food (2010 James Beard Best Blog Finalist btw, KUDOS!!!!!) He recommended brining. He also reminded me these are lean mean little flying machines that need help in the fat department so they don’t dry out in the cooking process. The wonderful cookbook author and teacher Madeline Kamman had a genius idea about frozen nut oil under the skin that her great-Grandmother had used with guinea hens that I decided to use on my grouse. I went to soooo many UK game sites to check with the masters of the moors for their suggestions about preparing my little treasures. In the end the great chefs Pierre Koffman and Eric Chavot had great ideas for the cooking grouse. What I ended up with was my distillation of many wonderful recipes with some ideas of my own that I hope you will enjoy. Although it sounds daunting, it is really quite simple and could be used on cornish hen if you can’t manage a grouse (although you should!) with an increase in cooking time.

Grouse with a Foie Gras and Madeira Sauce & Blackberry Compote for 2

Grouse ( I can see this recipe with Cornish hen or pheasant too!)

2 Scottish grouse from D'Artagnan (Buy them HERE)
1 T hazelnut oil
1 anchovy, mashed
1 t grated shallot
½ t fresh thyme
1 T foie gras
¼ t pepper
3 t. heather honey
1 T vegetable oil
**Madeira sauce
***Blackberry compote

Take 1 T hazelnut oil and grated shallot, anchovy, thyme, pepper and 1 T foie gras and 1 t heather honey and blend. Put in the freezer for 30 minutes or until firm.

Remove the grouse from the brine and pat dry. Let stand 15 minutes while heating the oven to 400º as you insert the semi-solid oil under the breast and leg (the leg is tough to do—they are little birds) of the grouse. Put the remainder in the cavity with 2 t of heather honey. Add salt and pepper over all.

Heat the oil in a large ovenproof frying pan over a medium-high heat. Add the grouse and fry for 3-4 minutes, turning regularly, until the birds are browned on all sides. If you lose any of the oil from the bird as you do this… spoon it back in before you put it into the oven.

Arrange each grouse so that it is resting on one breast.

Transfer to the oven for 3-4 minutes, then turn the birds onto their other breast and roast for a further 3 minutes. Turn the grouse onto their backs and roast for 4 more minutes. 
Remove the pan from the oven. Remove the grouse from the pan, place on a warm plate and cover loosely with foil. Set aside to rest in a warm place for 10 minutes.
Serve with the Madeira sauce poured over the bird and the compote separately or on the plate.

*Brine for the grouse from Honest food

1/4 cup salt
4 cups water
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon crushed juniper berries
1 rosemary sprig

Boil and cool and brine the birds for 12 hours. Enough for 2 small birds

**Madeira Sauce (this can be enough for 2 but it is so good you may want to double it)

2 T Butter
sprig of thyme
2 shallots, minced
1/3 c demi-glace (duck or chicken)
1 T foie gras (D'Artagnan brilliantly sells frozen pieces that can be broken off and used for sooo many things!!!)
2 t. Boston Bual Madeira (I used that 1850 Verdelho)
Add 2 T butter to the skillet in which the grouse cooked and add the shallots and thyme. Cover and cook for 2 minutes. Add duck Demi-glace. Add the Foie Gras one teaspoon at a time, whisking each addition thoroughly into the demi glace to achieve a silky smooth consistency, strain. Add 2 T Madeira just before serving.

Plate the grouse, nap with pan sauce and blackberries.

 ***Blackberry compote* based on Hotel Cipriani recipe

1 cup blackberries
3-4 T heather honey
6 juniper berries, crushed
1 “ piece cinnamon
2 cloves
Zest of ½ a lime

Combine and cook until berries are soft. Serve warm or at room temperature

*You may remember this Sherwood Forest combination… I just had to use it again!

This can be served with:

Tom Kitchin Celeriac Puree From Great British Menu

1 celeriac, peeled, finely chopped
milk, double cream to cover celeriac

2 t fresh horseradish

Place the celeriac into a small pan, cover with equal amounts of milk and cream and cook until soft. Once soft, drain, discarding the milk and cream. Purée using a hand-blender until smooth. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste. Add horseradish.

Also great with this is steamed sugar snaps and baked beets tossed with 1 T verjus or sherry vinegar and 1 T hazelnut oil


Stella said...

Hey Deana, this grouse sounds lovely. You know, any bird is my temptation to leave the vegetarian realm for a moment. I would definitely do so for a bite of this luxury.
Ooh, and that 1850 madeira-envious I am! Mannie Berk sounds like a genie to me for sure...

Sarah said...

This looks absolutely divine! Although I live in grouse country, I have never eaten it. How do you score such a vintage madeira, madame!

Your Google ads are cute - first time I checked in the top ad was from SaskTourism for grouse hunting and now it is Canada's best bird exterminators!

Moira - Tertúlia de Sabores said...

Hi Deana,
I have the Madeira, not that old, but a good one, now I have to find the grouse, here is rare to find them in supermarkets.
Have a nice weekend :)

Deanna said...

Wow. That sound so rich and luxurious. Therefore, something I have to make should I ever find the time and the money to get all of the ingredients.

Becky said...

Beautiful -- what a perfect combination! Madeira is so lovelyl

Anonymous said...

What an incredible, romantic meal! Madeira sauce and blackberries sound perfectly complimentary to the grouse!

Faith said...

I love that beautiful picture of the Heather Moorland! That grouse is gorgeous...I bet the blackberry compote pairs perfectly!

SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

It's been years since I've had grouse! I remember it being such a tiny, little thing but it was a wild one. Yours looks beautiful and succulent and I always enjoy reading your informative background on each subject!

Deana Sidney said...

Stella>This is a reason to jump off the meat wagon... that and the sauce are pure poetry, and yes, Mannie is a genie!
Sarah> you are so lucky to be able to get grouse in your own backyard...I do think you live in paradise!. the madeira was a gift from heaven and something I never could afford on my own!
Moira> I don't think I have ever seen grouse in the market... how lucky you are. They are very rare here if you don't hunt!
Deanna> this was a real once in a lifetime dish... I can't tell you how lucky I was to be able to make it!!
Becky> Madeira makes everything better.
5 star> blackberries and game are really great together.
Faith>yeah, that picture knocked my socks off too. Those colors!
Savoring> The thing is.. it is tiny... but plates in 1820 are very small... no wonder we are fat, our plates are twice as big! The old dinner plates are the size of luncheon plates. This is a wild grouse.

Mary Bergfeld said...

I loved your post today. I haven't had true game birds in years. Last time it was pheasant filled with buck shot that my husband brought down. It was dreadful :-). That being said you have inspired me. I hope you are having a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

What a beautiful recipe Deana and what lovely suppliers you have-tehy must love the care and enthusiasm that you show with your dishes and I'm sure it's a pleasure to open up their treasure troves to you! :D

Barbara said...

A picture-perfect dish, Deana! And a lovely story, as usual.
Believe it or not, I have shot, cooked and eaten grouse. And pheasant. When I was much younger and my grandfather had a hunting lodge in Michigan. We only had the bare necessities pantry-wise and our duck, pheasant and grouse were always cooked simply. Pheasant and grouse are not fat so my grandfather always layered them with bacon to keep them from getting dry when cooking. The fanciest he got was a red wine sauce.
It was a delight to read your post...and I hope someday I can try your recipe!

(I ordered some duck leg confit from D'Artagnan last week so I could make a duck/lentil dish made by Kate at Serendipity!)

Chef Dennis Littley said...

what an incredibly well written blog...I thoroughly enjoyed it!! The grouse a once forgotten looks delicious!!
I love your saint at the end, growing up we always had a few at any given time..then we got a newfie.....and now my babies are of the Bernese variety
I am so Glad to have found your blog!!

June said...

What a fabulous elegant meal...mmm blackberry compote...grouse. I'll be bookmarking this for our Oregon trip.

Linda said... amaze me!
Every time I stop by to visit you I learn something wonderful...
This dish was obviously a labor of love and it shows...
Just wonderful....beautiful pics!

chow and chatter said...

yummy bird and very interesting post

tasteofbeirut said...

As soon as I post my comment I am off to translate grouse; I need to figure out if I have had it before! I used to eat game and such quite often when I lived in France; I have heard of the D'artagnan company about 20 years ago, through Bon Appétit magazine and always wanted to order something!
Your meal is so wonderful and refined and mouthwatering, I am speechless! This is the meal of a once a year special dinner, so I am keeping it in mind for my next super special occasion!

Deana Sidney said...

Mary>I would love to try a pheasant next... never cooked one before and a m a terrible baby about feathers!
Lorraine>I think I am so fortunate and D"Artagnan and Rare Wine Co. have been dizzyingly generous with their wonderful products. It really was a dream come true to work with so many fine things!
Barbara>oh Barbara, I am the biggest wus about hunting. After I saw Bambi I had the mother of all tantrums stopping my father from ever shooting anything again. Your hunting place sound so warm and lovely and simple preparations are the best in the country. Let me know how those lentils and confit turn out.. you can freeze all that fabulous fat afterward..I put it flat in a plastic bag and just break off what I need!

Deana Sidney said...

Chef Dennis> Thanks for the visit and I'm so glad you enjoyed the post ...I worked awfully hard on it befitting the generosity of my purveyors. I look forward to visiting yours... what great work you do at the school... Jamie Oliver needs to meed you! Can't wait to see your baby pictures!
June>This would be great on a trip to the woods! That oil under the skin trick would work with so many birds!
Linda> Yes, it was a labor of love!
Marje> reminds me of pheasant too...glad you liked the photos!
Chow> it was yummy!
Taste of Beirut> I don't cook this way terribly often...but grouse(tétras lyre or lagopède d'Écosse) was something I wanted to try and perfect for a special occasion... and you should click through to D'Artagnan..they have the best of everything ( and they are so nice) Any occasion with this dinner will be extraordinary!!

Hunter Angler Gardener Cook said...

Very very nice! You definitely did those grouse justice. And I still need to get my hands on some of that venerable Madeira. Must be heavenly.

grace said...

how interesting! not only have i never tasted grouse, but i don't believe i've ever even seen one (alive or croaked)! my favorite aspect of this dish is that pretty purple compote--i like a little sweet with my savory! :)

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

Ah yes, this is a wonderful recipe and I so wish that I could find D'Artagnan products here in the Twin Cities! LIke I mentioned before, I used to see them at Bread and Circus in Boston. Rabbit sausages were a favorite!! LOVELY and fabulous post dearest and thank you for coming to my world....peace to you on this lovely Sunday, Anita

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

OMG....I am clicking immediately! I am so not used to shopping on-line that I didn't even realize that those little rabbit sausages were that easy to purchase! Merci!!!! Anita

Tasty Trix said...

I don't know where to start! Your posts just keep getting more and more epic and awesome. Do I begin with the way my mouth watered when you described the Madeira? My admiration of your research skills? Your great photos? Or how darn cute Petunia is? Take your pick! So cool.

Deana Sidney said...

Hunter Angler> Hank, I am so pleased. I am working on the madeira!!
Grace> The compote is would be great with duck or even lamb or venison!
CastlesCrowns> Anita, you will love this purveyor... they have so many great things
Trix> From you, that is great praise indeed. Petunia is a handful... I am such a believer in adopting dogs... 100 pound children are a trial but I think worth it!

Joanne said...

I feel so much more informed after reading this post! The entire meal looks've paired all the components perfectly.

Unknown said...

I think grouse are incredibly cute little birdies. I have no problem eating them, however, as you make them look so delicious. Hand one of those cute birdies over here daaaaahling.
*kisses* HH

Cathy said...

This is a beautiful and informative post. My dad was a bird hunter so I've had the opportunity to try several different game birds. They are delicious when prepared properly. Your presentation is mouthwatering.

Rick said...

That blackberry compote sounds mouthwatering. Patterson would probably approve of that one.

Ana Powell said...

Awesome work, actually very posh presentation.
Delicious for sure too.
Wishing you a great week x

Deana Sidney said...

Joanne> honestly, I learn a lot researching too! WHo knew about galliforms?
HH>they are very cute.. and I feel a little guilty eating the wee things.. but I think until the end they had a great wild Scottish life... how bad is that!
Cathy>thanks so much... I have had really awful pheasant before... dry and tough as could be... these grouse were so juicy... I think it was the bird and Kamman's brilliant technique!
Rick>It is mouthwatering, and to think it started out as a drink!
WHo is Patterson?
ANA> Thanks you too.. great visiting your incredibly beautiful blog!!

Lazaro Cooks said...

Well-written, interesting, and informative post. Great jo with the dish, beautifully presented. Cheers!

Velva said...

This post was stunning-just stunning. I never thought of grouse quite the way you described it. Now, grouse is at a whole new level. The madeira wine that surprised you via post, left me speechless.

Ciao Chow Linda said...

Wow, what a backstory and wonderful meal.But I'm not sure I could have parted with even 2 T of that fabulous madeira for any recipe.

Trissa said...

Wow - look at the colour on that grouse! Am glad you mentioned we could use cornish hen - not sure where to get grouse in Sydney. Oh and Petunia is so cute!

Sue said...

A wonderful post Deana - both Nick and I love reading your blogs! You have such a talent for telling the story behind the recipe and the illustrations are super! Thanks for the mention too!

Deana Sidney said...

Lazaro>thanks for the visit... it was an ambitious conception that was a huge success! Grouse are not difficult to work with... it's all a bad rep!
Velva> Thanks so much, grouse is just amazing in a world of bland meat... it has a lot of soul! The madeira left me speechless too... and that's not easy!
Ciao Chow Linda> Glad I found another Jersey girl...parting with the madeira is easy once you know what you will get from it!
Trissa> although the grouse is the best... the hen is a good substitute if you can't do pheasant. The oil under the skin is brilliant for any bird. And Petunia is gorgeous, isn't she? We all need to get rescue dogs... there are so many!
Sue> Thanks Sue, I never would have found your great blog were it not for grouse!!! Cool your hubby likes it too!!

Christo Gonzales said...

this is awesome - there is not one element out of place - the grouse looks so perfect - a truly romantic dinner.

Fresh Local and Best said...

There are so many comments I have about this post! First, would love the try grouse, I'm totally intrigued. Second, I love The Rare Wine Company, and have actually visited their facility in Sonoma to pick up my wines. They are THE expert on madieras --- and I have full faith that what you tasted was AMAZING! Third, one of these days I'll have to go with you to D'Artagan. I've heard so much about it, but have yet to visit.

Nadji said...

Un vrai plat de fête. Bravo!!!

Deana Sidney said...

Doggybloggy> WHy thank you, kind sir... although shared with friends, it would be romantic because it has so many sinfully rich tastes and textures in it.
Fresh Local> The grouse are on sale this week!!! We will do that field trip one day. I am jealous that you have been to Rare Wine in Sonoma... all of my interactions have been virtual.. I will get there one day!
Nadji> It is a great plate!

Penny said...

What a lovely post. I need to spend more time with D'artagnan. Your ingredients are esoteric and lovely.