Tuesday 3 November 2015

Partridge... perhaps

Don't worry, this post will contain no lame references to pear trees or 'ah-haaaaa's.

One of the few arduours* my co-habitees must endure is dining club development day. This  mainly involves me calling frustrated family, inconvenienced friends, startled passers-by... into the kitchen and jabbing a dripping teaspoon at their chins, demanding an opinion. Is this too tart/sweet/bitter? Is the (say) lamb stock lamby? Is the pear tender (just the fruit, no tree see)? Would you want this much? Will this work before/after X and Y? 

This process culminates in the test meal (versions one, two and sometimes three) where I serve Belinda, Etien and Fabian (if he's with us) an almost complete meal. This is one of the few demands I make on my family, I should point out. I am otherwise, a joy of domesticity; unassuming, blithe, patient. I am never quick to criticise - especially in the kitchen; never bombastic, grandiloquent or condescending. It's amazing that more people don't like me.

Anyway. Like most initial public offerings of art and/or endeavour, one should sit and receive with respect those considered opinions of others. I never quite manage this. You realise, of course, that what will never happen is your diners will gaze at you with eyes rapidly brimming, while their bodies pulsate with pleasure; a peristalsis of appreciation, pausing only to find just the right description of the finest morsel ever to enter their digestive tract.**

You KNOW this won't happen. And yet, you still get irritated when it doesn't.

This was my first time with partridge.English Grey partridge, not the more common French Red, specially obtained by F. Norman Butchers. I was surprised at how small they came. Don't worry, they plump up in the oven. 

Roast partridge
Brown your birds in butter in a warm but not stupidly hot pan (stupid like, left heating for 15 minutes, as I do for lamb or beef) colour the partridge, moving frequently and basting with the fat. You must do this else your birds will come out of the oven a nasty, pasty, pale tone. They just aren't in long enough to brown. 
I then put a thin strip of smoked pancetta long ways across the body, mainly for the fat to baste the bird. I stuffed half a roasted shallot into the body. Not much room for more. I did this in the expectation of roasting juices that never came.
Move to a hot oven, around 220°C. (The Partridge, you can live where ever you like!) Roast for no more than 12 minutes. This will deliver you a breast with a hint of pink. You must rest the birds, at least ten minutes, more if covered with foil and a towel. 
Is it meant to be this pink? Yes. It really is. Etien's still had the liver in the body cavity. I think it unnerved him. That's the other problem with serving it to guests. Partridge has to be pink, unless you like scraping grey grout off bones.

But... I don't know. I'm not a fan of gamey flavours anyway. Even pheasant is too far for me. The partridge breast meat was good and tender but the legs have that slight... height that I don't enjoy. The rest of the family enjoyed it more than me. Etien keeps asking me why I don't just cook more poussin? Everyone likes poussin! He's right but with that logic I'd up end just serving burger and chips. You have to keep experimenting.

I should have added a little gravy. I was looking to make one but there is almost no roasting juices off a partridge. The birds are pretty much fat free too. The stock I made from the roasted carcasses had a very thin lipid layer after I'd refrigerated it. I always chill my stocks; makes it much easier to separate fat from jelly.

So, I'm not sure that partridge will be on the NRD menu. If your group really want it and you don't mind it pink... perhaps.

For me the success was with the barley bed and the blackberry sauce. More about those in another post. Odd isn't it that we can find all kinds of grains on menus these days: quinoa, couscous, bulgar wheat, amaranth... but they hardly ever feature British barley? I'm a fan and have been looking for other ways to use it.

Served here with charred and braised chicory, blackberry sauce (blobbed!) and soft barley.

*Yes 'arduours'. I can neologise with the best of them.

**And as you didn't ask, here are my finest food moments in no particular order.

The Square, langoustine raviolo with lobster bisque.

The Square (again), the parsley and white truffle velouté with a cheeky quail's egg in the bottom.

The Square (sorry) any of the dessert soufflés.

Angela Hartnett's foie gras, truffle and brandy parfait in Claridges. The maitre d' saw me fingering the very last scraps of this amuse bouche and brought me over another. "I saw Sir enjoying it so much."

Gordon Ramsey's aubergine caviar and red snapper at Aubergine

The Brill at Guy Savoy, Paris. That was a very, very special meal at one of the world's finest restaurants. The service was incomparable.

The simple roasted monkfish with a rosemary and anchovy butter, Fish Works, Bristol.

And while I'm thinking about it, the new potatoes in Fish Works, Bath. I know, potatoes!

Anthony Demetre's bavette of beef with roasting juices and potatoes dauphinoise, many, many, many times in Arbutus.

Hmmm. Lots of fish. This confirms my growing suspicion that I am a reluctant carnivore. I may develop this list into a proper post.

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