JOANNA'S FOOD: family cooking, from scratch, every day

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Roast grouse with bread sauce

Last week, looking at the butcher's display, I realised I have never cooked grouse. Now, it will be hard to resist ... delicious, an easy treat ... but, of course, ruinously expensive. Cheaper than a restaurant, and much much nicer - I've been off restaurants for years*, really. It began, I think, when I saw Gordon Ramsay making something on telly with a slice of processed "bread" from a plastic bag. How do you earn Michelin stars if you don't know anything about bread? The prejudice was confirmed at the gastropub where my daughter worked all last year - fabulous food, except that it was all always thoroughly oversalted.

Buying two young grouse was the easy part. How to cook them? I thought Lady Maclean's Cookbook would be a good place to start, but she and her upper crust Highland friends all assumed you knew how to roast a grouse, and were full of suggestions for what to do when you'd got fed up and wanted a change: grouse salad, anyone? perhaps a little devilled grouse? So I read everything Hugh FW wrote in Meat, and then followed the cooking (but not preparation) instructions given by Norman Tebbit in his wonderful new The Game Cook.

Of course, if you're eating game birds, then you've got to have bread sauce, which is a doddle providing you have proper white bread on hand. You just peel a shallot or two (or an onion), put it in some milk with a couple of cloves and some bay leaves, heat it up a little and leave it to steep. You do this early in the day. When it's nearly dinner time, you strain the milk and chuck in your white breadcrumbs, let them expand, then check the seasoning. Another of those things which is not much more difficult than the processed equivalent, yet 100x better.

As for the grouse, it roasts quickly with a minimum of fuss. I cooked ours during the first half of the England match, and we ate it at half time - well, actually, we missed a bit of the second half. And when the match was over, we had a little cheese with the last of the oatcakes I made the other day.

Roast grouse

one grouse per person
one apple per grouse
streaky bacon
a slice of good white bread per bird
paté de foie gras (in the absence of grouse livers)
wine and stock for the gravy

Heat the oven to 190C.

Cut the apples and put them into the grouse. Cover the birds with streaky bacon (stretch it first on the back of your knife; it will crisp quicker). Roast on a rack in a tin, if possible. After 20-25 minutes, take off the bacon, then return the birds to the oven for 10 minutes to brown. Let them stand for 10 minutes before eating.

While they are standing, fry the bread in hot oil, and spread with the foie gras or fried grouse livers (we were not lucky enough to get any giblets with our birds). At the same time, make gravy with some fortified wine and good stock - I used some homemade trotter gear, which makes everything it touches silky smooth and flavoursome.

Serve with redcurrant jelly, watercress or steamed cabbage, and some little roasted potatoes. On hot plates. Make sure to save the bones for stock. That's today's task.

*I'll make an exception for Leon, where the food is always exactly what you want, and Pizza Express, Alfred's favourite; both serving proper food at decent prices. But that's lunch, not dinner. Actually, I'm not really that bah humbug, I enjoy a meal out as much as the next cook. It's just that I think we mostly do rather better at home. And definitely last night.

1 comment:

Ed Bruske said...

Now there's something you don't see every day. In fact, I don't know that I've ever seen grouse over here on the other side of the Atlantic. Sounds delicious.