roast grouse with game chips
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Grouse appears to be the only game bird that can’t be farmed. I mean here the famous red grouse – breeding in the upland heather moors of the UK. There are several other species living in North America, Siberia and Europe (ruffed grouse, spruce grouse and ptarmigan) but it’s the Scottish bird that is the greatest delicacy, shooting season starting on the Glorious Twelve, young game traditionally sent to the London Rules restaurant (the oldest game serving establishment) for the diners quivering in anticipation.
Grouse is game for grown-ups. For beginners, quail or guinea fowl will be a tame enough start. Intermediate gamers will enjoy partridge and pheasant lest it’s inexpertly dried out in the oven. Advanced gamers can indulge in wood pigeon (tasting like a cross between beef and liver) and wild mallard (delicious) - but grouse is hardcore.
It smells. It smells of wind and wild and decay. It smells before it’s cooked, whilst cooking and even after you’ve eaten it. It’s damn expensive and the meat tastes slightly bitter, the flesh clinging to the bones will be weirdly more cooked than on the outside and if you want to pick the bones cleanly worth of your tenner, there will be blood red juices dripping down your chin. It’s a food of gods.
It’s not strictly necessary to brine it – just chuck it in the oven for ten minutes, it won’t get too dry – but I was roasting a partridge as well and prepared the brine anyway (recipe courtesy of Hank the Hunter) so I thought I’d plunge the grouse in for a couple of hours. Result – it cooked more evenly and slightly quicker than without brining so reduce the times if you want that blood-dripping-down experience.
roast grouse with game chips
- For the brine:
- 1l hot water
- 2 tbsp salt
- 1 bay leaf
- a few sprigs of thyme
- 4 cloves
- a few juniper berries
- a sprig of rosemary
- a few sage leaves, chopped
- juice and zest from 1 lemon or lime
- For the grouse:
- 2 grouse
- 4 rashers of streaky bacon
- butter and a little oil for frying
- black pepper
- a small onion, sliced
- a little white wine
- For the game chips:
- a couple of large potatoes, I had Pink Firs but Maris Piper or similar will do well
- vegetable oil for deep frying
METHODFor the grouse:
Prepare the brine with the water just off the boil and let it cool down to room temperature. Dunk the grouse and refrigerate for up to 4 hours. Remove, dry thoroughly and let them sit in the kitchen for at least two hours.
Rub the birds with butter, wrap the bacon around the breasts and secure with butcher’s string. Prepare a roasting tray with the onion slices spread on the bottom and put it in the oven preheated to 220C/425F/gas 7. Pour a little wine on the tray so the onion doesn’t burn.
Sear the birds thoroughly in a hot frying pan with a little oil for about 3-4 minutes. Transfer to the oven and place them onto one breast. Roast for 3-4 minutes then turn them onto the other breast for another 3-4 minutes. Finally turn them breast side up and roast for further 5 minutes. Remove, keep warm and let them rest for at least 15 minutes.
For the game chips: slice the potatoes into very thin discs, about 3mm thick, easiest using a mandolin.
Soak them in cold water for about an hour, drain and dry them as much as possible – otherwise there will be a steam explosion when they go into the hot oil.
Preheat the oil to 130C/250F. Fry the chips in batches until lightly coloured, about 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels. When the grouse is almost ready to serve, reheat the oil to 170C/325F and dip the chips the second time for a minute or two so they crispen and colour a little more. Drain and salt.
NB: it’s not strictly necessary to double-dip them, but I find it less stressful to have them almost ready and just plunge them in for a minute just before serving.
Serve the grouse with the game chips and roasted vegetables – recipe here.