how to cook a partridge bird

Winter, or at least that dark time between late fall and early winter, need not be as dark as the daylight would seem to dictate. Bird seasons are all open, and the late harvest produce can be bright and cheery indeed. Having a brace of partridges, and access to a nearby farmer’s market, the other day I decided to combine the two to make this pan-roasted partridge with a lovely winter salad.

Pan roasting small game birds, especially the white meat birds like partridges, grouse, quail and pheasants, is a vastly superior way to cook them over simple oven roasting. You have way more control over the doneness of the legs and breasts, and need not juggle the temperatures of each with oven-based magic tricks or bacon drapery.

The key is a moderate heat, a room-temperature bird and almost constant basting with butter. I recently detailed the technique here if you want to read further.

Once you master this method of cooking, the sky is the limit. It actually takes less time than the oven roasting method, and you don’t need to preheat the oven.

Pairing light-meat birds with a substantial, crunchy salad is something everyone should do more of, if for no other reason than you may discover some new-to-you vegetables in the process. In this case, it’s my favorite duo of Belgian endive, which look like pale vegetal spear-points, and radicchio, which disguises itself as a tiny red cabbage.

If you have a dim checkout clerk, you can often get the radicchio at the price of red cabbage, which will save you a few bucks. Both are cousins in the chicory family, and are stalwarts in the European winter salad tradition. I grow a variety of Italian chicories in my garden, in this case a green one that joins the endive and radicchio.

Don’t get all hung up on the fancy chicories, though. The point is something crunchy. Hell, even a good cole slaw would work. But if you’re looking for a light, bright meal when all around you is dark and dreary, this is it.

Autumn is game time

One of the cozy things about autumn is playing games; as the nights grow shorter, you suddenly feel so cold that you need to light a log fire or turn on the heat, and the grilling season is officially over.

Partridge irrevocably associates with Christmas (pear trees and all) even though the shooting season starts on the Glorious Twelfth, 12th August. But I absolutely adore it come October, when we really appreciate the rich dark meat that smells of the wind.

Partridge is a great place to start the game (haha) for those who are less experienced because it’s mild, fairly tender, and tastes a lot like — surprise! — chicken. However, it does, and the roasted meat’s color is even comparable to chicken’s: lighter on the thighs and whiter on the breast.

That way, the taste will be comfortingly familiar to those who eat chicken with joy but cringe at the sight of the unfamiliar.

Since we cannot eat game year-round, it is also the epitome of seasonality. True seasonal cuisine has the advantage that you have to enjoy it while it’s available because, in the middle of June, no partridges can be flown in from Peru.

The best part of having things again the next year when they reappear in season is forgetting how they taste.

It also is guaranteed free range, happy meat. It’s a lean, healthful, high-protein dish that’s affordable when it’s in season, so we really ought to serve it more frequently than we do.

When it comes to cooking small game birds, pan roasting is a far better method than simple oven roasting, especially for white meat birds like partridges, grouse, quail, and pheasants. You don’t have to use oven-based magic tricks or bacon drapery to adjust the temperature of the legs and breasts; you have much more control over their doneness.

Don’t get all hung up on the fancy chicories, though. The point is something crunchy. Hell, even a good cole slaw would work. But this is the meal for you if you’re craving something bright and light when everything else is gloomy and dark.

You can save a few dollars if you have a dim checkout clerk because you can frequently purchase radicchio for the same price as red cabbage. Both are mainstays of the European winter salad tradition and cousins in the chicory family. In my garden, I cultivate a range of Italian chicories, including this green variety that complements the endive and radicchio.

The secret is a room temperature bird, a moderate heat source, and nearly continuous butter basting. If you’d like to read more, I recently covered the method in detail here.

If nothing else, pairing light-meat birds with a hearty, crunchy salad is something you should do more of—you never know, you might try some new veggies! Here, it’s my favorite combination of radicchio, which passes for tiny red cabbage, and Belgian endive, which resembles pale vegetal spear-points.

How to cook partridge?

The trick is to cook it just right. No matter how many slices of bacon you put on their bellies, game birds are small enough to easily dry out in the oven. A good way to cook them is to brine them; if you want to try this, you can cook both birds similarly by following the recipe for brined roast pheasant.

Brine isn’t always required when brining partridge, especially for smaller birds, as pheasants are hardier older birds.

It turns out juicy and succulent, in my opinion, if you brown it well in the pan, roast it whole for as little as ten to fifteen minutes under some slices of fatty bacon, and then give it some time to rest.

While it’s not necessary to brown the legs in the pan, it does help the legs cook more quickly. The least desirable result is obviously a dried-out breast and raw legs, so to prevent that, sear the partridges on both sides in a hot pan while pressing the legs against the hot surface.

If you are determined to avoid the smoke, odor, and additional cleanup associated with browning, preheat the oven to its highest setting, add 5 minutes to the roasting time (15–20 minutes, depending on the size of the birds), and

An additional technique involves taking the birds out of the oven once the breast is done, chopping off the legs, and then putting them back in for three minutes while the bird rests.

Pheasant, as mentioned above, hugely benefits from brining. Here it is, perfectly cooked and luscious, accompanied by mushrooms and sprouts.

Wild wood pigeon is an underrated bird. While there isn’t much meat on the breast and the legs are only suitable for making a beautiful stock, this dish is still incredibly affordable, environmentally friendly, and a great way to start a dinner party.

Another bird we have too infrequently is guinea fowl. It tastes best roasted boned, stuffed, and rolled with a decadent filling of dried fruit and pork.

These days, it’s easy to find filleted partridge breasts for sale. Try this pan-fried version, which goes well with grilled peppers, mushrooms, and aubergines.

  • 1 brace of partridge
  • salt and pepper
  • half a lemon
  • 3-4 sprigs of rosemary
  • 1 tbsp. juniper berries, lightly crushed
  • 2 slices of streaky bacon
  • 2 ripe pears, peeled and quartered
  • a little oil
  • a small glass of white wine

1. Preheat the oven to 240C/475F/gas 9. Season the partridges with salt and pepper. Insert a quarter of a lemon, a rosemary sprig, and a few juniper berries into the cavity. Secure the bacon around the birds using cocktail sticks or meat pins.

2. Peel and core the pears, then cut them into eights. Arrange the pears on a roasting tray and top with any leftover juniper berries, a little white wine, and a drop of oil. As you brown the partridges, place the tray in the preheated oven.

3. In a hot frying pan, sear the partridges for a few minutes on each side, pressing down to brown the legs. With their breasts facing up, put them in the roasting tray over the pears and roast for ten to fifteen minutes.

4. Remove the partridges from the oven. If you have a meat probe, use it to check if the legs are cooked through (65C). If not, poke them with a knife to see if the juices run clear. If it’s not quite done (a lot depends on the bird), trim the legs with poultry shears and return to the oven for an additional three minutes.

5. Give the birds at least five minutes to rest in a warm location. You’ll practically hear the song when you serve it with the roasted pears on the side.

Originally published: Wed, 8 October, 2014

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What is the best way to eat partridge?

Partridge breast fillets are a versatile choice for an array of meals that can be made in minutes. Brilliant in salads, curries, stews, risottos, fajitas and pasta recipes, they offer a tasty alternative to chicken and turkey any day of the week.

Are partridges good to eat?

Partridges are one of the mildest-tasting game birds. They average 10 to 12 ounces dressed, or perhaps 14 ounces for a fat gray-legged bird. Chukars can weigh still more. When hunting partridge, a perdreau—a bird of the current year—is the most prized catch.

What does a partridge bird taste like?

Like pheasant, partridge has light meat, but with a much clearer game flavor. The meat is tender and has a fine texture.