August ushers in game season. Pheasants, rabbits, and partridge starts finding its way to the pot. The red grouse, in particular, is a delicacy. The rich texture is perfect for roasting and makes a great addition to stews and casseroles.
A native of the Scottish moorlands, the bird should essentially be cooked with juniper and thyme stuffed into its cavity. This rustic roast will soak in more delicate flavors if you layer on top a portion of streaky beacon tied with sprig of heather washed with some good scotch. Just in case you are craving the fresh kick of summer freshness, you might want to add some crushed berries, lemon juice, butter and seasoning before you place the thyme-juniper bouquet-garni into the dressed bird’s cavity.
For the sauce
Melt the butter in sunflower oil, over a medium flame. Brown the grouse legs for four or five minutes, turning them over frequently. Throw in some shallots, bay leaf, thyme and whisky and then reduce the heat. Pour in the chicken stock, ensuring that it fully covers the content in the pot. Once done, set the legs aside, strain the stock into a clean pan, and reduce to half over medium heat. Spread a layer of butter inside the cavities, filling each with a thyme sprig and some chopped shallots. Wrap a slice of pancetta and sprig of heather soaked in whiskey around the bird. Allow them rest for a bit while you preheat the oven to 220C. Place the grouse in a large roasting tin. If you want, you can add buttered slices of bread on a baking tray – and let these cook alongside the grouse till these are golden brown.
Set the tin in the oven for 18 to 20 minutes, and cook the birds till medium. Remove each bird from the oven and place them on the buttered toasts to mop up all the juices. Cover loosely with a piece of foil and leave to rest for 10 minutes.
For the sauce, put the roasting tin on heat and add grouse stock. Let it simmer, and keep stirring till the juices from the bottom starts to meld in. Add redcurrant jelly, blackcurrants, beetroot, and finally cassis. Let the sauce simmer for 3-4 minutes and remove from the heat, seasoning it to taste.
Serve the grouse on heated plates with a little sauce drizzled around, and some buttered spinach, if you like.
“There’s nothing as cosy as a piece of candy and a book”, said a certain Ms. Betty MacDonald.
Cooking meat with whiskey isn’t much of a culinary innovation.