Grouse season starts on 12 August but I’ve never seen them in butchers that early; apparently the younger birds have a less strident flavour than ones you get later on and if you find meat with a strong gamey flavour off-putting then grouse will probably be a bit too much. It’s probably the reason why it doesn’t feature often on menus in Irish restaurants, in fact, I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen it on offer.
With such rarity, I’ve only ever had the chance to cook with it once before so when I saw a lovely specimen in Fallon & Byrne I bought it straight away even though I’d no idea what I was going to do with it. On checking Modernist Cuisine, their recommended temperature is 50°C, which is very rare (in terms of doneness); you wouldn’t serve this to anyone who was pregnant or immuno-compromised and even if you wanted to it’s actually impossible to pasteurise the meat at such a low temperature so all you’re looking to do is get it up to 50°C and onto the plate as quickly as possible.
The accompanying sauce is really decadent: an emulsion of foie gras and cream (stabilised with xanthan gum) that adds some much needed fat to the dish as a counterpoint to the extreme leanness of the grouse. It wasn’t actually nearly as expensive as you’d think because last Christmas I’d bought a 1.2kg bag of frozen foie off-cuts from La Rousse Foods for €35. The quality is probably not good enough to serve fried on its own but it’s perfect for mousses, parfaits or other blended preparations.
I’ve also revisited a technique from last year by making corn ‘gnocchi’ using methylcellulose but this time substituting a different type of the gum with a much lower viscosity. As you can read in the linked post, the previous methylcellulose had a strong flavour I had to mask and the gnocchi were very firm whereas the new methylcellulose is virtually tasteless and produces a beautifully light dumpling that just dissolves in your mouth. I’d be interested to experiment with potatoes to see if I can make a somewhat traditional but featherlight, flourless gnocchi.
For the corn ‘gnocchi’
50ml hot water
1.5g methylcellulose F450
200ml corn juice (approximately 3 ears of corn)
For the caramelised onion puree
250g onions, sliced
2.5g baking soda
100ml smoked ham hock stock
For the grouse legs
2 legs grouse legs, carcass reserved
Grape seed oil
For the foie gras sauce
250ml chicken stock
0.3g xanthan gum
25g foie gras
1ml sherry vinegar
For the pearl onions and girolles
3 pearl onions, peeled
Grape seed oil
For the grouse breasts
2 grouse breasts
Grape seed oil
For the garnish
10 small nasturtium leaves
- For the corn gnocchi, whisk the methylcellulose into the hot water until thoroughly dissolved.
- Leave in the fridge overnight until fully hydrated.
- Reduce the corn juice by half, stirring constantly so it doesn’t stick.
- Leave to cool and using a stick blender blend in the methylcellulose gum. Season to taste.
- Bring a pot of water to the boil and using a 15ml measuring spoon lower the spoon into the water.
- Hold the spoon in the water until the gnocchi naturally releases itself from the cavity.
- Repeat until you have 6 gnocchi in the pot and cook for 2 minutes until set.
- Reserve the gnocchi in the hot water or a low oven (keep at a temperature of roughly 70°C) until required.
- For the caramelised onion puree, melt 15g of butter in a pressure cooker and then add the onion, water and baking soda.
- Bring the cooker up to full pressure and cook for 20 minutes.
- Depressurise the cooker by running colder water on the lid.
- Transfer the onions to a blender along with the ham hock and puree until very smooth.
- The puree will be quite loose so transfer to a sauce pan and reduce until the consistency of mayonnaise.
- When reduced, stir in the rest of the butter.
- Correct the seasoning if required and reserve and keep warm.
- For the grouse legs, place the grouse legs, carcass and water into a pressure cooker.
- Bring to full pressure and cook for 10 minutes.
- Allow to depressurise naturally, strain any liquid in the cooker through a sieve and reserve.
- Reserve the legs in the fridge.
- For the foie gras sauce, pour the chicken stock and reserved liquid from the grouse legs into a sauce pan.
- Reduce by half and add the cream, foie gras and xanthan gum.
- Use a stick blender to puree the sauce until it is smooth.
- Add the sherry vinegar and salt. Reserve and keep warm.
- For the pearl onions and girolles, blanch the onions in boiling water for 4 minutes.
- Plunge the onions into iced water and when cool, slice them in half.
- Over a high heat, add some grape seed oil to a frying pan and sauté the girolles for 2-3 minutes.
- Lower the heat and melt the butter to the frying pan.
- Add the onions to reheat. Reserve and keep warm.
- For the grouse breasts, season and seal in a vacuum bag.
- Place in a temperature controlled water bath at 50.5°C for 15 minutes.
- Remove the breasts from the bath and pat dry after taking them out of the vacuum bags.
- Heat a pan over a high heat for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the grape seed oil and then fry skin side down until the skin is very crispy (around 30 seconds). Reserve.
- Add the grouse legs to the pan and fry on both sides until the skin is crispy and the legs have warmed through.
- To plate, place a leg and a breast facing each other in the middle of the plate; place two swirls of the onion puree beside the top on the breast; lean the giroles on the grouse leg and breast; place the gnocchi in the centre of the plate around the meat; garnish with the pearl onions, nasturtium leaves and blackberries; drizzle the foie gras sauce around the plate.