The classic garnish for this most famous of game birds. And it’s a classic for a reason — because it is totally delicious, working on every level to deliver a stunning plate of food.
The thought of cooking and eating grouse, for many people, is a little bit of a stretch. Its habitat is the moorlands of Northern England and Scotland, and therefore their diet is heavy on heather, giving the meat a deep and rich flavour. Add on top of that the propensity to hang the birds with their guts in, and you have yourself a very distinct flavour.
This is why this bird is so prized and this dish so special to eat. Its distinctive, bold flavour is something to be celebrated rather than held against it. Here in a perfect pairing with bread sauce, a fruit jelly of some description, a parfait spread on fried bread, and game chips. Everything bouncing along together in perfect harmony. It is game cookery at its very best.
Roast grouse, bread sauce, game chips & liver parfait toast
2 large potatoes, Maris Piper or similar
2 thick-cut slices of good quality white bread
1 glass of port
300ml fresh chicken stock
fruit jelly — crab apple, damson, etc
- For the bread sauce
½ a loaf of good quality, stale white bread, crust removed and broken into crumbs
2 pints of whole milk
½ a white onion, studded with 6 cloves
2 fresh bay leaves
2 garlic cloves, crushed gently with the side of a knife
- For the parfait
200g livers, grouse, and chicken
1 banana shallot, peeled and finely sliced
a splash of Brandy
a splash of Marsala
1 tsp honey
75ml double cream
50g room temperature butter
- Start with the bread sauce:
- Tip the milk, the onion studded with cloves, garlic, 3 sprigs of thyme, bay leaves, a good grating of nutmeg and a good twist of black pepper into a pan and set over a low heat. Leave over a low heat for 20 minutes so that all the flavours can infuse.
- Pass the liquid through a sieve into a jug. Discard everything apart from the studded onion. Return the onion and the milk to the pan, add the breadcrumbs, season with salt and return the pan to a low heat. Cook like this for 15 minutes, then add the butter and adjust the thickness as necessary with a little extra milk.
- Check for seasoning and adjust as necessary. Keep warm until ready to serve.
- For the game chips:
- Peel the potatoes and then thinly slice on a mandolin to about 1mm thickness.
- Place the sliced potato in a bowl and rinse under hot water, to wash the starch out of them. Then let the bowl fill with cold water.
- Heat your fryer to 180°C. Drain the chips and cook in batches until a perfect golden brown. Season well with salt when they come out of the fryer.
- To roast the grouse:
- First season the birds well, both inside and out, with sea salt.
- Preheat your oven to 170°C.
- Before roasting the birds, we are going to use the pan to fry our bread. So, find a heavy-bottomed frying pan, or cast-iron skillet and set it over a medium heat, along with a heaped tablespoon of duck fat. Lay the slices of bread in the hot fat and, flipping every 2 minutes, cook until a perfect golden brown.
- Remove the bread from the pan but keep the fat as we will use this to cook the bird. If all the duck fat has been absorbed by the bread, then add a little more.
- Keeping the heat at a medium, place the birds in the pan with the breasts facing down and brown the skin. The aim here is to brown the skin of the whole bird, so keep turning it and moving around the pan.
- Once the bird is browned, add 2 good knobs of butter and allow to foam and begin to brown. Baste the birds in the foaming butter before transferring the pan to the oven for 3-4 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the oven and remove the birds from the pan. To rest, sit the birds on a plate or bowl with their cavities facing up and pour half of the hot butter and fat from the pan into their cavities.
- Keep the pan and start the parfait:
- Set the pan with the remaining fat over a high heat.
- Season the livers well with salt and a little black pepper, and carefully add to the hot pan. Sautee for 1 minute before flipping all the livers and cooking for a further minute.
- Remove the livers from the pan and transfer to a plate, then add the shallots and three sprigs of thyme, season with a little salt, and cook on a gentle heat for 5-6 minutes, until the shallots are soft.
- Turn the heat up and return the livers to the pan, then immediately add the brandy and flambee. Once the alcohol has burned off, add the marsala, reduce for 20 seconds, and then add the cream and honey. Bring to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes.
- Remove the thyme sprigs and then tip the rest of the contents of the pan into a food processor. Blitz at full power, whilst adding the room temperature butter, a little at a time.
- Keep blitzing until as smooth as possible, then taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary.
- To make a quick sauce:
- Take some of the fat and resting juices from the grouse and add to the same pan we have used for everything else. Set over a high heat and add a glass of port, then reduce rapidly over.
- Add the chicken stock and continue to reduce until the desired consistency is achieved. Season with salt and a little good-quality red wine vinegar. A few slightly under-ripe blackberries are a lovely addition if you have access to them. Whisk a couple of cubes of cold butter into the hot sauce for an extra glossy finish.
Reheat the birds if they have gone a little cold, smear the parfait onto the toast, make sure the bread sauce is hot and not too thick, dress the watercress and then serve.