Spatchcocked for easy cooking and served with one of the classic salads, this is a fun and accessible route to getting a game bird on your table.
I often talk about partridge being ‘entry level game’. Game birds, in the eyes of those who have never eaten them, come with a reputation for an overpowering ‘gamey’ flavour – a food for posh old men to show off about and chortle over. And it would be remiss to suggest that some of the British game birds don’t have these characteristics; a grouse, woodcock or snipe are certainly for the more adventurous palates. A partridge, however, has a more subtle flavour. Yes, some of the characteristics that you would expect from a wild animal but not scary and not overpowering. Also, partridge loves to be cooked and eaten with smoked bacon or pancetta, which, let’s face it, is cool.
Spatchcocked partridge w/ caesar salad
8 rashers of Dry-cured Smoked Streaky Bacon, Extra-thin-sliced
3 heads of baby gem lettuce, washed and leaves separated – discard any bruised or soft outer leaves
8 anchovy fillets, in oil
4 thick cut slices of sourdough bread
50g parmesan cheese
extra virgin olive oil
1 banana shallot, peeled thinly sliced into rounds
- For the dressing
1 organic or free-range egg yolk
1 clove of garlic, skin removed
10 anchovy fillets in olive oil
1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
juice of 1 unwaxed lemon
Aspall Organic White Wine Vinegar
50g finely grated parmesan
100ml extra virgin olive oil
75ml vegetable oil
- Drizzle a little white wine vinegar over the shallot rings and set to one side.
- Set a heavy bottomed frying pan or cast-iron skillet over a medium heat. Add a tiny dribble of oil and then lay in the bacon. Cook, flipping a couple of times, until golden and crispy. Then remove from the pan and set aside.
- Cut the crusts off the bread and dice into chunky cubes and place in the same pan, with a little extra olive oil. Season with salt and then cook over a medium heat, tossing regularly until you have beautiful golden croutons. Remove from the pan and set aside but keep the pan out.
- Remove the wishbone from the bird with a small sharp knife. Then, using a sharp pair of scissors, cut either side of the partridge’s spine bone and remove. Then lay the birds on a board with the breasts facing up and apply pressure to the middle of the breast, to flatten the bird a little. Season the birds well on both sides with sea salt.
- Set the same pan over a medium heat with a splash of oil if needed and then lay the partridges in, skin side down. Once the pan is sizzling, turn the heat down to low and place a weight on top of the birds. Cook like this for 6-8 minutes, then flip the bird and turn the pan off. Lay the bacon over the partridge and leave to rest in the pan.
- To make the Caesar dressing:
- For the dressing I used a pestle and mortar for this, as it felt appropriate given the small quantities, although if you wanted to bulk up the recipe you could do it in a food processor.
- Place the garlic in the mortar with a pinch of salt and pound until smooth. Then add the anchovies and pound again. Then add the egg yolk, a few twists of black pepper and Dijon mustard and beat with the pestle. Once all combined you can start to emulsify in the oil.
- Use the pestle to whisk the dressing and very slowly incorporate the olive oil and then the vegetable oil.
- Once all the oil is emulsified then add the lemon juice and grated parmesan, mix together and then leave to sit for 10 minutes.
- Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary.
- Assemble the salad:
- In a bowl, mix the gem lettuce leaves, shallot rings and croutons. Season with a little salt and then dress liberally with the Caesar dressing. Gently toss all together and then plate. Lay anchovy fillets over the top of the salad and then a little extra drizzle of dressing, and finally, a load of finely grated parmesan. Pop the partridge and bacon next to it and enjoy!