Friday, December 21, 2007

Christmas Roast Partridge

This straight-forward approach to partridge is less about Christmas and pear trees than auspicious coincidence. A post on partridge was promised in the Unique Culinary Adventures podcast of December 5 regarding the fate of the two frozen ones recently purchased for $6.25 a piece at the AA international supermarket on Security Boulevard.

The options available for preparing partridge are endless. Upon typing "partridge recipe" into a web search, the first site to come up offered 39 different ones, most of them pretty fancy. The last time I prepared partridge was 25 years ago from a very fancy a recipe out of The Four Seasons Cookbook. The result succeeded despite at least one shortcut.

We know this because the Four Seasons cookbook noted that "to make really good eating, a partridge must be hung by the neck for several days." Unlike the game farm partridges used then as now, such hanging takes place prior to plucking and refers to partridges shot in the wild. Its purpose is to enhance a desired gamey taste and tenderize the meat.

Missing a beat perhaps, I'd be curious as to how such a gamey taste would relate to the taste of so white-fleshed a bird. A bit of tenderizing, however, is definitely in order, at least so long as achieved through cooking technique. Here's what the late James Beard had to say in his 1972 edition of James Beard's American Cookery: "Roast partridge, it seems, has a habit of being tough and resisitant to the knife and needs very careful cooking." We followed his lead in this regard, and even though the legs and wings were a bit tough, they were more to my liking than had they been less so. The breast proved moist and tender. The smaller the bird, the more tender it's likely to be.

As previously noted, with so many recipes around, we'll refrain from adding another and keep with the basics. Following them not only should enhance any more elaborate preparation, but prove sufficient to render exceptionally pleasing results.


1 or more partridges
5 slices of bacon for each partridge
salt and pepper to taste

Line 5 slices of bacon crosswise across the breast of each bird, hopefully so as to cover it entirely and secure each slice with toothpicks at the back. Preheat oven to 450. When oven is preheated, place each bird on it's side on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Roast for 5 minutes, then turn to the other side and roast for 5 minutes longer. Repeat the process so that each side has received two five minute sessions for a total of 20 minutes. Next reduce the oven temperature to 375F. Remove birds and pan from oven to place birds on their backs so that the breast side is up. Return to the oven and roast at 375 for another 20 minutes (for a smaller bird) 25 minutes for a larger bird. Remove and season with salt and pepper. Serve while still wrapped in the bacon.