DO YOU KNOW that August 12 marks the start of grouse hunting season in Scotland? I grew up in the Lyon countryside and treasure vivid memories of going hunting with my father. But now, as an occasional hunter living in New York, I look forward to the arrival of the fragrant game bird, redolent of heather and wild plains. It’s a date our team still gets excited about, a happy feast signaling the start of the rich game season.
Grouse has a rare taste, and purists often would accent its flavor by letting the birds hang for a week in their cold rooms. We favor a more subtle approach achieved by bathing the bird in a milk marinade infused with juniper, orange peel, and herbs. Foie gras, truffles, and a drop of Scotch whisky later mingle with the meat, resulting in a delicate but pungent tasting experience.
Pour the milk into a small saucepan and add the juniper berries, black peppercorns, bay leaf, thyme, and orange peel. Bring to a simmer, cover, and remove from the heat. Rest for 30 minutes, then strain into a heat-proof container and chill.
Set the grouse breast side up on a cutting board. If still attached, remove the innards from the cavities and discard. Carve off the legs and debone the thighs, reserving the meat for the stuffing and the bones for the sauce, and discard the skin. Carve the breasts from the rib cages and discard their skin. Submerge the thigh meat and breasts in the milk, cover, and refrigerate overnight or up to 24 hours.
Chop all the bones into 1-inch pieces, rinse with cold water, dry, and reserve for the jus.
Remove the meat from the marinade, pat dry, and reserve, chilled.
For the Parsnip Chips
Preheat the oven to 190°F. Fill one-third of a medium saucepan with canola oil and heat to 300°F. With a mandoline, slice the parsnip lengthwise into at least four ½-inch-wide very thin ribbons. Fry until the ribbons are tender and the edges turn a light golden color but do not crisp. Strain onto a paper towel–lined tray and pat off excess oil. Transfer the parsnip ribbons in a single layer to a parchment paper–lined baking sheet and bake for 8 hours, or until crispy but not colored. Sprinkle with salt, cool, and reserve in an airtight container.
For the Breast Stuffing and Assembly
Heat the olive oil in a small sauté pan and add the shallot. Cook, stirring, until translucent, about 2 minutes, then transfer to a large mixing bowl. Trim the sides of 4 of the largest breasts to form straight-edged rectangles; reserve, chilled. Use the trim for stuffing.
Roughly chop the fatback and pancetta; combine, cover, and chill well. Dice the thigh meat, the remaining 2 breasts, the breast trim, foie gras, and chicken liver into ¼-inch pieces and transfer to the bowl with the shallot. Pass the chilled fatback and pancetta through a meat grinder fit with the coarse plate into the bowl of diced meats. With your hands, mix the meats and shallots with the truffle, crème fraîche, whisky, 1 teaspoon salt, ground juniper berries, ¼ teaspoon pepper, and nutmeg until well combined. Divide the mixture into 4 approximately 3-ounce portions.
Season the undersides of the trimmed breasts with salt and pepper and pack 1 portion of meat mixture onto each, using your hands to mold into a rectangular shape. Chill for at least 1 hour, then freeze for 30 minutes, just to firm before breading. Place the flour, eggs, and breadcrumbs into separate shallow bowls. Dredge the grouse on the farce and sides only (leaving the breast uncovered) in the flour, then the egg, and then coat them in the breadcrumbs. Reserve, chilled.
For the Grouse Jus
Pour the red wine into a small saucepan and simmer until reduced by two-thirds; set aside. Heat the duck fat in a large Dutch oven over high heat. Add the bones in a single layer and roast on all sides until browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the mushrooms, onion, shallot, carrot, and celery. Reduce the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are golden brown. Add the whisky and, with a wooden spoon, scrape the pan to loosen any browned bits from the bottom; reduce by half. Add the reduced wine, the chicken stock, and the peppercorns and simmer lightly for 1 hour, skimming as needed. Strain the liquid through a fine-meshed sieve into a large saucepan. Continue simmering the sauce to reduce by three-quarters, about 30 minutes, until it coats the back of a spoon. Add the vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Reserve, chilled.
For the Huckleberry Coulis
In a small saucepan, combine all the ingredients and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook for 1 hour, or until the berries have broken down and the liquid reduces by one-third. Transfer the mixture to a blender and puree until smooth. Pass through a fine-meshed sieve and set aside, covered.
For the Poached Quince
In a large saucepan, combine all the ingredients with 4 cups of water, making sure the quince is submerged. Bring to a simmer. Cut a round of parchment paper the same diameter as the saucepan and rest on top of the liquid. Lightly simmer the quince for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally, until easily pierced with a cake tester. Remove from the heat and cool the quince in the liquid. Cut the quince into ¼-inch-thick slices and, with a 1½-inch-diameter ring cutter, cut at least 8 discs. Transfer to a shallow container, with enough poaching liquid to cover, and reserve, chilled.
For the Foie Gras Béchamel
Soak the gelatin sheets in ice water for 10 minutes; squeeze dry. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Add the flour and cook, whisking, for 5 minutes without browning. Gradually add the milk to make a smooth sauce and simmer, whisking, for 4 minutes. Cool the sauce to lukewarm, then transfer to a blender with the gelatin, foie gras terrine, and vinegar. Puree until smooth and season with the cayenne, salt, and pepper. Pass through a fine-meshed sieve and transfer to a piping bag. Keep warm.
For the Glazed Root Vegetables
In a large sauté pan, combine the rutabaga cubes with the stock and butter and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the celery root and parsnip and continue simmering until the vegetables are tender and the liquid has reduced to a glaze (if the liquid reduces before the vegetables are tender, add spoonfuls of water). Season with salt and pepper and keep warm.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Allow the grouse to rest at room temperature for 15 minutes.
Transfer the grouse jus into a small saucepan and stir over medium heat until heated through. Transfer the quince discs to a small sauté pan over medium heat with a few spoonfuls of their poaching liquid; toss until heated through.
In a large nonstick sauté pan, heat the duck fat over medium-high heat. Add the grouse stuffing side down and cook until the breadcrumbs turn golden brown, about 3 minutes, while basting the breasts with the fat in the pan. Gently turn the grouse so they brown on each of the 4 remaining breaded sides, about 2 minutes each. Turn the grouse stuffing side down, add the butter, and once it begins to foam, reduce the heat to medium-low, add the thyme and garlic, and continue basting the fat over the breasts, cooking for 2 minutes. Transfer to the oven for 2 to 3 minutes, until the internal temperature reaches 125°F. Remove from the oven and rest for 3 minutes in a warm place before slicing in half lengthwise.
For each serving, set 2 grouse slices cut side up on opposite sides of a warm dinner plate, top each with a quince disc, and sprinkle with fleur de sel and cracked black pepper. Line 3 glazed rutabaga, 2 celery root, and 2 parsnip pieces in the center of the plate. Pipe 1 dot of foie gras béchamel next to each grouse slice and place a breadcrumb cup on top, with the opening facing up. Pipe béchamel into the cups to fill. Spoon 2 dots of huckleberry coulis onto the plate, drizzle a couple of spoonfuls of sauce around the grouse, and garnish with 2 curly mustard leaves and a parsnip chip.