Grouse is an acquired taste. Not every customer will order it and not every chef likes it. Price can be an issue and so can the subject of how long to hang it. Tastes have certainly changed and most modern chefs like to prepare it young. The old days of long hanging to develop a stronger flavour are probably over.
One chef who has a novel approach to grouse, along with pretty much everything that he serves, is Jesse Dunford Wood of Parlour and Six Portland Road. We spoke to him recently about the game season and what he looks forward to.
“I love the game season and it starts with grouse. We mainly sell it at Six Portland Road because we struggle to sell higher value items at Parlour. Grouse is expensive but it’s selling well this year.
“One thing we do offer though, is a half grouse. Grouse has a reputation of being bloody, bony and smelly. So, ordering it is a commitment both from customers and chefs. I feel a half potion is one way of easing customers into getting to know it. They can dip their toe in, so to speak.
“We like to service it traditionally with the chopped livers on duck fat toast and redcurrant jelly. I love it, but you have to be careful with those customers who complain about shot in the meat or blood squirting out on to expensive clothes. As a chef you’ve got to be ready to deal with these issues. We have had customers say: “You owe me £500. I just bit into some shot.” Thankfully we’ve haven’t had that for a while.
“As far as other game is concerned, I’m a big fan of Mallard. We have a lot of guests who like to shoot things and they bring us presents and in return we give them a meal for four. It’s a nice relationship and it means we get really terrific quality.
“I like partridge as it has a keen price point. It’s not hugely flavoursome but that can be an advantage. I’ve never really embarked the pheasant but one thing I look forward to is a pheasant soup. It has great flavour and is popular. Game doesn’t have to always roasted. We love making terrines and mosaics using up venison trimmings and other bits and pieces.
“The game season is all about using an abundance of wild birds and animals that have amazing provenance and are high in nutrients. And every month that goes by in the season all the flavours change. And for a chef that’s fantastic.”