Chef Hank Shaw
Author of Hunter, Gather, Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast & Duck, Duck, Goose: Recipes and Techniques for Cooking Ducks and Geese
Ingredients for Roast Woodcock
2 to 4 whole woodcock, plucked and gutted
2 tablespoons lard or butter
2 slices of bacon, cut in half
1 celery stick
Fleur de sel or other finishing salt
Cumberland sauce (see recipe below)
1 Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Be sure to preheat your oven fully before putting the birds in, otherwise you will not crisp the bacon or the woodcock’s skin properly. Most ovens will require a solid 30 minutes to get to this temperature.
2 As the oven is heating, take birds out of the fridge. If you want to truss them, tie some kitchen twine around their legs.
3 In an oven-proof frying pan, heat the lard over medium heat for 1 or 2 minutes. Add the bacon pieces and fry until halfway done. Remove the bacon and set aside.
4 Add the woodcock and fry for 1 minute on each side—don’t fry the breast. Remove the birds and take pan off heat. Pour off all but a thin sheen of oil.
5 When the oven is good and hot, arrange the woodcock in the frying pan breast-side up and use pieces of the celery to keep them from falling over. Lay a piece of bacon over the breast of each bird and cook in the oven for 6 minutes. Remove the bacon and continue cooking the birds for another 9 to 11 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the fleur de sel. Tent with foil as you make the Cumberland sauce.
NOTE: Count on 2 woodcock per person if you can spare them. One will whet an appetite, but leave you wanting more.
Ingredients for Cumberland Sauce
1 tablespoon butter or oil
1 shallot, minced (optional)
½ cup port wine
¼ cup of appropriate demi-glace (duck, beef, venison, or veg) or 1 cup of regular stock
A pinch of salt
½ teaspoon dry mustard
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Zest of a lemon and an orange
¼ cup red currant jelly (you can substitute highbush cranberry or lingonberry jelly; not jam)
Freshly ground black pepper
Directions for Cumberland Sauce
1 In a saucepan, make sure there is at least 1 tablespoon of butter or oil. Sauté the shallot over medium-high heat for 90 seconds, just until it softens; do not let it burn.
2 Add the port wine; let this boil furiously until it is reduced by half. Add the demi-glace (or stock), the salt, citrus zest, mustard, and cayenne. Let this boil for a minute or two. Stir in the red currant jelly and the black pepper. Allow to boil down until thick, but still pourable. Strain it if you want a more refined sauce.
NOTE: You can find recipes for Hank’s demi-glace on his Website www.honestfood.net
Serve the woodcock with the sauce over the meat or alongside. This dish can be served with grilled polenta, over mashed potatoes, or toast.
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