Learn Spanish cooking from Simone and Inés Ortega in their classic cookbook, 1080 Recipes, featuring Octopus with Paprika Pulpo con Pimenton; Partridges with Grapes Perdices con Uvas; Sepulvedana Roast Lamb Cordero Asado a la Sepulvedana; and Catalan Cream Crema Catalana.
Perdices con Uvas
The American partridge, valued as a game bird in its native land, has now been introduced to Europe and is highly prized, especially in France. Hunters in the United States tend to use the word partridge fairly casually and often apply it to the related bobwhite quail and ruffed grouse. Both of these can also be used in the following recipes. The ruffed grouse is particularly fine but remember that it is larger than the partridge. These are birds that live in open spaces on moors and arable land. They live in flocks or coveys and have a tendency to burst into flight when flushed. Breeding adults form monogamous pairs in the winter and the hens lay 8-16 eggs in the spring in a rudimentary nest made on the ground. Both parents incubate the eggs and rear the chicks.
How to Prepare and Cook
Like most game meat, partridge can be hung to make it more tender and tastier. Three to four days are all that is required. Younger birds and hens are usually more tender and can be hung for a shorter time. Partridge has a fine, delicate flavor and a texture similar to that of chicken. It may be roasted, braised, or made into pies and pates but however it is cooked, it is always tasty. As it has a high calorie content, is packed with protein, and contains a lot of mineral salts, partridge was not traditionally recommended for people who are overweight, hypertensive, or rheumatic or who have high levels of uric acid. On the other hand, because it contains high-quality protein it is believed to be excellent for children and adolescents, especially during periods of growth and intense physical exercise.
How to Pluck and Draw
Simply pull the feathers, which will usually come out easily. Hold the bird by the legs and pull out the feathers, starting with the back. Then cut the skin close to the tail end at the back and remove the intestines. Remove the gall bladder from the liver. Singe the remaining feathers over a flame or use cotton wool soaked in alcohol. Cut the legs and the neck toward the middle of their length. Pull the skin toward the wings and then cut the neck down by the wings. Join the skin and sew, or hold, it in place with a wooden toothpick. Rinsing the bird is not recommended, but if you do rinse it, dry it carefully afterward with a clean dishtowel.
Partridge contains all the essential amino acids that form the protein "building blocks" of the body. Partridge has about 22 g protein, 4 g fat and 0.5 g carbohydrate per 100 g meat. Its calorie content is about 130 calories per 100 g/3-1/2 ounces and it is 72 percent water. It has high quantities of B vitamins and is a good source of potassium, calcium, magnesium, and iron.
Value for Money
Fresh partridge is available during the "open season" in the fall and winter. In some countries, frozen partridge is available all year round. You can buy it from specialist butchers, online or from some supermarkets. It is widely available oven-ready. The best way to guarantee the quality of a partridge is to know its origin and when and where it was shot. Otherwise, you must judge by its appearance—the shininess and cleanness of its plumage, the brightness of its eyes, and the texture of its muscles. Do not buy birds with severe wounds or obvious deterioration resulting from being stored badly.
The hen is tastier and more tender than the cock. It can be recognized because it does not have a spur shaped like a button on its foot. To tell if it is tender look at the beak—the lower part a young bird's beak is soft.
Season the cavities of the partridges with salt, spread a little of the lard or sunflower oil over the outsides, then season the outsides with salt. Put a handful of grapes into the cavity of each bird. Heat the olive oil in a large pan or a Dutch oven. Add the birds and cook over medium heat, turning frequently, for 8-10 minutes, until evenly browned all over. Pour in the wine and 3/4 cup water, season with pepper, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer, turning the birds occasionally, for about 1 hour, until the partridges are tender. Add the remaining grapes. Heat the brandy in a small pan, ignite it, and carefully pour it over the partridges. When the flames have died down, put the lid back on the pan, and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes more. Lift out the partridges from the pan, cut them in half lengthwise, and place on a warm serving dish. Spoon the grapes around them and pour the sauce over them. If there is not very much sauce, stir in a few tablespoons of very hot water.
Note: You can use 3/4-inch cubes of sweet ripe melon in place of the grapes, if you like.
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This page created November 2007
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