Partridge Breast and Dumplings in Tokaji Sauce

Up until the first world war, Hungary and Bohemia boasted several great estates for partridge shooting. Thousand of gray partridges were then exported to North America, making them one of the principal game birds here to this day. Although the only American partridges you will find in stores are farmed, a curious loophole allows the sale of real Scottish game birds in the US. I get mine from D’Artagnan.

This dish is inspired by several recipes from The Derrydale Game Cookbook, a hunting classic published in the 1930′s that teaches you to cook anything from squirrel to black bear, with a surprising number of Eastern-Europe-inflected entries. The gamy flavor of partridge pairs wonderfully with the sweetness of Tokaji, a Hungarian dessert wine that counts among my favorites.

The proportions yield more dumplings than you will need; use the leftovers in a winter soup.

Brioche breadcrumbs
Yields a bit more than 2 oz

4 oz brioche, thinly sliced

  • Place the brioche on a sheet tray, and dry in 300 F oven for 20 minutes, flipping the slices after 10 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes.
  • Transfer to a blender, and process until all the chunks are gone.

Partridge dumplings
Yields 14 dumplings (4 servings plus leftovers)

2 eggs
1 egg yolk
2 oz butter, soft
8 oz partridge meat (from the legs and wings), coarsely chopped
1 oz partridge (or chicken) liver
salt
pepper
1/8 tsp garam masala
1/8 tsp porcini powder
2 oz brioche breadcrumbs
2 1/2 cups partridge (or chicken) stock
olive oil

  • Place the eggs, egg yolk, butter, partridge meat and liver into a blender (or food processor), and process until smooth.
  • Season with salt and pepper, add the garam masala, porcini powder and breadcrumbs, and mix well. To adjust the seasoning, cook a small bit of the preparation in a pan and taste it. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  • In a pot, bring the stock to a boil. Shape 14 round dumplings out of the partridge mixture, and cook in the boiling stock for about 6 minutes, a few dumplings at a time. Reserve. Keep the stock for the Tokaji sauce.
  • Before serving, sauté the dumplings in a hot pan with olive oil, until golden-brown on all sides.

Partridge breasts
Yields 4 servings

breasts of 2 partridges, skin on
salt
pepper
2 thyme sprigs, stems removed
1/2 oz butter

  • Season the breasts with salt and pepper on both sides, then sprinkle with thyme. Place in a sous-vide pouch with the butter, and cook in a 136 F water bath for 1 hour.
  • Before serving, sauté the breasts skin side down in a hot pan with the butter from the sous-vide pouch.

Tokaji sauce
Yields about 4 servings

stock from partridge dumplings
2 1/2 oz sweet Tokaji wine (e.g. Tokaji 3 puttonyos)
1/2 oz butter

  • In a saucepan over high heat, reduce the stock to about 1/4.
  • Add the Tokaji wine, and reduce until the sauce coats the back of a spoon.
  • Whisk in the butter before serving.
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