Willow Grouse with Pink Peppercorn Sauce

I’ve been making this recipe for years, but always with chicken, not with the wild game the recipe was intended for. So when my son-in-law presented me with Chukar, a partridge similar to grouse, I pulled this recipe out again. It’s from Finland where the willow ptarmigan, or willow grouse, is common. They are not so common here, especially for you sea-faring types so poultry substitutions are usually needed. Nonetheless what makes this uniquely Finnish and divine is the sauce. It’s hands-down one of my favorite sauces for poultry this time of year, using earthy herbs such as rosemary, thyme, juniper berries and peppercorns. And blue cheese. Yes, the Finns are wild about their blue cheese and so am I! The combination of the herbs, broth, cream and blue cheese blend into a delicate flavor that even those who don’t appreciate blue cheese, will love.

Willow Grouse with Pink Peppercorn Sauce

6 partridge breasts
3 tablespoons butter
Salt & pepper

2 tablespoons butter
3 shallots, finely chopped
1 large sprig rosemary
1 large sprig thyme
6-8 juniper berries
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
1 1/2 tablespoons cognac
Pink peppercorns, crushed

Sweat the onion in butter. Add the juniper berries, rosemary and thyme springs. Sauté for a minute of two. Add the flour and combine.

Add the chicken broth and blue cheese. Simmer for 20 minutes stirring frequently.

Strain the sauce and return to the pan. Add the cream and bring to a simmer. Then add the cognac and pink peppercorns. Set aside while you prepare the poultry.

Pre-heat your galley oven to 350º. The original recipe calls for deboned breasts. I chose to leave the breast bones in. Aesthetically I thought they looked more presentable…or maybe I’m just using that as an excuse that I was too lazy to debone them! Brown the breasts in butter then finish off by roasting them in the oven for about 8-10 minutes. (more if the breasts are bone-in). The breasts should be moist on the inside, so don’t overcook.

Pour a puddle of sauce on a serving dish or on individual plates. Place the breasts in the sauce and pour more sauce over them. Sprinkle with pink peppercorns and garnish with rosemary and thyme. The red and green combination gives a nice Christmas holiday feel so consider this recipe for your holiday buffet.


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