Pigeon Cooking Games

  • Perfect for autumn, pigeon is a popular meat used by chefs.Pigeon recipes, prized for their rich, sweet and nutty flavour which works perfectly in combination with autumnal flavours like earthy beetroot, sweet butternut squash and umami-packed mushrooms. Pigeon might be a small game.
  • Game to Eat cooking recipes for gamebirds, deer, rabbit, pigeon, pheasant, partridge, grouse and more.

Pigeon is best cooked quickly at high heat, but since the flesh contains little fat, older, tougher birds need longer, slower cooking – resulting in drier meat.

I made an interesting and tasty discovery after my Doveslayer’s very successful dove hunt last week. Limits were had all ’round. For the first time, rock doves were harvested. They are also called feral pigeon and are hugely plentiful.Sadly, when they’re called pigeon rather than rock dove, however, many people turn up their noses. I have to admit, I kinda felt the same way. Sky possums? What the hell? Doveslayer brought them home, plenty of them, enough for a couple of meals so I figured I may as well find out for myself if they were any good. What if there’s a zombie apocalypse and there’s nothing else to eat? Rock doves are everywhere! I prepared them using the Special Occasion Whitewing recipe. First of all, the birds are about 1½ the size of a whitewing, That’s definitely in their favor. The rock dove has the same mild, dark-meat flavor as whitewing but with more meat.

For the skeptics, push past your prejudice. I give rock doves two-thumbs-up. I think the larger size and mild flavor are really what sold me. No limits! Way plentiful! Zombie apocalypse-proof! What’s not to love? Find out more about rock doves at: http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/publications/pwdpubs/media/pwd_lf_w7000_0047.pdf

After the big hunt, it was rewarding for the hunters to sit down to a huge whitewing feast. Plucking and gutting went well into the night. It was hard, hot work, but rewarding. (Do not get the mistaken impression that I was part of grueling task of cleaning the birds. It’s times like this that it really comes in handy knowing how to rustle up God’s bounty.) I was glad that I was able to reward the hunters with a feast of Special Occasion Whitewing which I’d cooked in batches earlier in the week. Since I prefer to cook in a large,covered cast iron dutch oven, I prepared approx.18 doves at a time over three days. The doves went into rectangular Rubbermaid containers and into the fridge. On the day of the feast, the doves were separated from the gravy and placed, breast-side-down in a big restaurant-sized pan. I collected all the congealed gravy goodness into a large cast iron skillet, added a little chicken stock and reheated it until a good gravy consistency was achieved. I poured the gravy over the birds, added extra stock until birds were almost covered, I covered the whole thing with foil, sealed around the edges and placed in 350º oven for about 45 minutes to an hour. Done.

It’s really good to know that birds can be prepared ahead of time. They can even be cooked, frozen, thawed, and then reheated. My doveslayer’s uncle LOVES whitewing and takes some Special Occasion Whitewing back to Colorado with him every time he visits. It’s good to be loved!

© SCMP Kenny Chan, head chef, and Cary Docherty, executive sous chef at the Lobster Bar and Grill in the Island Shangri-La hotel in Admiralty, Hong Kong, with their pâté en croute, one of several seasonal game dishes on the menu. Photo: Xiaomei Chen

Late summer until the turn of the year broadly marks out game season, a period when the flesh of wild birds and animals makes its way into the hands of eager chefs.

Shot by hunters in strictly controlled numbers to ensure populations are managed, the volume of game is tiny compared to meat from farmed animals, making it something of a rarity.

Chefs in Hong Kong relish the arrival of wild game shot in France and the UK and the brief window of opportunity to showcase dishes and techniques that are often complicated and labour-intensive.

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Guillaume Galliot, chef de cuisine at the three-Michelin-star restaurant Caprice at the Four Seasons Hong Kong hotel in Central, comes from the Loire Valley in France, a region renowned for its wild game. His dishes include a wild boar terrine at Caprice Bar, and grouse or venison with blackberries, but it's wild hare which inspires him the most.

© Provided by South China Morning Post Hare A la royale from Sologne by Guillaume Galliot at Caprice at the Four Seasons, Hong Kong. Photo: Xiaomei Chen

'The wild hare we use at Caprice largely come from the region of Sologne, an hour north of the city of Tours (in the Loire Valley). They were the former hunting forests for the French royal family. Quotas are strictly respected and you have to call the authorities to verify them. It's sustainable, counted and tagged. These hares eat real grass, flowers and mushrooms, so they're full of natural wild flavour.'

They arrive whole in Hong Kong and are skinned and prepared using every part of the animal. One dish Galliot serves is hare soup, served with sauteed mushrooms, Fourme d' Ambert cheese and foie gras toast (HK$550/US$70). The soup has extraordinarily deep and rich notes of game that come from hours of slow cooking and work in harmony with the accompaniments.

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Galliot doesn't age the hare, as he finds the taste can be too intense, particularly for diners unaccustomed to the whack of gaminess; the latter comes into its own in a dish called hare A la royale from Sologne and its royal sauce (HK$888).

'We marinade it in wine before cooking it sous-vide for 72 hours, then we leave it a whole day in the refrigerator before slicing it. We sous vide each slice again one by one in the cooking juices and then put it in a bain-marie (hot water bath). There's foie gras running through the middle and a stuffing that includes the liver flamed in whisky, as well as truffles, occasionally.'

It may sound very rich, but on the palate it works perfectly, thanks in part to vinegar in the sauce that cuts through the richness and leaves it beautifully balanced.

© Provided by South China Morning Post Guillaume Galliot, chef de cuisine at Caprice. Photo: Xiaomei Chen

At the Lobster Bar and Grill at the Island Shangri-La hotel in Admiralty, chefs Cary Docherty and Kenny Chan make the most of wild game when it is in season.

Docherty, a native of Vancouver, in western Canada, says his time working in London, including at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, exposed him to the importance placed on game.

'The importance of what you're eating is often lost. Game allows people to understand at a deeper level that something has died in order to be consumed,' he says. 'We use the whole animal, nothing goes to waste. When the younger team members have never seen an animal come in and you're gutting, skinning it plucking it, it's very real as opposed to opening up a package of steak.'

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Chan says: 'It's exciting to do this menu. The first step is sourcing the game, then you think about the combination - you need the balance, the wines, the spices. I first did venison when I worked at (now closed) Spoon by Alain Ducasse - in autumn the whole restaurant was game.'

Their take on pAte en croute (HK$288) is a show-stopper of a dish, a huge golden pie featuring cuts including chicken liver, pigeon, pheasant, partridge and mallard. Underneath the patterned hot water crust is a jelly made from a stock using the bones.

Chan says: 'Mother nature tells you what balances, so whatever is in season at the same time works well together. So there's pistachio and apricot and a duck consomme made with brandy and Madeira. It's served with a shallot jam made with red wine vinegar, brown sugar and clove powder.'

© Provided by South China Morning Post Wild pigeon at the Lobster Bar and Grill at the Island Shangri-La. Photo: Xiaomei Chen

Among the other game dishes served at the Lobster Bar are a warm quail salad with bacon, pine nuts, Japanese grapes and a honey mustard dressing; venison with beetroot, French figs, juniper berries, ginger and curry powder, and; grouse - usually a strongly flavoured game bird - smoked with dried rosemary, thyme, orange and lemon skin to soften the edges.

'We then use the grouse leg for a sausage with creamed cabbage on the side, game chips that are criss-crossed and cooked in duck fat, served with bread sauce and whisky sauce,' Chan says.

Docherty says game is special because of its relative scarcity. 'Here we have access to everything around the world, but it's about finding the very best - that's what we try to intensify the focus on finding the best quality product, and game is some of the finest out there.'

© Provided by South China Morning Post Executive chef Edward Voon at Le Pan in Kowloon Bay, Hong Kong. Photo: Edmond So

At Le Pan, a French restaurant in the Goldin Financial Global Centre in Kowloon Bay, Malaysian-born chef Edward Voon relishes the challenges and opportunities of seasonal produce.

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'For me game is something you eat during winter, not the whole year. My dining crowd is 80 per cent local people, who tend to avoid too much game, as it can be very full on for local palates. Some game can be inconsistent. Also, some of the game can be very unfamiliar, like partridge, but when you tell the guests it's a pigeon they understand it.'

For Voon, the game dish of choice on his degustation menu is pigeon au sang. He serves it throughout the year, as it is not subject to the same quotas or time restrictions as other game birds. 'It's cooked whole with the bones, then we charcoal grill it and glaze it with our own Sichuan sauce that is a little bit tangy - a little bit hot, just gives you a hint.

© Provided by South China Morning Post Imperial pigeon by Edward Voon at Le Pan in Kowloon Bay, Hong Kong. Photo: Edmond So

'We charcoal grill and sous-vide the legs and serve it with a hock of pork in brick pastry, celeriac, hazelnut puree, seasonal vegetables - whatever I have today I'll put on the plate - and juices made from the bones.'

Most wild game dishes in Hong Kong are generally available until the end of December or early January. If you intend to eat game it's worth checking with restaurants beforehand to ensure that you don't miss out.

Caprice Four Seasons Hong Kong, 8 Finance St, Central

fourseasons.com/hongkong/dining/restaurants/caprice/

Lobster Bar Island Shangri-La, Level 6, Pacific Place, Supreme Court Road

Pigeon Cooking Games Game

shangri-la.com/hongkong/islandshangrila/dining/restaurants/lobster-bar-grill/

Le Pan Goldin Financial Global Centre, 17 Kai Cheung Rd, Kowloon Bay

lepan.com.hk/

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This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.

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