• Make the dish familiar, so guests are more receptive to ordering it. • Make sure market/guests can support he dish by keeping price reasonable. • Use the correct cooking technique. GAME BIRD COOKING TIPS • Marinating game birds is perfectly acceptable. Popular choices include red wines, citrus and herbs, and cider mixed with ginger. Birds should be allowed to marinate for at least four hours or overnight.
Boulot prepares chukar partridge with
the classic full-flavored, highly seasoned
salmis sauce. “I pay between $12 and
$14 per bird, and charge $25 [33% food
cost] for the dish,” he says. “But I know my
guests can and will support this dish and
appreciate the preparation.”
To make a salmis sauce, the bird is first
roasted to two-thirds of its cooking point,
after which the breast and legs are removed.
The carcass is chopped and sautéed in
butter until browned. A mirepoix is added,
and the pan is deglazed. Stock is added, and
the meat is put back in the pan and cooked
to medium. Finally, the sauce is strained and
whisked with a tablespoon of soft butter,
then seasoned. One breast and one leg/
thigh portion is plated, sauce is spooned over
the meat, and vegetables are added.
Another classic preparation, particularly of
dove or quail, is cocotte (meaning “casserole”).
A bird might be wrapped in applewood-smoked bacon, sautéed, and placed on top
of a bed of mirepoix in a covered casserole.
Depending on the size of the bird, the
casserole is baked in the oven for about 20
minutes, which achieves tender meat and an
abundance of juice to make a flavorful sauce.
have to have well-informed servers who
know inside and out what is being served.
“I can use the best ingredients and plate the
most amazing dish, but if the wait staff can’t
talk intelligently about the food, it will not sell.
They need to answer every question asked
of them right there at the table instead of
coming back to the kitchen to find the answer.
This is particularly important when it comes to
game birds, because they are a specialty item.
This starts with me, in that I need to make
sure staff meetings and tastings are held
prior to every dinner service.”
If the wait staff is fully informed about the
type of game bird being menued and how it is
being prepared, and can relay that information
to guests, McPhail says people will tend to
order the item. “Just as all restaurants should
do, we hold pre-service meetings with front-
of-the-house staff to answers questions
and hold tastings. You can’t have the wait
staff talk about food you’re serving if they
themselves have not sampled the food.”
At Meritage, Thomsen prepares a roasted
Sonoma duck with toasted farro, baby
escarole, caramelized red onion and Frog
Hollow Farm (Brentwood, Calif.) apricot
purée. “The caramelized red onion brings an
earthy flavor, sweetness and a rich element
to the dish. The escarole lends a touch of
bitterness. The farro is a bit chewy, with a
nutty flavor, and pulls the dish together. The
apricot purée has additional sweetness.
The duck is simply meaty and rich.”
He prefers to use Moulard duck breasts,
because, he says, “They are the best-
tasting duck breasts, period.” He pays
$12.90 a pound for the breasts, charges
$14 for a 3-ounce portion and $28 for a
6-ounce portion, with a 30% food cost.
A Moulard is a cross between a Pekin
and a Muscovy, and is raised primarily for
the production of foie gras. It produces
a succulent breast that lends itself to
being grilled or smoked. Because of the
feeding procedures required to produce
foie gras, the breast meat of this duck is
considerably richer with fats.
“Because it does not dry out as quickly as
other breeds when grilled, it is the perfect
grill option,” Thomsen says.
Rob Benes is a food writer and the former
editor of Chef and Chef Educator Today.
NOT JUST ABOUT THE FOOD
Josh Thomsen, executive chef at
Meritage at The Claremont, Berkeley,
Calif., says people are willing to try new
foods, particularly if they are going to
a restaurant known for serving quality
ingredients in well-prepared dishes. “But
the food will not sell on its own. You also
This roasted Sonoma duck with toasted farro,
baby escarole, caramelized red onion and
apricot purée comes from Josh Thomsen,