my “Partridge in a Pear Tree” – giving festive traditions a modern twist with Pays d’Oc IGP
Last week I had such a fun Christmas dinner party with friends. You can never have too many gatherings and festive celebrations in the run up to Christmas in my opinion, but you don’t want to take on a recipe which is going to keep you slaving over a hot stove all night! And sometimes you need a modern Christmas dinner alternative which offers those festive flavours but is exciting and new (not that I could ever get bored of the Christmas table heaving with goose or turkey, plus all the trimmings)!
The lovely people at Pays d’Oc IGP wines had sent me a couple of bottles of Domaine de l’Engarran – La Lionne Sauvignon Blanc, and asked me if I wanted to enter a competition to create a modern twist on a classic Christmas recipe – so of course I said yes! If you think the recipe sounds tasty, I’d much appreciate a like, comment or share!
The wine is lovely – a 2014 100% Sauvignon Blanc, its golden colour, mixed sharp citrus and ripe peach nose and full-body made it a great mouthful. Though you might usually go for a soft red like a Pinot Noir with your Christmas classics like turkey, I thought the buttery texture and the gentle spice at the end offered by La Lionne would really complement a partridge dish. I thought it would be a great wine as a stand-alone drink before our meal, and then one with enough oomph to stand up to (and complement but not overpower) the subtle but flavoursome light gamey taste of partridge.
Partridge is a great option as a modern Christmas twist; with a festive feel, it also packs a punch in the flavour stakes and is an easy and quick bird to cook. I opted for partridge breasts in this recipe, but a whole roast partridge would be an excellent Christmas dinner option – one each, or one between two if you’re overloaded with all those festive trimmings!
So, to the recipe:
“Partridge in a Pear Tree” – A modern Christmas dinner alternative – Partridge breast wrapped in bacon with pear stuffing, on nutmeg mash with heritage carrots and membrillo
To serve 6
1 pack streaky bacon (preferably free-range, outdoor-bred pigs)
2 pears (I like the yellow-skinned mellow taste of Williams)
1 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 small onion
splash of calvados (or armaganac works well too)
potatoes for mash (around 3 big potatoes to serve 6)
nutmeg to taste
milk, butter and salt for mash
heritage (or chantenay, or ordinary) carrots
quince jelly to serve
Take your partridge breasts out of the fridge to come to room temperature.
Chop your onion, pears and walnuts.
When the bacon fat has been released in the pan, add your onion to fry. You want to avoid colouring your onions – keep the heat medium. When they are becoming translucent, add in your chopped pears, walnuts and breadcrumbs. Stir to absorb the wonderful bacon fat and let combine in the pan, adding a splash of calvados or armagnac to taste. It should be a soft stuffing, but not a squishy mess. Take the pan off the heat and put your stuffing into a mixing bowl.
Either wire brush or peel your carrots and potatoes to clean them up and make them look smart. Chop as appropriate – little carrots mightn’t need chopping, but I halved mine lengthwise. Chop your potatoes as you usually would for mash to enable a reasonably quick boil – each potato into 3 or 4 chunks. Put carrots in one pan and potatoes in another.
Take your partridge breasts, and find that there is a seam along the fillet, offering you a small pocket. This is what you can fill with stuffing. When the stuffing has cooled, teaspoon stuffing into this small pocket. It is small, and your aiming for close packed stuffing to keep the pear and the bird itself juicy, so stuff it tight! Take 2 rashers of bacon per breast (or less or more as appropriate) and wind around the breast, sealing the stuffing in.
Cover your potatoes and carrots with boiling water to cook until a knife slides in and out of the potato with ease. Once cooked, drain (refresh your carrots with a dousing of cold water to stop the cooking process).
Fry your bacon-wrapped stuffed breasts in a frying pan (a little splash of oil may be necessary as you want your pan a little higher heat this time) – turn your bird, and remove when the bacon all around is brown. You aren’t cooking the bird, just sealing the bacon and giving a crispy skin. Once all are fried, put into your preheated oven for 10 minutes.
Mash your potatoes (I use a knob of butter and a splash of milk or cream, as well as a scrunch of salt and about 10 rasps of a nutmeg on a grater to populate your mash with brown shards of Christmassy scent and flavour.
Take your breasts out of the oven and let rest for at least 2 minutes, so they stay juicy. Add small cubes of membrillo to your plates (membrillo is a quince paste. I made my own, but it is relatively easy to find in the supermarket) – membrillo has such a glorious perfume, like a heightened pear, so it picks up the pear in the stuffing.
Add your mash and carrots to your plate, and slice each partridge breast (mine went comfortably into 3). You might think you need a gravy/jus, but cooked like this the breast meat is so moist, and the lusciously juicy pear in the stuffing alongside soft mash and quince flavours from the membrillo and jelly mean that a jus would make everything just too squishy in my opinion. If you’re a gravy fanatic, though, you could deglaze the pan after you seal your bacon-wrapped partridge breasts for a tasty jus (add a hearty slug of the calvados/armagnac and scrape those bacony bits off the pan. Keep it warm and then drizzle this over before you serve). Now serve, and enjoy!
Quince jelly is a great condiment, as again it adds to the sweet floral scent and juiciness of the pear in your stuffing, and works wonderfully with the citrus/peach of the Sauvignon Blanc on the palette. The juicy, gently gamey partridge breast with crisp, salty streaky bacon and the soft fruit of the pear alongside nutmeg mash and hints of quince all unite to create those festive flavours, but not as you know them!
If you want to try something new for Christmas, or as a dinner party recipe through the festive season, I think my “partridge in a pear tree” recipe is right on the money! Let me know if you try it, and what you think! And if you wanted to share this recipe socially, please do – I’d love to win the competition with Pays d’Oc! x
Details on the wine – Pays d’Oc IGP (Indication Geographique Protegee) indicates a wine from the Languedoc-Roussillon, France’s second largest wine region, found in South-East France. IGP (Indication Géographique Protégée) is an abbreviation used since 2009 to suggest a guarantee of origin and the way that the wines are produced. 11% of its export is to the UK.
We drank Domaine de l’Engarran – La Lionne, Sauvignon Blanc, 2014. You can find it for £9.99, from The Imperial Wine Company.