Partridge and pears is a classic British combination - especialy around the holidays. Serve this dish and your family and friends will have a certain song stuck in their heads all night. It takes some prep ahead of time, but not long at all to cook on the day of the meal - about 30 minutes.
This recipe is my own, adapted from a few classic ones, and incorportates some beautiful North African flavors that have become classsics at the holiday sesason. The measurements are approximate. Use your heart as a guide. Defrost the birds two days before you cook them for the best results.
- 1 partridge per person (half a bird is a good appetizer portion)
- 2 Williams/Batrlett pears per person
- enough fresh lemon juice to coat the pears
- a tablespoon of good local honey per bird
- a tablespoons of ras al hanout seasoning, (cinnamon, cumin, ginger and black pepper) per bird
- golden raisins, dried aprictos, or another dried fruit of your choice
- fresh parsley and cilantro, chopped finely
- almonds or walnuts, pulveried with a mortar and pestle and toasted lightly
- enough unsalted butter and olive oil to coat the bottom of your large heavy bottomed skillet about a quarter inch.
- a large oven safe, heavy bottomed skillet - cast iron or steel work perfectly.
24-48 hours ahead, lay the partridge out on a baking tray with parchment or silicone pad. You can leave them whole or butterfly them, your choice. Apply a generous portion of coarse salt to the skin of the birds, making sure to get all the nooks and crannies. Put the tray in the refrigerator - uncovered- and let the salt dry the skin. It will darken and crisp. Turn the birds if necessary halfway through in order to expose all sides to open air. This is key to a crispy, well seasoned bird.
Take the birds out of the fridge an hour before you cook them and let them come to room temperature. Season all over with olive oil and ras al hanout.
Put your dried fruit in a little water to plump up.
Peel the pears and cut into quarters. Coat them in fresh lemon juice to stop them from browning.
Preheat your oven to 400 degees F
Heat your skillet, add butter and olive oil, and add the birds when the fat sizzles, Put the whole thing in the oven, and cook for about 10 minutes.
Then take the skillet out, and put it on the stovetop, medium high heat. Using tongs, brown the birds on all sides by turning them, adding more butter if necessary. Baste some of the butter directly onto the breasts and any place that needs better color.
When birds reach 150 degree F at the leg joint, take them out and let them rest, uncovered. You want to serve game birds a little pink, like duck breast.
Now it's time for the pears. In the same skillet, place peeled pear halves, and some more butter if you need it. Carmelize the pears, and add the dried fruit, parsley, coriander, and honey, and cook on low for a few minutes until the sauce thickens a little.
Serve family style, or plate each bird with pear sauce on the side. Garnish with toasted nuts and more fersh herbs. I suggest you put a bowl of extra pears out on the table either way - they will go fast.
Serve with a dry rose, dry white, or even a little pear brandy.
Enjoy your dinner!