American culture has a predilection for looking at exotic food from safe distances. We want to watch shows about eating bugs and snakes, but the majority of us would balk if someone tried to feed them to us. We’re fascinated by foods we deem strange, but that fascination is strictly for the value of the shock it gives us, not the value of something we would actually eat for pleasure or nourishment. Organ meats suffer a horrible rep in our country compared to the rest of the world, but slowly and surely, they’re becoming more welcome in our dining seen. I don’t get to work with offal as much as I have in the past, so I tend to have fun with it when I do.
My latest fun with offal took the form of a peacock I hunted on my friend’s property. There isn’t a ton you can do with the organs of just one bird, so I ground them with the breast meat, fashioned a type of sausage, and stuffed it into the neck of the bird, with the head still attached, which might seem a little macabre to some.
I was channeling the Roman cooks who’d bring a roasted peacock to the table covered in it’s plumage which had been preserved to be a mask of sorts, taken off at the last minute before eating to delight and surprise dinner guests. Take porchetta too, we don’t think twice about roasting a whole pig in America with the head on. To see a bird’s head and think it’s strange is purely a product of our social conditioning.
For me it wasn’t an attempt to make something strange, I honestly thought people would think it was pretty, but after sharing it with some loved ones they were a little skittish. I guess after working with meat for so many years, I tend to look at carcasses and think they’re attractive, (probably a chef thing) there’s different pieces, colors, textures, a lot of things to appreciate and, plenty of possibilities to imagine when cooking them.
Needless to say the sausage can be made from any bird with a reasonably long neck, (I know Hank Shaw has made something similar with duck) and leaving the head on is of course totally optional. The neck of the bird is long, and the skin is tough and elastic as far as poultry skin goes, making a bulletproof sausage casing that’s easy to render a crispy golden brown.
If you’re adventurous and love poultry offal, chop the head off after the sausage comes off of the grill, then gently cleave it in half with a sharp utility knife (it’s pretty easy since poultry bones are brittle after cooking), get a small oyster fork and a pinch of nice salt, and each the brains if you like them-they’re nice and mild.
- 1 peacock neck, head attached (optional)
- Roughly 1 lb peacock breast meat and trim, roughly chopped
- Peacock Offal: liver, heart, and gizzard, trimmed and cleaned
- Milk, as needed for soaking the offal, roughly 1/2 cup
- Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
- 3 egg whites
- 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
- 2 teaspoons fresh chopped thyme
- 2 tablespoons cognac or brandy
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- Prepare the neck for stuffing.
- If you want to leave the head on the bird sausage, you’ll want to remove excess feathers. If the bird hasn’t gone through a plucking machine this may be difficult. I found it easiest to sacrifice a shaving razor and gently apply water while using the razor to completely smooth out the skin of the bird and remove excess feathers and follicles.
- If you haven’t removed the trachea during basic butchery and cleaning of the bird, do so now by making an incision underneath the beak and pulling it out with a set of pliers. Next, remove the neck by carefully peeling up the skin towards the head. Once the skin has reached the head, use a small cleaver to chop off as much of the neck as possible. Rinse out the neck, then squeeze the water out to clean it.
- Soak the breadcrumbs in the cream. Take a handful of the peacock meat, mix with the liver, heart and gizzard then put through the meat grinder on the fine die. Put the soaked breadcrumbs through the meat grinder to get the rest of the meat to go through and clean the grinder, then reserve the ground breadcrumb-meat-organ mixture.
- Take the remaining peacock meat and put it into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the meat is finely ground, then add the egg whites and puree until very smooth. Transfer the pureed meat mixture to a mixing bowl and add the bread-crumb organ mixture, the nutmeg, thyme, cognac or brandy and a teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper and mix until well combined. Allow the mixture to rest for a while in the fridge, preferably overnight so the flavors can combine.
- To stuff the sausage, rinse out the skin with cold water, squeeze dry, then pack the sausage into the skin. If you have some sausage left over that’s fine, fry it up as is. Tie the sausage closed using butchers twine, then allow to hang uncovered in the fridge for a day to dry out the skin before cooking (I do this with all my sausages, since it helps them get a good “snap” after cooking).
- To cook the sausages, preheat a grill or saute pan wide enough to accommodate the sausage. Cook, turning occasionally to caramelize the skin evenly until the sausages are hot throughout or 150 degrees internal temperature, allow to rest for 5 minutes off of the heat, then slice and serve immediately.