When I was butchering my peacock, I knew that working with the thighs and legs would probably be the easy part. The bird was over four years old so the breasts, even with the skin on would be temper mental and challenging to cook well. Poultry meat from an older bird is going to be more firm, that's for sure, but the breasts especially are tricky because they're so lean, even making them into confit can be tricky.
I used a special trick I keep around for pheasant meat, or any lean meat really called forcemeat. A forcemeat is basically meat that's been mixed with egg, cream, breadcumbs, or a combination of all of them. There's a bunch of different techniques for making them, as well as it's cousin mousseline, which I usually describe as being more fluffy and light, where I generally describe forcemeat as being more dense like meatloaf.
Long story short, adding breadcrumbs, egg and cream to the meat is a way of supplementing the amount of fat that the lean meat naturally lacks, giving you a finished product that's tender, juicy, and not at all dry.
Once you've made the forcemeat, there's all sorts of things you can do with it depending on where you want to go. I needed something to eat with the broth the peacock carcass was going to produce, and spoonfuls of forcemeat make a great dumpling so that's where I went, along with a some black trumpet mushrooms used to flavor the broth and add color/interest to the dumplings themselves. My favorite part is the wild greens and the sweet corn in the dish, which I added since it was the same things we found in the crop of the bird when we were cleaning it. You know the old saying: what grows together, goes together.
Black Trumpet-Peacock Dumplings in Broth, With Sweet Corn and Amaranth
- 8 ounces peacock breast meat
- 2 egg whites
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- ¼ cup panko breadcrumbs
- ½ teaspoon chopped fresh thyme or more to taste
- Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
- 3 grams dried black trumpet mushrooms roughly ¼ cup
- Pinch of fresh grated nutmeg
- 1 qt homemade peacock stock
- Re-hydrate the dried black trumpet mushrooms in the stock for 15 -20 minutes then agitate the mushrooms to remove any grit, remove them, then strain the juice and reserve separately. Finely chop the mushrooms and reserve.
- Chill the bowl of the food processor in the freezer for 20 minutes. Pulse the breast meat in the food processor until finely ground, then add then egg whites and puree until smooth. Drizzle in the heavy cream, scraping down the sides of the bowl to incorporate the cream, then remove and combine with the chopped mushrooms, ½ teaspoon salt, ⅛ teaspoon of pepper, the nutmeg, breadcrumbs and fresh thyme.
- Remove the dumpling mixture to a mixing bowl, cover and allow to chill in the fridge and firm up for 20 minutes or so. Double check the seasoning by cooking a tablespoon sized piece of the dumpling mixture in a saute pan, taste for salt and any other flavors you've added, then adjust if needed.
- To cook the dumplings, bring a wide pot of lightly salted water to a simmer, then using two spoons, make roughly tablespoon sized dumplings in the shape of eggs and drop into the simmering water a few at a time and cook for 5 minutes, then remove to a lightly oiled sheet tray or baking dish and reserve. Repeat the process until all of the dumpling batter is used. Chill the dumplings until ready to use, they can easily be made the day before and re-heated.
- To plate the dish, gently reheat the mushroom infused stock with the dumplings in it until they're hot throughout. Add the sweet corn and greens and cook until the greens are just wilted. Season the stock to taste with salt, double check the seasoning and adjust if needed, then divide the dumplings evenly between warmed bowls, top with the greens, sweet corn and broth and serve immediately.