One of the most perfect dishes I know for a warm summer evening: a scaloppini of grouse breast, or any other light-colored poultry like pheasant or partridge. It's basically a tenderized grouse breast cooked over a hot fire. After it's cooked you serve it on a large salad of greens, herbs and a warm bacon vinaigrette.
The origins of this (like so many things here) are from one of the first restaurants I worked in. The original dish was called Battuto di Pollo (pounded chicken) and was honestly an afterthought dish in that restaurant.
Don't overcook the meat
My old chef from Rome Angelo taught me to make this. The most important thing to keep in mind is that you can't overcook the meat. Poultry is lean, and it will get dry if it's overdone.
The premise here is more of a poultry butchering technique. The chicken breasts we used came connected with the thin tissue along the sternum intact, making it essentially two breasts on a plate.
The technique of "double-breasting" is great for practicing your finesse with a boning or utility knife. The rest of the dish is easy. Get some nice fresh greens and herbs, a hot fire, and, a little venison bacon, if you have some around. Beef bacon works good too.
Grouse Scaloppini with Watercress and Venison Bacon Vinaigrette
- grill or large saute pan
- mixing bowl
- 2 ruffed grouse or another comparable bird
- Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
- Cooking oil as needed
- Watercress salad
- 2 fresh radishes shaved thin on a mandoline
- Small handful of celery leaves optional
- 10 leaves fresh mint
- 3 ounces fresh watercress or your favorite salad greens washed and spun dry
- 3 oz bacon, sliced I use slab bacon
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons meat stock
- 1 tablespoon capers optional
- Using a boning knife, carefully remove both of the grouse breasts from the birds in one piece, being especially careful at the sternum where the connective tissue is the most thin.
- Pound the double breasts to ¼ inch thickness with a meat mallet, being careful not to tear them. Season the breasts lightly on both sides with salt and pepper and reserve.
- Build a wood fire.
- Sweat the bacon in the oil until crisp, adding a pinch of salt and pepper, then add the vinegar and stock to the very hot pan, then add the capers if using and turn off the heat. Pour the vinaigrette into a small dish and keep warm.
- Arrange the watercress, celery leaves, radishes and mint leaves on two large plates.
- Grease the grill and the grouse breast then cook quickly. You're aiming to cook them 90% on one side for color, flipping at the end to “kiss” the other side. Do not overcook them or they will be dry.
- Arrange the piping hot grouse breasts on top of the salad. Spoon the vinaigrette all over and serve. Alternately, you can also toss the greens with the dressing if you like, which will make it more evenly-seasoned.