Here’s one of the most perfect dishes I know of for a warm summer evening: a scaloppini of grouse (or any other light-colored poultry like pheasant, partridge, etc) grilled quick over a hot fire and tossed onto an extra large salad of watercress (or whatever greens you like) with a warm vinaigrette and fresh herbs.
The origins of this (like so many things here) are from one of the first restaurants I worked in. The original dish was the Battuto di Pollo (pounded chicken) and was honestly an afterthought dish in that restaurant.
The chef, Angelo, who was from Rome, taught me to make it well, instilling in me the importance of never, ever, overcooking the chicken—The other line cooks (his sons) not so much. I saw a lot of stringy, charred battutos go out of that kitchen, but the basic premise is a useful one.
The premise here is more of a poultry butchering technique. The chicken breasts we used came connected with the thin tissue that runs along the sternum intact, making it a very large “chicken sheet” that was slightly impressive in a sort of grotesque American way, since it was literally two entire chicken breasts, on a plate.
The technique of “double-breasting” as I’ve come to call it is a really cool one, and great for practicing your finesse with a boning or utility knife.
The rest of the dish here is self-explanatory: some nice fresh greens and herbs, a hot fire, and, a little venison bacon, if you have some around.
Grouse Scaloppini with Watercress and Venison Bacon Vinaigrette
- 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 washed and spun dry
- Venison Bacon Vinaigrette
- 3 oz fatty venison bacon slab bacon, or regular bacon, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons poultry fat duck or cooking oil
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons meat stock
- 1 oz coarsely chopped ramp leaves optional
- 1 tablespoon capers optional
- Using a boning knife, and some skill, 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.
- Meanwhile, 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 ramp leaves and capers if using and turn off the heat. Reserve the vinaigrette and keep warm.
- On two oversized dinner plates, arrange the watercress, celery leaves, radishes and mint leaves.
- Grease the grill and the grouse breast scallopini, then cook quickly, aiming to cook them 90% on one side for color, flipping quickly at the end to just “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.