8pickled ramp bulbsplus ¼ cup of their pickling juice
1teaspoonchopped fresh tarragon
Kosher salt and pepper
2ripe pearspreferably a large variety that will yield extra scrap for the stock, Bartletts make a nice presentation, but most pears will work
High heat cooking oil or lardas needed
Cut up the partridges, removing the heads and 4 breasts. Reserve the legs and carcasses for stock. Peel and trim the pears, then cut them in half vertically and scoop out the seeds with a melon baller. Reserve the scrap for the stock.
Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a saute pan and lightly brown the pears on both sides, seasoning them lightly with salt and pepper. When the pears are browned, but before they're cooked through, remove them and cool. Reserve the pear halves until needed.
In a wide saute pan, heat another tablespoon of butter. Add the ramps and gently brown them, then deglaze with their pickling liquid. Add the reserved partridge stock and reduce until slightly thickened and syrupy, you want to end up with about a ½ cup of sauce in the pan, it should be very rich and reduced. Remove the ramps if they start to overcook and get mushy.
Season the sauce to taste and adjust if needed. Reserve the sauce until it's time to plate.
To cook the partridge, heat a few tablespoon of oil or lard in a large saute pan. Season the partridge breasts with salt and pepper, then place skin side down in the pan once the oil starts to smoke. Halfway through cooking, add the partridge heads to the pan and cook until hot throughout.
Cook the partridge breasts until medium-medium-well, then allow them to rest, skin side-up, in a warm place, like in a gently warm oven, where you are keeping the pears warm.
Meanwhile, reheat the sauce in the pan, adding a little water to restore it to a saucy consistency if needed. Whisk in a tablespoon of unsalted butter to thicken the sauce and add the tarragon. Double check the sauce for seasoning, then prepare to plate.
To plate the dish, arrange a warm roasted pear half on each of 4 warmed dinner plates. Place a partridge breast on each plate, then garnish each plate with 2 ramp bulbs. Using a very sharp paring knife, cut the partridge heads in half, cleaving each beak in two. Sprinkle a flake or two of nice salt onto each half of the heads to season the brains. Place half of a partridge head on each plate, then drizzle the sauce over each plate and serve immediately.
Chef Lenny Russo told me to search for Hungarian Partridge instead of the more widely available Chukkar. Guess what? He was right-The flavor is better, although any little game bird could be substituted here though: dove, pheasant, quail, woodcock or squab would all be great.