Thursday, 31 December 2015

Spiced Pigeon with Ale and Artichokes

Would you like some more Historic Heston dishes? Of course you would! I really should seek professional help for what's becoming a full blown addiction to Blumenthal's recipe's from Dinner but it just cant be helped. I still keep meaning to visit this restaurant who's dishes I can't stop replicating, hopefully one day in the not too distant future.

So what's on the menu today? Well to accompany the Wassailing dish I decided to go with a starter of Spiced Pigeon with Ale and Artichokes. Beginning originally as two dishes joined together to create squab pigeon cooked sous-vide in a sauce of reduced pigeon stock, spices and ale with a garnish of braised artichokes, thyme, rocket, low-acidulated onions and spice salt.

It made sense to do this dish as I had spice salt and duck stock left from the Powdered Duck recipe with only the garnishes to worry about. The starting point was figuring out how to get into a globe artichoke. Many stories out there indicate that artichokes are a bastard to deal with, a kind of thistle that relish the chance to go brown the moment the surface area is exposed to the air. I didn't think they were too bad in the end. After peeling back the outer leaves and chopping around half the top and stem away it's critical to have a sliced lemon on standby to rub over any exposed areas.
Artichoke prep

With the leaves cut away you can see a fuzzy kind of ball in the centre known as the choke. A teaspoon scraping the indentation where the choke sit's until you see bright white flesh staring back at you completes the preparation. Sling it in water combined with citric acid and lemon juice to keep the colour and your artichokes are ready for the vegetable braising liquid.

The artichokes cook in the liquid (I was being lazy and used Knorr vegetable stock pot infused with thyme) at 90C for an hour. While that was going on it's onto the pigeons and the pigeon sauce.

The recipe asks for squab but they are few and far between round my way. Wood pigeon is plentiful and a good price so I opted for these, cutting the breasts off the carcass and sealing in a sous-vide bag to be cooked at 60C for 10 minutes. The carcasses I roasted in the oven at 220C for around 15 minutes and placed into the duck stock to infuse the pigeon flavour.

Prepared Pigeon

Stock then gets reduced until dark and passed through a sieve onto toasted spices (coriander seeds, star anise and black peppercorns) and left to infuse for 20 minutes. After passing again through a cloth for optimum smoothness, the sauce is finished with a splash of ale.

Last major component is the low-acyl onions, on the dish in the restaurant the appear as regular sliced onions but on the recommended method it appears to lean more towards baby peeled onions done in a rich-pickled style. I went for the sliced option, lacing them in butter and cooking until soft. Once soft the onions are sieved to remove the excess fat with salt and white wine vinegar added.
Pigeon sauce and spice infusion

The braising liquor from the artichokes then gets reduced and the onions added along with fresh rocket. This was absolutely delicious, a great combination of flavour.

A quick flash in the pan of the artichokes and pigeon breasts and all was ready to plate. I didn't bother with the buerre noisette for the sake of another pan.
Low-acidulated onions

With the onions forming the base you just alternate the pigeon and artichokes garnishing with the rocket and spice salt with the sauce over the pigeon.
The final plate

Rather predictably this is delicious, everything works, the lightness of the sauce (a rarity for Blumenthal) is perfect with the richness coming from the pigeon and the onions. The rocket adds freshness and crunch with the artichokes soft and delicious from the braising. Its a brilliant starter.

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