Salmis de Pigeons

A classic French dish, Salmis de Pigeons (sahl-mee d’pee-john), although rather expensive, makes a superb dinner party dish. The birds are roasted and then braised until tender in a delicious sauce. Serve with Croutons, spread with a liver pate.6 pigeons, oven-ready with the giblets reserved

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

6 oz. cup butter, melted

6 streaky bacon slices, rinds removed

4 oz. button mushrooms, cooked and drained

2 fl. oz. brandy

1 canned truffle, drained and thinly sliced

1 onion, finely chopped

1 medium-sized carrot, scraped and chopped bouquet garni, consisting of

4 parsley sprigs,

1 thyme spray and

1 bay leaf tied together

8 fl. oz. chicken stock

8 fl. oz. dry white wine

1 oz. butter

1 oz. flour

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

Preheat the oven to moderate 350°F (Gas Mark 4, 180°C).

Rub the pigeons, inside and out, with the salt and pepper. Place the pigeons in a large roasting tin and spoon over the melted butter. Lay a slice of bacon over the breast of each bird. Place the tin in the oven and roast for 40 minutes.

Remove the roasting tin from the oven. Remove and discard the bacon. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pigeons to a carving board. Using a sharp knife, skin the pigeons and carve the meat into slices. Lay the slices in the bottom of a large flameproof casserole. Arrange the mushrooms over the meat and sprinkle with half the brandy. Place the truffle slices on top of the mushrooms and sprinkle with the remaining brandy. Set aside while you prepare the sauce.

Using a sharp knife, finely chop the skin and reserved giblets.

Pour off all but 4 fluid ounces of the juices in the roasting tin. Strain the juices into a large saucepan. Set the pan over moderate heat and add the skin, giblets, the carcasses, onion, carrot and bouquet garni. Pour in the stock and wine, and bring to the boil. Cover the pan, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes or until the stock has reduced by approximately one-quarter.

Remove the pan from the heat. Pour the stock mixture through a large fine strainer set over a large bowl. Using the back of a wooden spoon, press down on the contents of the strainer to extract all the juices. Discard the contents of the strainer. Skim off any fat from the surface of the juices and set aside.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over moderate heat. Remove the pan from the heat. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the flour to make a smooth paste. Gradually add the stock mixture, stirring constantly and being careful to avoid lumps.

Return the pan to the heat and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes or until the sauce is thick and smooth.

Remove the pan from the heat and season with the salt and pepper.

Pour the sauce over the meat mixture in the casserole. Cover the casserole and set it over moderately low heat. Simmer for 15 minutes.

Remove the casserole from the heat.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meat to a warmed serving dish. Arrange the mushrooms and truffle slices around the meat. Pour half the sauce over the meat. Pour the remaining sauce into a warmed sauceboat and serve at once, with the meat.

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