Pigeons aux Cerises

An unusual combination of flavours, Pigeons aux Cerises (pee-john oh s’recz) should only be made when fresh cherries available. Serve with creamed potatoes and French beans.

1 oz. butter pigeons, oven-ready

6 shallots, chopped

2 tablespoons chopped almonds

1 tablespoon flour

1 pint chicken stock bouquet garni, consisting of

4 parsley sprigs,

1 thyme spray and

1 bay leaf tied together

1 lb. cherries, stoned

5 fl. oz. single cream

4 triangular Croutons

In a large saucepan, melt 2 ounces of the butter over moderate heat. When the foam subsides, add the pigeons and cook them, turning them frequently, for 3 minutes or until they are lightly browned. Using tongs or two large spoons, transfer the pigeons to a plate. Set aside and keep warm.

Add the shallots and almonds to the pan and fry them, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 4 minutes or until the shallots are soft and translucent but not brown.

Sprinkle the flour into the pan and stir with a wooden spoon to make a smooth paste. Cook the paste for 1 minute. Re-move the pan from the heat. Gradually pour the stock into the pan, stirring constantly. Return the pan to the heat and bring the sauce to the boil over moderate heat, stirring constantly.

Add the bouquet garni and return the pigeons to the pan. Cover the pan, reduce the heat to low and simmer the pigeons for 1 hour or until the pigeon breasts are tender when pierced with the point of a sharp knife.

Using tongs or two large spoons, trans-fer the pigeons to a warmed serving dish. Set aside and keep warm while you finish making the sauce. Remove and discard the bouquet garni. Increase the heat to moderately high and boil the sauce until it has reduced by one-quarter of its original quantity.

Meanwhile, in a medium-sized frying-pan, melt the remaining butter over moderate heat. When the foam subsides, add the cherries and cook them for 3 minutes or until they are very hot. Remove the frying-pan from the heat.

Add the cherries, their cooking juices and the cream to the sauce and stir to mix. Cook the sauce for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring constantly, or until it is very hot but not boiling.

Remove the pan from the heat and pour the sauce over the pigeons. Garnish the pigeons with the croutons and serve immediately.