Sous-vide pigeon with smoky pigeon jus

This was the secondo for our X-mas dinner this year. Pigeon is often overcooked and then has a strong livery taste and is dry. By cooking the breast sous-vide, it has a delicious flavor and is very tender.  The pigeon jus is delicious and very flavorful because it is reduced to an almost syrupy consistency and because part of the pigeon bones are smoked. This dish is quite a bit of work, but definitely worth it!

Ingredients

For 4 servings

2 pigeons (wild or farmed, NOT frozen!)

250 grams (1/2 pound) chopped celery, carrot, onion

1 glass of red wine

1 shallot

1 bay leaf

1 clove

1 garlic clove

1 tomato

10 grams (1/3 ounce) dried porcini mushrooms

fresh thyme

250 grams cooked chestnuts

125 grams sauerkraut

150 grams (1/3 pound) haricots verts

8 mushrooms

salt and freshly ground black pepper

butter

olive oil

Preparation

Cut the breast fillets and the legs off the pigeons, or ask your butcher to do this for you.

Rub the breast fillets with salt and freshly ground black pepper and sear them quickly in a mixture of hot butter and olive oil in a frying pan. Take the breast fillets out of the frying pan and put them on a plate to cool.

Add chopped shallot, minced garlic, chopped onion, chopped carrot, chopped celery, a bay leaf and 2 sprigs of thyme to the frying pan and sautee until golden. Deglaze with a glass of red wine and with a spatula scrape any bits from the bottom of the pan for maximum flavor. Turn off the heat.

Prepare a smoker with smokedust and thyme.

Roughly chop the pigeon carcasses (after removing the innards if your butcher has not already done so) and soak in cold water to remove the blood. Dry the bones with paper towels.

Smoke 1/3 of the bones for 15 minutes in a hot smoker. If you do not have a smoker, you can omit the smoking and roast all of the bones instead. The jus will still be good, just not as good.

Roast the remainder 2/3 bones pieces in a hot oven (225C/435F) until golden, about half an hour. Deglaze the roasting pan with cold water.

Put all of the pigeon bones (both the smoked and the roasted ones) in a pot together with the juices from the roasting pan and cover with cold water. Bring to a simmer and remove any scum. Let simmer for 3 hours, adding water if needed to keep the bones covered. After 3 hours, add the vegetables and red wine mixture, 1 chopped tomato and dried porcini mushrooms and simmer for 1 more hour.

Sieve the pigeon stock into a frying pan. Add the pigeon legs and bring to a simmer (make sure it doesn’t boil). The pigeon legs will be stewed in the pigeon stock, and the stock will thicken. This will take 3 hours or more.

When the pigeon breast fillets have cooled completely, seal them with some thyme sprigs in a vacuum bag. Add any juices that leaked onto the plate to the pigeon stock. Cook sous-vide for 1-2 hours at 54.5C/130F. (You might be able to achieve a similar result using an oven at 65C/149F and a meat thermometer. Cook the breast until the thermometer shows 55C/131F.)

For the sides:

  • Parboil the haricots verts for 10 minutes in salted water
  • Sautee the mushrooms in olive oil and season with salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Prepare sauerkraut and mash together with chestnuts, season with salt and freshly ground pepper

Serve the breast with the syrupy jus, the stewed leg and the sides.

This dish goes well with a complex red wine that is not too powerful. For our X-mas dinner we liked the pairing with this 1990 Barbaresco.

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