The humble pigeon makes a fine meal and is overlooked as an organic and delicious source of protein. Why it isn’t considered a staple food source in the UK is beyond me. Easily distinguished from its feral cousin by the white ring around its neck and the fact that it doesn’t look like a mangy flying rat, the grey grouse is a true wild bird and a canny and worthy quarry.
The breasts must be served rare and bloody as hell, so it’s sometimes a tough sell. This is a well exercised bird, an avian Mo Farah if you will, and as with no fat to protect the meat from the heat of the pan, you have to rely on the blood to keep your meal moist.
8 pigeon breasts
2 red onions
2 tablespoons of brown sugar
Balsamic vinegar to taste
Red wine to taste
Once your bird is plucked and ready, remove the breasts by sliding a knife along either side of the breast bone and working your way behind the meat towards the wings. Remove the skin and place in a zip lock bag. Cover the breasts in olive oil and add 1 clove of garlic, the zest of half a lemon a couple of bay leaves and some fresh thyme. Leave in the fridge to marinade for a few hours or overnight. This will remove some of the irony taste that the meat can carry, but will be delicate enough to ensure that it still tastes like pigeon.
Finely chop your red onion and heat in a large frying pan over olive oil with a large pinch of salt. The trick is to really take your time sweating the onion. The slower you cook them the deeper the flavour and softer the flesh. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. After 20 mins or so, the onion should be really soft and almost golden in colour. Add your brown sugar and balsamic vinegar and reduce for another 5-10 mins. Keep tasting them until you get the right level of sweet and sour to your preference. Once cooked, set aside.
With a little vegetable oil in a pan, heat until it is almost at smoke point. Add the pigeon breasts with a little salt and pepper and cook on high heat for no more than 3 minutes. Turn them over for 1 minute, and then remove and wrap in silver foil to keep warm whilst you make the sauce.
In a separate pan over medium heat combine your white wine, balsamic, honey and butter reduce into a thick sauce. Add your onions and leave on a low heat to simmer.