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Classic Pigeon Breast in Red Wine Sauce.
Looking for a quick, luxurious and delicious meal for two that won’t break the bank? Pigeon is one of the most economical game birds you can buy in the UK. I like to keep a pack of pigeon breasts in the freezer for those occasions when someone turns up for supper and you want something a bit different to chicken. A frozen pack of four pigeon breast will defrost in about an hour – faster if you put them in a bowl of warm water. And, they cook in minutes. This classic pigeon breast recipe takes less than half an hour from start to finish – but is about as close to restaurant standard cooking as I get!
All you need for this recipe, apart from 2 pigeon breasts per person is a good glass of red wine, some butter and olive oil, a finely chopped shallot, a few ‘hard’ herbs of your choice from bay leaf, thyme and rosemary and a spoonful of red fruit jelly (redcurrant or cranberry are perfect). You can add a few crushed juniper berries too if you like and a little homemade chicken stock. I make mine in batches and freeze in an ice-cube tray to use as necessary. But the sauce will work fine with water if necessary. Once you start cooking, the whole dish should be ready in about 15 minutes so make sure you have your vegetables pre-prepared and cooking already if necessary. Mise en place comprises washing and preparing the herbs as appropriate, letting the pigeon breasts reach room temperature by taking them out of the oven about half an hour before you want to cook and finely chopping the shallot.
You might also want to open a good bottle or half bottle of red wine to drink with the meal. I’ve paired my recipe with Louis Jadot Beaujolais Village, which comes in a convenient half bottle for somewhere between £5-£10. It’s a Gamay wine, relatively light with lots of fresh red cherry fruit flavours. It’s a good red wine to drink in summer when you want to enjoy a lighter, fruity red wine. And, I love the half bottle size which means I can indulge in a matched wine without drinking too much!
Of course, sipping gently on your wine while you finish cooking is an essential part of cooking any meal to perfection.
I start the red wine sauce in a small pan, softening the shallot in olive oil then adding the fresh herbs before pouring over the red wine and stock. That gives me time to let the sauce reduce down while the pigeon breasts are being seared. Then, I take the pigeon breasts out to let them rest for 5 minutes or so while I deglaze the frying pan with the red wine sauce and then adjust the seasoning and finish the sauce with a knob of butter. It’s a very easy process – and somehow the timing allows the pigeon breasts to rest for just long enough for that lovely melting texture.
Here’s my pigeon breast recipe if you’d like to try at home for yourself.
An easy recipe for two using pigeon breast and a simple red wine sauce
- 4 Pigeon Breasts
- 150 ml Red Wine
- 1 tbsp Olive Oil
- 1 tbsp Butter
- Fresh Herbs I used 2 sprigs of rosemary and 2 of thyme
- 1 Banana Shallot
- 2 tsp Redcurrant or Cranberry Jelly
- 3-4 Juniper Berries
- Salt and Pepper
- 15 ml Stock or water
Put half the olive oil in a small heavy bottomed saucepan and heat gently
Add the shallot and cook gently till softened (8 minutes)
Add the crushed juniper berries and cook for a few more seconds
Add the red wine and stock or water together with the jelly
Bring to a simmer and allow to reduce down by about 50%
Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a frying pan
Season the pigeon breasts with a little salt and black pepper and press the herb sprigs into them, before adding to the frying pan
Cook on a moderate to high heat for 2-3 minutes on each side (depending on how rare you like them - 2 minutes should give you rare pigeon breasts)
Remove them from the pan and rest under a tent of foil
Tip the red wine sauce into the frying pan and stir to deglaze
Taste and adjust the seasoning
Whisk in the butter
Slice the pigeon breasts and plate up.
Pour over the red wine sauce. If you want, strain it to remove the herbs- I don't usually bother
This is the third Louis Jadot half bottle I’ve tried – and I’ve loved them all. For my other pairings, please check my recipe for Whole John Dory paired with Macon Villages and for Pork Tenderloin with White Wine, Sage and Apple paired with a delicious Chablis