Pigeon cooked two ways, roasted breast and legs simmered with red wine

A pigeon purchased from a butcher in les Halles de Pau was the inspiration for this spring meal. This bird caught my eye because of its robust size (the butcher described it as assez pour deux, basically meaning it is a monster!) and because of its absolute freshness. Note that, when a bird still has its head on and has not had the innards removed, it is easy to determine freshness with just a sniff. A fresh bird has a earthy, animal smell, not at all unpleasant.

Anyway, the farmer stands outside les Halles also yielded beautiful, purple cheeked, young turnips and early season green asparagus; at that point, the dish pretty much creates itself! I decided to cook the pigeon in an old fashion way that involves first roasting it whole in a hot oven until it is nicely golden outside but still rare inside, then separating the breast and legs, and using the carcass to make a rich red wine sauce. The legs are then simmered in this sauce until tender, while the breasts are finished in a saute pan.

Here are some photos of the process:

Beautiful farm-raised pigeon from the SW of France, trussed and ready for cooking. The liver can be cooked quickly with shallots and pounded with butter to make a nice spread for sliced baguette to go with your apéro.
The pigeon is seared in a heavy bottomed pan using a little duck fat as the cooking medium.
…the cooking is continued in a hot oven until the bird is golden but still rare inside.
The breasts and legs are removed…
…and the carcass broken to serve as the base for a rich red wine stock.
The other ingredients for the stock include onions, celery, garlic, turnips, bay, thyme and sage.
After sweating together the carcass and veggies, deglaze with brandy and red wine. Here I am using red wine from the region and Armagnac flavored with walnuts.
I keep the sauce short, meaning not too much liquid, to concentrate the flavor and reduce the cooking time.
When done cooking, the sauce is strained and seasoned.
The pigeon legs need to simmer about an hour in the sauce to become tender. The turnips to accompany the pigeon can be simmered for the last few minutes with the legs.
Just before serving, the breasts are seared to finish the cooking. Pigeon should be served pink.

Thats about it. It’s actually a lot less complicated than is sounds; It think I only spent about 45 minutes work, if you don’t count the time for simmering the legs. And that time can profitably be used for a little pre-meal glass of wine.

I served the duck pieces on a slice of toasted baguette so that there is something with which to soak up all the sauce. For the asparagus, I like to just steam it very quickly in a covered saute pan with a few tablespoons of water, salt, pepper and a big chunk of butter.

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