Am I less of a cook if I get it frozen from the supermarket?by Wendell Steavenson / January 22, 2015 / Leave a comment
My boyfriend Adrien came back from a day of shooting in the drizzling French countryside with a heavy bag containing two pheasant, two mallard ducks and four little brown partridges. I took them out and laid them on the kitchen counter. Iridescent feathers, heads bright with flashes of blue and red, now limp. They were dead but very beautiful. I set to plucking.
I have only plucked a bird once before but it is not difficult. Like so many operations in the kitchen, the trick is to be gentle but firm. It was an intimate experience, sharply pulling up the strong angular tail plumes, burrowing my hands through the softest filaments of down. I traced the contours of body and flight with my fingertips, stretched out wings and cut them off with a pair of kitchen shears. I felt only a little bit guilty.
I prepared one of the robust ducks and a delicate partridge, pulled out their viscera and kept the hearts and livers for my morning toast. I pan fried the whole birds for colour, then roasted them in the oven and laid them on a bed of pommes de terre boulangère, potato gratin made with stock instead of cream. They were pink and delicious.
But what to do with the rest of the birds? The surfeit haul. How to eke out the abundance through the winter. I thought about pâté. But how do you make it? “Just take them to the charcuterie,” said Adrien, with a mild pleading in his voice. The kitchen was already covered with clots of blood and feathers.
Is it always better to make something yourself than to buy it ready-made? Why do I make my own puff pastry: a whole afternoon of rolling out dough and butter, re-rolling, folding, refolding, refrigerating, repeat. Am I less of a cook if I get it frozen from the supermarket? I think I make my own mayonnaise and chutney and cakes and pizza because my versions taste better than ready-bought. My pastry is all-butter, my mayonnaise pure egg yolk and mustard and grassy-bitter from good olive oil; I make a ginger cake with four kinds of ginger so that the zing will blow…