Woodcock - How to Cook

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Woodcock, like any other game bird needs careful cooking, whilst I wouldn’t go as far as the French who serve their game birds very rare they shouldn’t be overcooked, there is little worse than dry game. I like to work as much fat into the bird before and after cooking by rubbing the meat with goose fat or butter and then wrapping the breast in streaky bacon. The birds are then sealed in a hot pan with plenty of butter and roasted until pink, keep basting the bird with the butter and cooking juices and allow sufficient time to rest.

Roast Woodcock

The intestines can be left inside and ate accordingly or removed after cooking, chopped and added to your sauce to thicken and impart flavour.

Woodcock is generally regarded as the superior to snipe, its flavour is quite superb and I always cook the bird with its intestines still in place and its head on, skinned with the neck twisted to allow the beak to be pushed through the legs and body for roasting.

I like to serve Woodcock with braised French puy lentils, some roasted shallots and garlic and a simple reduction of stock, preferably game, if not then brown chicken stock makes an acceptable alternative.

Ready prepared woodcock will have had its gizzard removed but the head should still be attached, this should be placed under the wing ready for roasting. Incorporate the fat as mentioned and cook with the shallots, garlic, a couple of juniper berries and a sprig of thyme or rosemary. Cook for about fifteen minutes (the oven must be very hot) and leave to rest for eight to ten minutes.

Once cooked, remove the head and scoop out the innards. Chop these up and add them to the pot of stock or gravy. If you wish to get the maximum flavour from the gravy then remove the breasts and legs, split the carcase and add it to the stock. The head can be split through the beak to reveal the tiny brain.

Content and picture © Miles Collins