Make your own cream of mushroom sauce (and add bacon and whiskey) for this classic grouse recipe
Ask any deer camp old-timer for a foolproof recipe, and you’re likely to encounter a lot of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup. There is a reason for that: Mushrooms plus cream plus game meat adds up to a perfect trinity of flavors. This recipe chucks the can, and all its high-sodium gloppiness, while retaining the earthy comfort that made mushrooms and cream the go-to sauce for generations of hunters.
4 Tbsp. butter, softened
8 strips bacon
2 Tbsp. butter
20 oz. cremini or wild mushrooms, trimmed and sliced thin (morels, chanterelles, or a mix of wild and cultivated would be good)
1 shallot, minced
1 cup rich chicken stock (or defatted drippings from the pan)
3 sprigs thyme
12 cup cream (or crème fraîche)
1 Tbsp. bourbon
1 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. ROAST THE GROUSE: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Rinse the birds, pat dry, then smear each with a tablespoon of softened butter. Generously salt and pepper, inside and out. Wrap 2 bacon slices around each grouse, then set them in a roasting pan. Roast in the oven until the grouse is browned, about 25 minutes. Remove to a plate and let rest, covered loosely in tinfoil, while you make the sauce.
2. MAKE THE SAUCE: Melt 2 Tbsp. butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and about 1/2 tsp. salt and sauté, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms release a lot of moisture and begin to smell fragrant, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and add the shallot. Sauté until soft, and until most of the moisture has gone out of the pan, about 4 minutes. Add the stock (or defatted drippings from the roasting pan) and thyme sprigs and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half. Pour in the cream and bourbon and simmer until the sauce thickens, about 3–5 minutes.
3. TO SERVE, spoon the sauce onto four plates, and rest a grouse in the center of each. Sprinkle thyme over the grouse. SERVES 4
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