One of the joys of living in a small town like Saint-Germain-en-Laye is that the local shop and stall keepers know your reputation for being a cook and being interested in seasonal and good products. I discuss soups with the wife of the butcher or recipes for stuffed chicken breast with the cheese shop owner.
So when I went to the open air town market the other day, the poultry man interrupted serving a client and told me “I have a good offer on pigeons”. The woman he was serving believed he talked to her and uttered some words of incomprehension, but he did get me on the hook as I waited to see what the offer was – two pigeons for 15 euro instead of 19. Well, why not. I had been roasting pigeons and made the classical “pigeon with peas” several times but it is not yet the season for fresh peas. I wanted to use my electric grill and decided to make what is called pigeon à la crapaudine “pigeon as a toad”. – spatchcocked pigeon.
Basically, it is a flattened pigeon so that it fits better in a roasting grill that you hold on the coal fire or, in my case, electric heat.
For that you cut the backbone – first you put the cleaned pigeon on its back and then you slice it close to the carving board from the backside to the wings. You turn the bird upside down and remove the central little bones that are left, then you flatten the bird a bit (do not hit it with a heavy object, just press with your fingers) and then stick a wooden pin across to keep the bird in its shape.
The pigeon takes some 25 minutes to cook.
I roasted the birds first in a pan with butter for 10 minutes the evening I had brought the meat in the house, so that it kept better to the following day.
That day, I heated the barbecue and grilled them for another 20 minutes.
I made a kind of devil sauce to go with the pigeons. I used some diced onion in butter, white balsamic vinegar and a soup bowl of veal stock. This I reduced to a third, during some 30 to 45 minutes, while adding ground pepper, some soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce and sambal. I baked the pigeon livers and heart briefly in butter and added that to the sauce before mixing it all to a creamy mass.
I laid the pigeons on a serving platter, added some salt and pepper and poured some of the sauce on top. It was delicious; we had to use our fingers though.