A simple roast grouse is no simple thing. No cook ever has an abundance of ruffed grouse — and it is the forest-dwelling ruffed grouse I am talking about here, not the sharptail of the Great Plains (if you have them, instructions on how to roast a sharpie are here) Even if you do have a surfeit of ruffies, it would be a sin against God and Nature to waste them. Grouse are not to be trifled with.
The cardinal rule with grouse is don’t mess with it. Roast it simply, add a sauce that compliments it, and enjoy.
Like all upland birds, grouse benefit greatly from brining. I brined my first grouse for 12 hours, but anything from 8-24 would work, depending on your salt tolerance. Brining helps pre-season the bird and will keep it moister.
And moisture is an issue with grouse, which have very thin skins and tend toward dryness. Brining will help, as will frequent basting with butter or some other oil.
When you have taken your grouse out of the oven, let it rest on a cutting board, covered in foil, for 10 minutes. This will also help combat dryness.
As for serving size, I find one grouse a bit too much for a person, but half a grouse more than a bit too little. My advice? Give your guests one bird per person and save the leftovers for grouse soup later.
BRINE (good enough for up to 4 birds)
- 1/4 cup salt
- 4 cups water
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon crushed juniper berries
- 1 rosemary sprig
- 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
- 2 grouse
- 1 lemon
- Fleur de sel or other finishing salt
- Mix the brine ingredients together and bring to a boil. Stir well, turn off the heat and let cool to room temperature. This can be done ahead of time.
- Submerge the grouse in the brine and let soak in the fridge for 12 hours.
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
- Remove grouse from the brine and pat dry. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes while the oven is heating.
- Halve the lemon and stick each half into the grouse.
- Smear butter all over the grouse, including a small knob in the cavity and under the neck where the crop once was. Use more than you think you need, at least a tablespoon per grouse.
- Place in a roasting pan or, better yet, a cast iron frying pan and roast for 15 minutes.
- Turn the heat down to 350 degrees and turn the grouse on one side. Baste it thoroughly with the melted butter in the pan. Roast for another 10 minutes.
- Repeat by turning the grouse on the other side. Be sure to baste again. Roast for 10 more minutes.
- Remove the birds from the oven and let rest on a cutting board, covered in foil, for 10 minutes.