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The dish: Wild birds scrapples
Where to get it: The Bird; 1337 11th St. NW; (202) 518-3609; thebirddc.com
Price: $5 alone, $12 as part of the Birdy Breakfast
What it is: A cornmeal scrapple cake made with wild Scottish grouse and partridge meat, livers, and giblets. The meat and organs, which the chef must first inspect for buckshot, are ground and cooked with fine cornmeal, bird stock, sage, salt, and black pepper. The mixture sets in a roulade until it’s solid, then it’s sliced and seared to order.
What it tastes like: In Chef Michael Bonk’s variation of scrapple, gamey birds stand in for the pork scraps found in the traditional Pennsylvania-Dutch breakfast specialty. The dark red grouse meat has a peatiness that Bonk presumes comes from a life in the forests of Scotland. The partridge is more mild in flavor, sitting somewhere between duck and chicken. If you aren’t a fan of game meat, don’t let that deter you. The pronounced bird flavor is masked by the sage and bird stock, and the result is reminiscent of Thanksgiving stuffing that’s crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Bonk enjoys it with ketchup or a runny egg.
The story: Like at his porcine project The Pig, Bonk isn’t afraid of the unusual at The Bird. “I’m always on the lookout for interesting ways to get people exposed to odd ingredients,” he says. “I like to have as many different birds as possible on the menu.” Unfortunately, it’s cost-prohibitive to serve a grouse or partridge whole, since most customers would balk at paying $45 for a bird the size of their fist. Incorporating the meat into a scrapple cake is a financial win, and it’s also a more approachable way to introduce the birds to diners without ruffling any feathers.