Perdrix -The Partridge. Partridges in French Cuisine.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman
The red-legged partridge.
When partridge is on the menu, do not simply pass it by.
Partridge is a tasty game bird though nearly all partridges, like pheasants and quail on French menus, are farm raised.  Partridges have a stronger taste than chicken, and menus include traditional and newly created recipes.  Unfortunately, even farm-raised partridges are rarely seen in markets or supermarkets so when partridge is on a French menu do not pass it by.  Enjoy the opportunity

Dinner for two.
Partridges with chanterelle mushrooms and white wine
Photograph courtesy of Ôdélices
Partridges are small, and as a main course, one bird is just about enough for a single diner.  A whole cooked partridge will rarely weigh more than 225 grams (8 ounces), and only half of that is meat.  When partridge breast is on a French menu, it will usually be an entrée, the French starter.
Perdreau – A young partridge.
Perdreau de Chasse – A young wild partridge.  The hunting of wild partridges in France is strictly controlled, and many departments entirely ban their hunting.

19th-century drawing of a pair of partridges and chicks.
Perdreau d’Élevage – A young farm-raised partridge
Pedrix – An adult partridge.
Perdrix Grise – The English or Grey Partridge.
Perdrix Rouge – The red-legged partridge also called the French partridge, is the slightly larger than the grey partridge.
Partridge on French Menus:
Bouillon de Perdrix aux Châtaignes – A partridge bouillon flavored with chestnuts.  (A bouillon is a light soup or broth made with the strained liquids from boiled vegetables, meat, poultry, fish or seafood). 
Salmis de Perdrix Rouge
aux Châtaignes et Aux Olives Taggiasche
Salmis of red-legged partridge with chestnuts and Taggiasche olives,
Cassoulet de Carcassonne Cassoulets are the famous, substantial, winter stews that mostly originates in the southern French historical province of Languedoc.  Since 1-1-2016 Languedoc is part of the new super-region of Occitanie.  The Carcassonne Cassoulet recipes include the red partridge in addition to pork loin, pork belly, bacon, pork rinds, tomatoes and carrots and, of course, France ’s ubiquitous white beans.  Carcassonne is a historical French fortified hilltop city in the south of France.  It is set on the Canal du Midi in the department of Aude, in the region of Occitanie.  It is just 80 km (50 miles) from the Mediterranean by car, but you can also rent a self-drive cabin cruiser to travel along the canals and rivers to Bordeaux on the Atlantic Ocean or to Sete on the Mediterranean Sea.  (The rental includes instruction on how to navigate and open and close locks).

A Cassoulet de Carcassonne
Filet de Perdrix en Robe de Lard Farcie de Fromage de Chèvre de Saint-Loup, Servi avec une Sauce Miel et Thym Partridge breast wrapped in bacon and stuffed with the Saint-Loup goat’s cheese from the region of Poitou Charentes (now part of Nouvelle Aquitaine) and served with a honey and thyme sauce.
Perdrix Rouge, Crème de Lard Fumé, Chanterelles en Tube et Persil Italien – The red partridge served with a cream of smoked bacon sauce prepared with wild trumpet chanterelle mushrooms and flat parsley. (Flat parsley is also called Italian parsley).  
Salade de Perdrix et Foie Gras, Carpaccio de Figues et Pommes Partridge salad served with very lightly fried fattened duck’s liver accompanied by a Carpaccio of figs and apples. (The favorite apple for a dish like this is the Granny Smith).
Suprême de Perdrix Rouge à la Crème de Marrons d’Ardèche,  Embeurrée de Chou Vert, Émincé de Truffes Fraîches de Vaucluse – Breast of red partridge served with a cream sauce made with the AOP chestnuts from the department of Ardèche in the region of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes.  Accompanying the partridge is France’s beloved buttered green cabbage and thin slices of fresh Vaucluse truffles.  (The Vaucluse truffle is the same truffle as the Truffe de Périgord, the Périgord truffle, the black diamond, the most appreciated and expensive of France’s truffles.  The old province of Périgord truffle is mostly within the department of Dordogne and is famous for its Cuisine à la Périgourdine, walnuts and wines, not only its truffles.

Red-legged partridge with a pear and raisin chutney.
Also on some wine lists:
Œil de Perdrix The eye of the partridge, a rosé wine made from pinot noir grapes that was first named and produced in Switzerland. In France, there is a pink rosé Champagne called the Œil de Perdrix.

Œil de Perdrix Champagne label.
NV Veuve A. Devaux Rosé Œil de Perdrix,
Photograph courtesy of

Pomme De Terre Œil De Perdrix  The eye of the partridge potato; called the King Edward potato in the UK where it was developed. It became the UK’s most important potato in the early 1900’s and is still popular.
Two partridges are farmed in France with the red-legged partridge the most well-known, the second is the slightly smaller grey partridge.  The red-legged partridge’s natural habitat is France, Spain, and Portugal and it was transported as a game bird to the UK from France where it is also known as the French partridge. 
In France wild partridges are endangered but not because of hunting; rather because the very young birds eat small insects which have absorbed concentrated pesticides and that poisons them.  The adult birds pick up fallen seed from the ground, so they rarely eat the farmer’s crops and they do not live in forests, Despite France’s attempts to restrict the use of pesticides and the encouragement of the growth of organic farming pesticide use increase every year.

The grey partridge
Greek Mythology and the partridge.

An early example of fake news.
In Greek mythology, Perdrix (Partridge) was a brilliant inventor who studied under his uncle Daedalus himself a famous builder and inventor.  (While walking on the seashore, Perdrix picked up the spine of a fish (the bones), and that gave him the idea to take a piece of iron, cutting teeth into it and inventing the saw.  Perdrix also made the world’s first pair of compasses (dividers).  

The idea for a saw.
Tuna bones: Museum of Natural History, Berlin 2009
Photograph courtesy of Thomas Quine
Perdrix’s uncle Daedalus was jealous of his pupil’s success fearing it would take away from his own fame and in a jealous rage, he threw Perdrix off the top of the Acropolis in Athens.  Luckily, the goddess Athena saw it happening and changed Perdrix into a bird, a partridge, who was able to fly away from death.   Since then the perdrix (partridge) keeps away from cliffs and tall buildings.  A partridge may fly over a few low trees, but it will never sit in a tree, and it builds its nest on the ground.  (The partridge’s lifestyle casts doubt on the accuracy of the Christmas song about a partridge and a pear tree).  For his sin, Daedalus was banished to Crete, but that is another story.  
The Greek goddess Athena who saved Perdrix was the goddess of arts and skill as well as law and justice.

A replica of Phidias’ statue of Athena that stood in the Parthenon,
(In Greek mythology Daedalus’s son was Icarus who flew to close to the sun.  The 2017 film titled Icarus that you can see on Netflix is about the Russian Olympic  drug scandal).
Partridges in the languages of France’s neighbors:
Perdrix Rouge –  The Red-legged Partridge
In the languages of France’s neighbors.
(Catalan –   perdiu roja[), (Dutch – rode patrijs), (German –  rothuhn), (Italian –  pernice rossa), (Spanish   – perdiz roja), (Latin – alectoris rufa),
Perdrix Grise – The Gray, or French Partridge
In the languages of France’s neighbors.
(Catalan – perdiu xerra), (Dutch – patrijs vogel), (German – rebhuhn), (Italian – starna), (Spanish – perdiz pardilla ), (Latin – pedrix pedrix ).
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Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2018.
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