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Le Pigeon: Cooking at the Dirty Bird

Le Pigeon: Cooking at the Dirty Bird

5.0 1
by Gabriel Rucker, Meredith Erickson, Lauren Fortgang, Andrew Fortgang, Tom Colicchio (Foreword by)

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This debut cookbook from James Beard Rising Star Chef Gabriel Rucker features a serious yet playful collection of 150 recipes from his phenomenally popular Portland restaurant.

In the five years since Gabriel Rucker took the helm at Le Pigeon, he has catapulted from culinary school dropout to award-winning chef. Le Pigeon is offal-centric and meat-heavy,


This debut cookbook from James Beard Rising Star Chef Gabriel Rucker features a serious yet playful collection of 150 recipes from his phenomenally popular Portland restaurant.

In the five years since Gabriel Rucker took the helm at Le Pigeon, he has catapulted from culinary school dropout to award-winning chef. Le Pigeon is offal-centric and meat-heavy, but by no means dogmatic, offering adventures into delicacies unknown along with the chance to order a vegetarian mustard greens quiche and a Miller High Life if that's what you're craving. In their first cookbook, Rucker and general manager/sommelier Andrew Fortgang celebrate high-low extremes in cooking, combining the wild and the refined in a unique and progressive style.

Featuring wine recommendations from sommelier Andrew Fortgang, stand-out desserts from pastry chef Lauren Fortgang, and stories about the restaurant’s raucous, seat-of-the-pants history by writer Meredith Erickson, Le Pigeon combines the wild and the refined in a unique, progressive, and delicious style.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Here’s one for the flesh lovers. The first cookbook from Rucker, a James Beard Award winner and chef at Le Pigeon and Little Bird in Portland, Ore., has a lot of meat in it. But that won’t surprise anyone acquainted with the restaurant that inspired this volume. Though it opens with a chapter entitled “Lettuce and Such,” entries in this section include dirty potato salad (made with chicken livers), and mortadella, mustard greens, Swiss. Then there’s an entire chapter dedicated to tongue, another to foie gras, another to “Horns and Antlers”, and so on. And there are, of course, several recipes for the titular pigeon, including a simple roasted pigeon, accompanied by a cartoonish diagram of how to truss a pigeon. But while there are definitely recipes that skew decadent (such as chicken-fried quail, eggos, foie gras maple syrup, and toasted foie gras and jelly), even some of the meatiest have balance: Pig’s Foot, Watermelon, Fet, for example, and Pheasant, Shiitake, Umami, Mizuna. Irreverent prose also helps to keep things light. The dessert chapter (Choco, Tart, Profit) provides the perfect playful ending—and yes, it features meat, too, in the form of honey bacon apricot cornbread, maple ice cream and foie gras profiteroles. Agent: Kim Witherspoon, Inkwell Management. (Sept.)
From the Publisher
“Not many books have gotten my juices going as much as Le Pigeon; it’s a proper joy.”
—Fergus Henderson, founder of St. John restaurant and author of Nose to Tail Eating

"I’d heard nothing about this Portland, Oregon institution until the book landed on my desk and utterly awed me. The young chefs draw influence from the Fergus Henderson nose-to-tail school but introduce a whole layer of iconoclastic hipster inspiration. When reading the contents makes you salivate, you know you have a winner."
Tim Hayward, "Best books of 2013" Financial Times

“I absolutely love this book! A behind-the-scenes look at Portland’s beloved Le Pigeon restaurant, it’s fun, quirky, and delicious. With Gabriel Rucker guiding you through these beautiful recipes, you can’t go wrong.”
—April Bloomfield, chef-owner of The Spotted Pig and author of A Girl and Her Pig
“Gabriel once said to me, ‘We’re just trying to find new ways to get people to eat lots of butter,’ revealing his irreverent and over-the-top attitude to cooking (see his recipe for Bacon Butter, page 42) and life. What arrives on the plate at Le Pigeon is incredibly well thought out, sophisticated, and delicious. This is a remarkable collection of recipes and stories from one of the most hard-working and dedicated chefs I know, and his merry band of compatriots.”
—Andy Ricker, chef-owner of Pok Pok
“Gabriel Rucker, one of the hottest of the hot rock star chefs, has the humility to pay homage to the pillars of Portland’s dining scene and the brass to ‘Le Pigeonize’ every dish he cooks with his own high-spirited sensibility. Whether he’s dolloping oyster mayo on a hanger steak or turning lamb belly into a BLT, Rucker’s boisterous but disciplined cooking will both surprise you and charm the hell out of you.”
—Tom Douglas, owner of Tom Douglas Restaurants
“At Le Pigeon, Gabriel Rucker has the opportunity to cook in Oregon—a very soulful region where food and wine are in harmony with the terroir. His cuisine is all about balance, with a dash of American nostalgia. He gets it.”
—Daniel Boulud, chef-owner of Daniel

Product Details

Potter/Ten Speed/Harmony
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8.74(w) x 11.04(h) x 1.19(d)

Read an Excerpt

By Tom Colicchio
There is a moment in time in the career of a chef that is unlike any that has come before or will come again. You’re not yet known. Perhaps you’re a sous-chef, bouncing around from restaurant to restaurant. Then you take a risk and open a small kitchen and suddenly you’re cooking whatever you want, coming up with four new dishes a day inspired by anything and everything—a wild mushroom you found backpacking over the weekend, a news item about Bavaria from that morning—it’s a wildly creative time. From early morning until very, very early the next morning, you’re working . . . and you’re having the time of your life. It’s a small window of time during which this all happens, after you plunk down the rent on your little space and before Food & Wine magazine discovers you and everything changes.
Soon there will be more expectations from the press and from the food industry. You suddenly realize that you’re now responsible for the livelihoods of a lot of people who are counting on you to keep this thing going. And all these considerations begin to encroach on your ability to create, to make decisions based solely on what you want to do with food. You must begin to not only allow these decisions to influence the food you make, but also to take up time that was previously devoted to creativity. Now there is a lot more to your work as a chef than simply getting into a kitchen, banging around a lot of pots and pans, and being creative. There’s no going back, and you need to find new ways forevermore to remain relevant.
I think this process happens for people in any creative field, by the way. It’s ironic that the very thing that will sustain your ability to create—a modicum of recognition—often leads to growth that then, in turn, inhibits your ability to create. Business factors aside, you start becoming self-conscious, more deliberate. It’s important to recognize this shift so you can figure out a way to preserve the playfulness and fearlessness of that time when all you had to do was bring yourself—all of yourself—into the kitchen and play.
Gabriel Rucker is living in this moment and loving it. Le Pigeon has provided a showcase for Rucker’s daily inspirations for the last five years, and through this book, we get a front-row seat to the evolution of a chef—and a restaurant—on the cusp of very big changes. The wild creativity that happens during this period in a chef’s career is often fast, furious, and unpredictable. That Gabriel has managed to put these first few years of recipes down on paper is a feat by itself and a spectacular benefit to Le Pigeon and Little Bird’s legions of loyal fans. It’s great when you can actually recognize that you’re living this moment while you’re in it. Gabriel does, and that’s what he’s celebrating in this cookbook. It’s clear that he has found a way to keep his food irreverent and fun. 
But there’s a sub-story here, too. One that starts with a scrappy fifteen-year-old who showed up in my kitchen some years ago, insisting that he wanted to work with me for the summer. He seemed bright, and so I gave Andy Fortgang a chance. He was bright. He was also hardworking, trustworthy, and not at all shy about taking initiative. Andy worked in my restaurant kitchen over summers and vacations throughout high school and post college, after he realized that he’d found his calling in the front of the house. When Andy told me that he had an opportunity to be part of something new in Portland, I was sad for me and excited for him.
I wasn’t surprised to learn that Gabriel hired Andy over the phone and put him to work at Le Pigeon the very first day they met. I suppose Andy just has that effect on chefs. And it’s to Gabriel’s credit that he recognized in Andy the other half of the equation that equals a successful restaurant (or two . . . and some day, maybe more). Andy has created the structure that allows Gabriel to focus on the food. And along with that structure, he brought along his talented wife, Lauren, who became the pastry chef at Le Pigeon and Little Bird.
Gabriel and Andy have been going through this crazy time of round-the-clock uninhibited inventiveness together: Andy is the Packard to Gabriel’s Hewlitt, the Orville to his Wilbur, the Jerry to his Ben (the Stimpy to his Ren? Fill in your own partnership—you get the point), and they’ve chosen to preserve a luscious, frenetic, passionate snapshot of it. You’re holding it in your hands.

Simple Roasted Pigeon
Gabriel likes cooking pigeons.
So much so that he tattooed pigeons on his body. So much so that he opened a restaurant called Le Pigeon. We joke that our pigeons come from under the Burnside Bridge, but we actually get them from Palmetto Farms in South Carolina via Nicky USA (www.nickyusa.com). They come to us with their heads and feet still on, with all the goodies still inside, hence our use of hearts and livers. Pigeons have just the right amount of gaminess (similar to duck, but slightly lighter), yet they still allow for over-the-top accompaniments. You can even stuff the bird with figs, spinach, or foie gras. If you have yet to try pigeon, now is your chance. Enjoy this simple dish on its own, or serve it with the bacon-roasted cipollini onions from the Sturgeon au Poivre recipe (page 169). Eats best medium rare. {Serves 4}
4 pigeons, cleaned, with or without the head and feet attached
Kosher salt
A pinch of ground cloves
A pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
4 sprigs thyme
4 cloves garlic, smashed
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1. Preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C).

2. Season the pigeons inside and out with salt. Sprinkle the skin with a touch of cloves and nutmeg. Stuff the cavity of each bird with a sprig of thyme and a clove of garlic. Truss the birds with butcher’s twine (see illustration opposite).

3. In a heavy pan over medium-high heat, melt the butter until it becomes foamy. Add the trussed birds breast side down and cook until gently browned on the bottom, about 2 minutes. Flip the birds and brown on the second side, 2 minutes more. Sit the birds in the pan breast side up and roast in the oven until they are a nice medium-rare, 8 to 10 minutes.

4. Once the birds come out of the oven, baste with the butter and juices in the pan and let rest for 4 to 5 minutes before serving.

The Pigeon Pour: If pigeon (often known as squab) were wine, it would be red Burgundy, and if Burgundy were a meat it would be pigeon. Pigeon has pronounced flavors; it’s meaty, gamy, sweet, and livery, but all in a subtle way. Red Burgundy is the same; it has fruit, earth, flowers, and mushrooms, but they’re all subtle. The direction you take piegeon in a dish will dictate the Burgundy you drink. 
With simple roasted pigeon, you can’t go wrong with a nice village-level wine. One we love is Monthelie from Domaine Roulot. For Burgundy, don’t just look for the big name appellations like Vosne-Romanée, Chambolle, or Volnay. There are also lots of little appellations to consider, such as Ladoix, Monthelie, Auxey-Duresses, Fixin, or Santenay, all of which are a great value.

Meet the Author

GABRIEL RUCKER is the chef and co-owner of Le Pigeon and Little Bird. He worked at Paley's Place and The Gotham Building Tavern before moving to Le Pigeon.

ANDREW FORTGANG is the co-owner, general manager, and sommelier of Le Pigeon and Little Bird. Born and raised in New York, he worked at Gramercy Tavern, Jean-George, Aureole, and Craft before relocating to Portland.

MEREDITH ERICKSON is co-author of The Art of Living According to Joe Beef with Fred Morin and David McMillan, writer and project manager of The Family Meal by Ferran Adria, and her work has appeared in the New York Times, the National PostElle, and the Observer's Food Monthly.

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Le Pigeon: Cooking at the Dirty Bird 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Having never visited the restaurant, I was wowed by the beauty of the book and irreverent writing style. At first I thought it was completely meat-centric, but at closer look there are plenty of veg recipes (there's a salad chapter, a veg chapter) along with 2 seafood chapters and a very lengthy dessert chapter.  Lots for everyone. I plan on using this book extensively over the holiday season, starting with the "duck, duck, pigeon" recipe for thanksgiving.  A great book for the cookbook collector and/or home cook!