For the hunters whose hard-won game often turns to ashes in his mouth at the dinner table there is a succulent solution.
"You bring the fresh game, we cook, there is no charge," said Camille Richaudeau, ower of Anjou Chez Camile at 1737 DeSales St. NW. "The duck, the goose, the boar, the bear, the venison, ooh la la!" He rolled his eyes and rubbed his hands. "We serve it sooo beautiful."
Richaudeau, who really talks like that, hasten to add that for the cocktail, the pate, the wine, the salad, the vegetables, the cheese, the desert, the coffee, the postprandial Calvados, there is the regular charge, which can be counted to be substantial.
Chef Roland Bouyat's for masterful preparation of game is widespread, but he must depend upon gifts from customers and friends because the sale of wind game killed in this country is illegal. Imported vension and boar are occasionaly available (frozen), but Richaudeau can seldom to justify putting it on the menu: the few available portions are usually whispered out to regular customers.
It is expected that one will bring in more game than one's guest can eat and not ask for a doggy bag, so that Richaudeau, Bouyat and the rest of the staff may share.
"Many hunter, they live in the city, they hunt once or twice a year, they do not understand the wild animal," Richaudeau said. "Each one is different, it must be cooked especial." The free-preparation offer apparently embraces just about everything that creeps crawls, gallops or flies: a chef whose people have made a delicacy of the snail is not likely to quail before a starling or an opposum.
Chef Bouyant's approach to cooking an animal new to him partly the intuition of experience and part Gallic ratiocination. Presented last week with six wood ducks, he turned in his hands, sniffed, pinched prodded. He was told that others from the same flock had been a severe disappointed when basted with butter and roasted in a covered pan.
"Tough?" he asked. "Too much the wild taste?"
"Yes. And somewhat mealy."
"This duck, where does it live? What does it eat?"
"Along rivers, freshwater ponds, in the woods. It eats acorns, grain, grass, some insects, no fish."
"Ah! La sarcelle . We have him in France. He is very pretty, very colourful, no?"
He leafed through La Gastronomie Francaise by Henri Mercier, which assured him that wood ducks have un gout de sauvagine beaucoup prononce que le canard , and proceeded with confidence.
To deal with a strong wild taste he would perhaps have stuffed them with onions and/or oranges to draw it out. Instead he chose canard au poivre , pepper duck. He salted and peppered the whole carcasses vigorously, seared them in hot butter and oil and them flamed with brady. "You must discard the searing oil," Bouyat said. "It has a fishy flavor, and becomes rancid." He put them in a 500-degree oven for 15 minutes (Not longer, you must cook them a little rare or roast them very long)".
The birds were disjoined and anointed with sauce ou poivre (essentially a heavily peppered brown stock sauce with shallots).
The vegetable was salsify (oyster plant), boiled until soft and then dipped in a thick batter of flour, eggs and beer and deep-fired until just brown.
The ducks got reviews from the hunters who had shot them, one of whom was presented from kissing Bouyant only by his bristling had preserved their unique taste and made the flavor and texture superb.
The acid test was the reaction of three others at the table, who had never eaten wild duck and were more than a little hesitant. They stuffed themselves happily, and glared at the hunter who asked for a doggy bag.