I’ve seen a lot of stuff percolating on the web recently about the “amazing” Victoria Crowned Pigeon. Well, I’m here to tell you today, friends and neighbors, that that are absolutely delicious. However, before we get into recipes, let’s have a look at this morning’s rapturous sunrise:No, I wasn’t “taken up” or anything like that, but I do think the sky may have rolled back a little at the corners. Better be safe than sorry.
So, setting off to fulfil a promise to some Facebook friends to unveil the secrets of the aforementioned pigeon, which, by the way is the largest pigeon on this planet (frankly, I’ve seen larger on other planets – I’m only visiting here, you see), I walked over to a rather large and pretentious hotel where an impressive flock of our huge, magnificent flying rats abide. As luck would have it, some enormously fat dignitaries were arriving for some sort of mighty pow-wow and a small, timid group of local Sing Sing performers had gathered to present their modest contribution to the pompous festivities:One of them was about to offer me a pillowcase full of Mary Jane for K20 when I reckoned that I’d had enough of the war paint and decided to begin my stalk for the rare Goura victoria.
I didn’t have to stalk far. They are, after all, merely chicken-sized pigeons. Yeah, they’re pretty, but they’re still just pigeons. If you get enough of them together in one place and don’t overly molest them, they’ll multiply until you can’t swing a dead cat without knocking the top-knot off of one of these haughty buzzards:The Tok Pisin name for these fat show-offs is guria, which, oddly enough, is the same word for earthquake. For a long time I thought that the coincidental monikers was because of the deep booming noise that the males make when giving the come-on to their lady friends. As it turns out, when I looked up the taxonomic name, the genus is, of course, Goura, which explains the sameness of the words. Or does it? I asked three local people today why they call the pigeon the same thing that they call the earthquake. The all looked at me as if I were stupid, something that you get used to very quickly here. “Because they make that earthquake sound when they are . . . you know . . . laikim meri.” (That’s a polite way of saying, well . . . you know.) So, the mystery remains. [See UPDATE at the bottom of the post.]
Anyway, my first contact with a G. victoria was at the National Zoo in Washington DC. Our son, Hans, of tender years, proclaimed it the most magnificent of God’s critters. We were inclined to agree. The next time that we came in contact with G. Victoria was in a dugout canoe motoring up the Clay River in the Sepik area. On that occasion, we stopped briefly at the river side where the canoe driver’s wife, with little ceremony, wrung the neck of a G. victoria which she had caught in a snare. Hans was stricken. We had to remind him that to our guests, the wondefulest pigeon is just a hunk of meat.
In case you think we’re running short of Victoria Crowned Pigeons, I snapped this shot to show you a small platoon of them out foraging for the local farmers’ crops:Their apetites are voracious. They’ll eat fruit, berries, nuts, flying fox feces (a bit like jam, actually), small dogs and pretty much anything including rocks.
Oh, I nearly forgot the recipe. Here’s my favourite: (Sorry about the non-metric measurements. I was educated, if that’s what you could call it, where “The Metric System” is considered a despised foreign influence.)
The beauty of Goura victoria is that it cooks so quickly. The meat, richly flavored and all dark, is at its succulent best when rare. To get good browning, this means the birds have to cook at high heat – which introduces a problem. The fatty layer under the skin drips and smokes in the oven or catches fire on the barbecue. The solution: grill over indirect heat. If parts of the Goura victoria get quite dark before birds are done, drape affected areas with foil.
MadDog’s Honey-Thyme Goura victoria
Yield: Makes 12 servings
- 4 medium Goura victoria (5 lb. each)
- 24 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 12 tablespoons honey
- 8 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves or dried thyme
1. With poultry shears or kitchen scissors, cut each Goura victoria in half through center of breast and back. Pull off and discard fat lumps. Cut off necks and reserve with giblets for other uses. Rinse birds and pat dry. I recommend that you remove the feathers before starting all this. I guess I should have mentioned that earlier.
2. In a bowl, mix vinegar, honey, and thyme. Add Goura victoria and mix to coat with seasonings. Let stand at least 20 minutes or chill, covered, up to 1 day, turning pieces over several times.
3. Prepare barbecue for indirect heat.
If using charcoal, mound and ignite 60 briquets on the firegrate of a barbecue with a lid (20 to 22 in. wide). When briquets are dotted with gray ash, in about 15 minutes, push equal portions to opposite sides of the firegrate. Place a drip pan between coals. Set the grill in place.
If using a gas barbecue, cover and turn heat to high for about 10 minutes. Adjust burners for indirect cooking (no heat down center) and keep on high. Set a drip pan beneath grill between ignited burners. Set grill in place.
4. Lift Goura victoria from marinade and lay, bones down, in center of grill, not directly over the heat. Cover barbecue and open the vents.
5. Cook until birds are richly browned, basting Goura victoria frequently with marinade, using it all. For rare, breasts are moist and red in center (cut to test); allow about 25 minutes. For medium, cook 6 to 10 minutes longer. Season to taste with salt.
Oh yes, I nearly forgot. Save the top-knots for table decorations. If you have enough, guests can stick them in their hair and pretend to be pigeons.
Em Tasol! (That’s all!)
UPDATE: Facebook friend Justin Friend (funny coincidence, that) just left me a message saying:
My understanding of the name Guria pigeon, is based on the way they almost shiver and all their feathers shake and vibrate as they do it, and that the Genus name was actually a direct link to the name “Guria” when they were first described in New Guinea, having heard the birds described as “Guria” when they do that shiver-shake thing…..but I could be wrong….but thats my understanding…. and give me a good ‘ol BBQ Tree Kangaroo over a BBQ Pigeon any day!
Thanks for that very nice clarification, Justin.Tags: goura victoria, recipe, victoria crowned pigeon