Christmas Grouse with Berry Sauce (Jólarjúpa með Berjasósu)

Icelandic home cook Þorgerður Gunnarsdóttir serves ptarmigan, or wild grouse, with a sweet-tart sauce made with thyme and bilberries. Here, we substitute blueberries, a slightly sweeter cousin of bilberries. This recipe first appeared in our December 2014 issue with the story Northern Lights.

Christmas Grouse with Berry Sauce (Jólarjúpa með Berjasósu) Christmas Grouse with Berry Sauce (Jólarjúpa með Berjasósu)
Ptarmigan, wild grouse, is lavished with a sauce of thyme and bilberries, an Icelandic cousin of blueberries, which make a good substitute.
Yield: serves 4


  • 4 (8-oz.) grouse or partridge
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 carrot, roughly chopped
  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • 1 12 cups dried blueberries
  • 1 12 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1 14 tsp. dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 14 cups heavy cream
  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


  1. Remove breasts from partridges, leaving bones attached to carcasses. Discard skin; chill breasts. Chop carcasses. Heat oil in an 8-qt. saucepan over medium-high. Cook carcasses until browned, 6–8 minutes. Add carrot; cook until soft, 5–7 minutes. Add stock, dried and fresh blueberries, thyme, and bay leaves; boil. Reduce heat to medium-high; cook, skimming fat as needed, until reduced by half, about 1 hour. Strain stock and return to pan; simmer until reduced to 1 cup, 20–22 minutes. Simmer cream in a 1-qt. saucepan until reduced by half, 8–10 minutes; whisk into stock. Remove from heat; whisk in 2 tbsp. butter, salt, and pepper. Keep sauce warm.
  2. Melt remaining butter in a 12″ skillet over medium-high. Season reserved breasts with salt and pepper. Cook, flipping once, until browned and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast reads 130°, 3–4 minutes. Slice breasts; spoon sauce over the top.