Partridges live in groups called "coveys", feeding on grains, grasses, insects, and earthworms. They live mainly on the ground, walking around a lot. When in danger, the entire covey flies away en masse, which is why they are difficult to hunt.
Couples of partridges form in February, engaging in a loud and aggressive courtship before mating.
The female partridge lays several eggs in the spring, in a nest on the ground, which she incubates alone for 21–26 days. The father, meanwhile, ensures the safety of the nest, but also helps to rear the chicks, which takes about 3 weeks. After this short period, the chicks take off and become adults about 2 months later.
Partridges were already hunted in ancient times; the scientific name (and French name, perdrix) comes from an ancient Greek term perdix.
In France, in the Middle Ages, they were mainly eaten by peasants, as nobles preferred to hunt with hounds. However, at this time, the partridge was also a symbol of luxury and debauchery, as the naturalists of the time thought it was the female partridge that chose the male.
Nevertheless, there are several partridge recipes in the Viandier de Taillevent, as pâté and also in trimollette, a stew of roast partridge with bacon, broth, and onions. Carême later left behind a few recipes for this bird, including Partridge with Perigueux Sauce, Partridge Fillets à la Financière, Partridge with Cabbage and Roots, and Salmis (stew), etc.
As for Escoffier, he preferred gray partridge poult to the red-legged variety and used adult partridges to make stuffing and fumet. He did, however, include a recipe for Partridge with Cabbage in his Guide Culinaire but recommends using an adult bird for the cooking and then serving a roast or pan-fried partridge poult with the cabbage.
The beak of a partridge poult (a partridge less than 8 months old) should be flexible, and the first feather of the wing should have a white dot.
The meat of a farmed partridge poult is dark, while that of a wild partridge is white, and you should be able to feel the fat under the skin.
The skin of a frozen partridge should be moist under the plumage.
The packaging must contain a health label affixed by the veterinary department, which will indicate the origin of the partridge.
Partridges and partridge poults are available unplucked and not gutted, plucked and gutted, and frozen.
Like for all game, European legislation is very strict concerning these birds.
A partridge poult can be roasted, pan-fried, and cooked in a casserole, or made into spatchcock or stuffed.
It should only be cooked for a short amount of time. It can be served with seasonal vegetables, grapes, truffles, white mushrooms, porcini or chanterelle mushrooms, chestnuts, or dried fruit.
Partridge requires longer cooking. It can be braised and goes well in a stew with lentils. The cabbage dish is obviously still a classic.
Both can be used to make terrine.
Partridge soup is a traditional dish in North America.
A partridge poult must be cooked as soon as possible. It will keep in the refrigerator or cold room at 4°C for up to 48 hours. Farmed birds keep the best.
A partridge can be stored a little longer, 3–4 days.
Partridge and partridge poult are rich in protein. Wild partridge is a bit fattier than partridge poult, but it is still a lean meat.
They both contain minerals and B vitamins.