Woodcocks are wading birds with short legs, a very long straight tapering bill and are largely nocturnal, spending most of the day in dense cover. Most of the birds in the UK are residents; in the autumn birds move to the UK from Finland and Russia to winter here. They are woodland birds and like dry, deciduous woodland that is in close proximity to damp ground where they can feed on earthworms and surface insects.
The tiny feathers that are located at the tip of the woodcock's wings are referrer to as "pin feathers" and these are much sought after by artists for fine painting work. Coincidentally, they are also sought by game shooters who will place them in the band of their hat to show friends that they have shot woodcock. It is thought that the phrase "a feather in his cap" is derived from this practice.
I have found a great recipe for Woodcock using Pimento peppers. The pimento or cherry pepper is a variety of large, red, heart shaped chilli pepper (Capsicum annuum) which is sweet, succulent and more aromatic than that of the red bell pepper. Pimentos are grown commercially in Spain, Hungary, Morocco and the Middle East, and is native to South America. Pimiento dried and ground fine becomes the spice paprika, which is widely used in Hungarian and other cuisines and pimentos are also the familiar red stuffing found in prepared Spanish green olives. If you can't find any fresh ones you can buy them tinned. Woodcock, by the way, is best cooked with its entrails left in!
Woodcock and Pimento
6 woodcock; quartered
¼ cup flour; seasoned
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp freshly-ground black pepper
½ cup olive oil
6 small onions/shallots; peeled, whole
2 garlic cloves; crushed
3 medium green peppers; seeded, and cut into strips
½ cup sherry
3 pimientos; finely chopped
2 cups chicken stock
Dredge birds with seasoned flour. Heat oil, add onions, garlic, and birds, and cook, turning often, to brown evenly. Put in a deep casserole, and add green peppers, sherry, pimientos, and stock. Cover and bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes.
As for wines that would pair well with your Woodcock recipe I'd recommend Chateau Mouton Rothschild. The chateau was once owned by the Duke of Gloucester, the younger brother of Henry V in the 15th century and has long been enjoyed as a top class claret by the English. Mouton's wines are concentrated and intense, with notes of dried black and red fruits, spice, black currants, raspberries, caramel, minerals and oak. The wines are creamy with good depth and complexity. They are polished, firm and weighty wines but are well balanced.
Chateau Palmer is another superb choice and takes its name from General Charles Palmer, who had served under Wellington in the English army, who purchased the Château in 1814. Palmer expanded the vineyards and thanks to his influential relations "Palmer's Claret” was much sought after by London clubs, and was particularly appreciated by the future King George IV. The chateau's wines are famous for their finesse and elegance. The subtle balance between powerful, but understated tannins and aromatic richness makes Palmer an incomparably charming wine, even when very young. The dark inky red wines yield aromas of black currant, coffee and spices.
If you are looking for a claret that has bags of style but a lesser price tag then why not try Mathilde, (£17.12), the second wine of Chateau La Fleur Morange? Mathilde is produced from the same 100 year old vines and terroir as the Grand Vin and Château La Fleur Morange is receiving high acclaim from wine critics across the globe. Mathilde is made from 100% Merlot and is opulent, well structured and rich. The wine has notes of cherries, blueberries, chocolate, plum and earth.