Pheasant Carbonara: Creamy, Hearty, and Delicious!

Pheasant Carbonara Final Dish
“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.” ~ Steve Jobs

You know how little kids won’t try new foods because they don’t like ones with funny names, like pheasant carbonara, or they despise one of the ingredients in it.  My niece refuses to try fried rice because it has “scrambled eggs” in it.  I try to coax her into giving it a taste by promising you can’t even taste the eggs, or they don’t even resemble scrambled eggs, or you can eat around the eggs.  She always looks me directly in the eye and with a defiant and firm “no” explains how she will not be eating rice with scrambled eggs in it.  I roll my eyes each time and reiterate my belief that she is missing out.

I think she is a fool and can’t believe she doesn’t like fried rice; however, I myself can be that same fool.  After this past pheasant season, the family requested a new twist on pheasant breasts. I am starting to become notorious for taking the breast and creating a modification on meatballs.  I think they were getting tired of my eyes lighting up as I explained how I had thought up yet another meatball we could try. 

We all tossed around a few ideas and somehow the idea of pheasant carbonara kept coming up.  Carbonara is an Italian pasta dish thought to originate in Rome.  While the details are open to interpretation, the basic ingredients are eggs, a hard cheese, some type of bacon, and noodles. 

I will admit, I was not 100% sure what pheasant carbonara was when the suggestion was made, so I had to look it up.  The second I saw that eggs were in the dish, I reverted to childhood mode.  I was not eating noodles with scrambled eggs in it!

While I thought the idea sounded revolting, everyone else was on board. So, I set out to concoct a pheasant carbonara.  When researching carbonara, I quickly became a much bigger fan of the idea when I saw how the ingredients could be manipulated to suite personal tastes.  I always enjoy wild game recipes that allow the freedom to pair the meat with herbs or flavors that compliment it. 

Pheasant is a very mild tasting meat, especially the breasts.  It is comparable to chicken in texture and flavor, but still has a uniqueness to it.  Since it is a mild meat, pheasant pairs well with stronger flavors, so the salty bacon style pork in a carbonara pairs really well with pheasant.  I decided to use a prosciutto, which is an Italian style bacon, in my dish, but you could use any traditional style of bacon, turkey bacon, pancetta, or capicola. 

Prosciutto for Pheasant CarbonaraThe first step in pheasant carbonara is to prepare the breasts for cooking.  Cut the breasts into thin strips, no more than an inch or so thick.  Sometimes it helps to lightly freeze the meat before you cut it up.  Next, you want to boil the noodles.  You want the noodles to be al dente, which takes between nine to twelve minutes, depending on the type of noodle you use.  You also want to time the dish so the noodles are just finishing up cooking when you add them to the sauce, since the heat of the noodles are used to help cook the eggs.  For my carbonara, I used a linguini noodle.  I like the linguini because it is a little thicker and heartier than a spaghetti noodle.  Other good noodles for this dish would be spaghetti or even fettuccine.

Mixing up the pheasant carbonaraWhile the noodles are boiling, start on the sauce.  In a large skillet, melt the butter and add the minced garlic, chopped prosciutto, and pheasant pieces.  Allow them to cook for about five minutes.  With the pan still hot, pour in a half cup of dry white wine.  Allow the wine to simmer and some of the alcohol to boil off, about three minutes.

Adding wine to pheasant carbonaraTo the simmering wine, add a half cup of heavy cream and bring to a very gentle boil.  Let the sauce reduce by half, which takes about five minutes.  Once the sauce has reduced, turn off the heat from the pan. 

Cream sauce for pheasant carbonaraUsing a pair of tongs, add the hot pasta to the pheasant and cream sauce.  Stir everything and coat the noodles.  Pour in the cup of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and the two egg yolks.  For the cheese, you can use any type of hard cheese, which usually consist of members of the parmesan cheese family.  I like asiago as well sometimes.  Stir everything until a creamy, cheesy sauce has formed and coats the noodles entirely.  Season with salt and pepper and freshly chopped parsley.

Stirring up pheasant carbonaraI was hesitant with this dish all the way through until I actually put a bite in my mouth.  I was weirded out by the eggs, and felt it would have an egg flavor, but it is amazing! The eggs make the cheese sauce extremely creamy and rich. 

This is a perfect meal for using up those pheasant breasts. It would also work good with turkey, grouse, or chukars.  The meal is quick and easy to throw together, doesn’t require many ingredients, and is a very hearty and decadent tasting dish.  Enjoy your bowl of pheasant carbonara!

Happy Hunting!     

Final Plate of Pheasant Carbonara

Pheasant Carbonara: Creamy, Hearty, and Delicious!

4

Pheasant Carbonara: Creamy, Hearty, and Delicious!

Ingredients

  • 1 pound dry linguini
  • 4 ounces thick cut prosciutto
  • 4 pheasant breasts, cleaned and cut into bite size chunks
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 cup fresh grated parmigiana reggiano or parmesan cheese
  • 1 handful fresh chopped parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. In a large pot, boil linguini noodles until al dente, about nine to ten minutes. You want to have the noodles finish cooking around the same time the sauce is finished for tossing. The heat of the noodles are important for cooking the raw eggs.
  2. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add two tablespoons olive oil and the minced garlic. Cook for two minutes, being careful not to brown the garlic.
  3. Add the pheasant chunks and cook for four to five minutes.
  4. Add the prosciutto and cook an additional two to three minutes.
  5. Poor the wine directly in the pan, and allow to simmer for three minutes.
  6. In a large bowl, scramble the egg yolks with the cup of grated cheese.
  7. Strain the noodles and place in a large mixing bowl. Reserve a cup of the pasta liquid in case needed for thinning the sauce.
  8. Add the pheasant and prosciutto to the pasta, and mix.
  9. Pour the egg and cheese mixture over the hot noodles and toss until the noodles are evenly coated, creating a creamy, cheesy sauce for the pasta.
  10. Garnish with the parsley and dig in!!!!
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Wild Duck Jalapeno Popper Quesadillas

A good spicy challenge strikes a balance between flavour and fear.” ~ Adam Richman

I love a good jalapeno popper.  I love the rich cream cheese paired with buttery sharp cheddar.  I love the, sometimes overwhelming, heat of the jalapeno.  And I love the salty bite of bacon.  It is easily my favorite grilled food.

I am such a fan of the grilled jalapeno popper that I tend to take other popular grilling items and transform them into jalapeno popper versions.  For example, I never turn down a dove jalapeno popper.  I also have been known to create a grilled shrimp jalapeno popper.  None of these are novel ideas, but they are recipes that never disappoint.

This summer, I opened the freezer and noticed a few forgotten mallard breasts.  I had just seen a recipe for duck jalapeno poppers while visiting some popular grilling websites I frequent, and of course I mentally fired up the charcoal and started cleaning jalapenos for duck poppers.  Upon wandering outside to actually start the grill, I realized it was well over 100 degrees outside, and nothing sounded worse than standing in front of a sweltering grill slowly turning poppers.  I retreated back to the air conditioning and started to reformulate my plan.

A little contemplation lead to the duck jalapeno popper quesadilla.  All the beautiful grilled flavors of the popper, including the jalapeno, onions, cream and cheddar cheeses, and bacon but prepared in a crispy tortilla shell quesadilla style.

Instead of leaving the duck whole and wrapping it in bacon, I slow cooked it for a few hours, with bacon to add a little fat, and then shredded the meat.  Add to the shredded duck all the popper fixing, grill it on the griddle or in the oven, and you have a fast, easy alternative to the popper!  And you don’t even have to break a sweat doing it.

The full recipe is featured on huntinglife.com, which I am very excited to be able to be a part of.  Check out the entire recipe here: Duck Jalapeno Popper Quesadilla!

Happy Hunting!

Wild Duck Jalapeno Popper Quesadillas

6-8 quesdillas depending on size of tortilla

Wild Duck Jalapeno Popper Quesadillas

Ingredients

  • Flour or corn tortillas
  • 3 wild duck breasts, cleaned and skinless
  • 6-7 slices bacon
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2-3 jalapenos, finely diced
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 3 cups cheddar cheese
  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil or butter

Instructions

  1. In a crockpot, place the cleaned, skinless duck breasts. Cover with the half cup of water and place two slices of bacon over the top.
  2. Cook the breasts on low for 3-4 four hours, until the duck because tender and starts to fall apart.
  3. Using two forks, shred the duck breasts. Discard the bacon.
  4. In a medium bowl, cream together the block of cream cheese and two cups of the cheddar cheese.
  5. Prepare bacon by placing on a large baking sheet covered in aluminum foil and cooking in a preheated 400 degree oven for 12 minutes. Let bacon cool slightly and dice into small pieces.
  6. Finely dice onions and jalapenos.
  7. To construct quesadilla, take one tortilla and place about a tablespoon of the cream cheese mixture on top. Spread it evenly over tortilla. Add a spoonful of shredded duck, diced jalapeno and onions, and bacon crumbles. Top with more cheddar cheese and cover with second tortilla.
  8. Preheat a grilled to medium heat. Melt about a teaspoon of butter or cooking oil. Once oil is hot, place quesadilla on hot griddle and cook for two to three minutes, until the cheese has started to melt and tortilla is slight browned. Flip quesadilla and cook additional two to three minutes on second side.
  9. Repeat with remaining quesadillas. Serve with chipotle sour cream and salsa.
  10. Enjoy!
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Wild Turkey Tagliatelle

“The turkey’s eyes are such that he can see a bumblebee turn a somersault on the verge of the horizon.” ~Archibald Rutledge

Every time I cook with wild turkey, four things run through my mind: it will be gamey, it will be tough, it will be chewy, it will be dry.  Those four fears not only run through my mind, but they try to dictate how I will prepare my wild turkey.  I take those four things and try to construct a plan for the handling, preparation, and cooking of my turkey that avoids those four possibilities.  Those four fears also lead to me half jokingly say before I set a plate down in front of an eater, “If it tastes bad, we are ordering pizza.”  And every time I make something with wild turkey, the first bite shoves those four fears out of my mind and instead all I can say is “Oh man!”

While making this latest wild turkey meal, I tried to start with the idea that it was going to work.  I tried to think about how I wanted to meal to taste at the end and not how I was going to try and manipulate the meal around the fact that the protein in it was wild turkey.  This got me thinking about my four fears and why they were so ingrained in my head.  I guess it is because they fit the myths formed when trying something new.  These myths can really be used to describe any new food experience: it will taste different and the texture will be weird.  So, I decided to give these four wild turkey myths a little debunking.

My Wild Turkey will be Gamey

I cannot 100% define what meat being “gamey” actually means.  All I can determine is when people say something is gamey they mean “I don’t like it.”  A few things I think people mean when they say something is gamey is it tastes strong, perhaps a little overwhelming to the taste buds, possibly an earthy flavor.  I think people also are referring that the animal tastes like what it has been eating.  For example, I have heard people say mule deer tastes like sage brush, or that wild turkey tastes like garlic.

I can’t change someone’s mind about if something taste gamey.  All I can say is that all meat tastes a little different.  And I think you can develop a liking of the way a meat tastes by trying it a couple of times, maybe prepared a couple of different ways.  I was not a huge elk fan growing up.  I didn’t mind deer, but elk was a little harder for me to try.  The same goes for duck.  And I am still working on developing my taste for goose, which has so far been unsuccessful.  But I am working on it.  With all that being said, I actually do not care for beef as much now that I do not eat it as often.  Whenever I go out now and order a steak, it just tastes a little “off” to me.

I also think that the “gamey” taste many people describe comes from how people care for their harvest afterwards.  There are a variety of techniques and tricks people have for cleaning and processing an animal, many of which I am still learning, and they can really help enhance the wild game dining experience.  A few quick tips I have for cleaning wild turkey is to take time to carefully remove all the fascia from the meat.  Remove as much as the fat as possible as well.  Go over the meat rigidly a few times and inspect for bb’s (While they don’t taste gamey, nothing ruins a meal faster than biting into a bb!).  Also, learn to properly clean a turkey so you don’t hit the croup or intestines (they can really makes things not smell so wonderful when pierced). Finally, if it is hot out when you shoot your tom, field dress the animal and put it on ice quickly in order to keep the meat cool.

My Wild Turkey will be Tough, Chewy, and Dry

While turkeys are tough birds (just ask my father-in-law, he has a few stories about some vicious run-ins with America’s favorite bird!), their meat doesn’t have to be!  Any piece of meat can be tough, chewy, and dried out if not prepared properly, and no two meats are prepared the same.  Even on a wild turkey, I prepare leg meat very differently from how I prepare breast meat.

For this recipe, I wanted to use the breast meat and keep it in larger-sized chunks.  In order to keep the breasts from becoming tough, chewy, or dry, I decided to roast them first.  In the past, I have also created some fantastic twists on turkey breasts that weren’t tough or dry using a variety of techniques, such as slow cooking and shredding the breasts, or grinding the meat with a little fat and forming meatballs or burger patties.  There are lots of options out there, it is just a matter of handling the meat correctly in order to avoid having a tough, chewy, dry slab of meat laying in front of you.

So, with all that said and done, let’s get to the recipe!

Wild Turkey Tagliatelle!!!

For this recipe, I like to roast the turkey breast because I am going to be keeping it in large chunks for the dish.  Roasting releases the natural juices of the meat, which helps flavor the turkey breast and keeps it from drying out.  Roasting the wild turkey breast also kept the meat tender.  I think if I had just cooked it on the stovetop in a pan, it would have resulted in a much tougher and chewier texture.

Season the breast liberally with salt and pepper, then place on a baking sheet. I like to line my baking sheet with a little aluminum foil to help clean-up go faster.  You can skip this step if you want.  I just thought I would mention it as a little tip to help with dishes.

Place the breast in the oven and let it roast for twenty five minutes, flipping once during the process.  Once the meat is done cooking, set it aside and let it rest for a few minutes before slicing it into large, but still bite-sized, chunks.

While the turkey is roasting, heat a large pan over medium-high heat with four tablespoons of butter and one tablespoon of olive oil.  Once the butter has melted, add the small diced onion and cook for about five minutes, until the onion is soft and starting to turn translucent.  I just have to add right here, that I love the smell of onion cooking in butter.

Once the onions are soft, add the two crushed garlic cloves.  If you don’t crush garlic cloves often, which I can’t actually say that I do, there is a quick little trick for it.  There is no need to peel the clove.  Instead, take your knife and place the side of the blade against the clove on a hard surface, like the cutting board.  With one hand firmly pressed the knife against the garlic, use the heel of your other hand and gently give the knife blade a whack.  The garlic should crush under the blade and then the skin of the clove easily falls off.  Drop the crushed clove into the oil and you’re done!

Next, it is time to add the zucchini.  You can slice the zucchini into thin, julienne-style strips, but I bought a new kitchen gadget that creates spiral cut noodles and I thought I would use it for this dish.  These spiral cutters are really cheap, you can pick one up for about $10, and they work really well.  You just insert the vegetable of your choice and twist.  Easy!  Here is a link for an example of a spiral cutter: Spiral Vegetable Cutter.

Add the zucchini to the dish, top with a little salt and pepper, and the minced fresh marjoram.  Cook for two or three minutes and then add in the chunks of wild turkey.

Cook the turkey and zucchini mixture for eight to ten minutes.

While the turkey is cooking, bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and season with a pinch of salt.  Add the tagliatelle noodles and cook to al dente, according to the instructions on the box.  If you are like me, you might not really know what tagliatelle noodles are.  I did a little research before I used them, just to see what I was getting myself into.  Basically, tagliatelle noodles are an egg based pasta similar to fettucinne.  They are long, thin ribbons that pair great with meat sauces.  Once I read they were similar to fettucinne, my fears of the pasta unknown were pretty much gone.

Anyway, add the cooked noodles to the turkey mixture, drizzle on the second tablespoon of olive oil, and give everything a good stir to make sure everyone has a little of the butter sauce on it.

To serve this wild turkey dish up, place a heap of the turkey, zucchini, and noodles on a plate.  Sprinkle on some fresh shaved parmesan cheese, and then garnish with a pretty zucchini flower straight from the bush (if you have a zucchini bush it is a fun little touch to add to the dish, if not you don’t have to worry about finding a flower, the dish is designed to be amazing without it).  The flower is also edible!

Before I sign off, I have to say that this dish was definitely better than ordering pizza.  My fears of it being gamey, tough, chewy, and dry were quickly replaced with “Oh man!” at the first bite.  The turkey was juicy and tender, not tough or chewy at all, and it paired really well with the zucchini.  The very simple butter and olive oil sauce was delicious and delicate while the marjoram added a beautiful aroma to the dish.  Enjoy!

Happy Hunting!

 

Wild Turkey Tagliatelle

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

4-6

Wild Turkey Tagliatelle

Ingredients

  • 1 fully-cleaned, skin-off wild turkey breast
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 small zucchini, cut julienne-style
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 sprigs fresh marjoram, minced
  • 1lb tagliatelle noodles
  • Shaved parmesan cheese
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste

Instructions

    For the turkey breast
  1. Preheat the broiler on the oven to high.
  2. On a large baking sheet, lined with foil for easy clean-up, place the turkey breast. Season liberally with salt and pepper.
  3. Broil the turkey breast for 25 minutes.
  4. Set aside to cool briefly.
    For the Turkey Tagliatelle
  1. In a large pan over medium high heat, melt the butter with a tablespoon of the olive oil.
  2. Once the butter is melted, add the diced onions and cook until they are soft and slightly translucent, about five minutes.
  3. Add two crushed garlic cloves.
  4. For the zucchini, cut into julienne strips or use a spiral noodle cutter. Place the prepared zucchini into the butter and onions. Coat with the butter mixture.
  5. Add the marjoram and season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  6. Cool for two to three minutes.
  7. While the zucchini are cooking, dice the roasted turkey breast into large, bite-size pieces.
  8. Add turkey to zucchini and cook for eight to ten minutes.
  9. While turkey is cooking, bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Season with a pinch of salt.
  10. Cook tagliatelle noodles according to instructions on the box.
  11. Add cooked noodles to turkey and zucchini.
  12. Serve the turkey tagliatelle with shaved parmesan cheese and garnish with a flower from the zucchini bush (which is edible!!!).
  13. Enoy!!!
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Dove Poppers!

“If the hunter comes back with mushrooms, don’t ask him how his hunt was.” ~ Ghanaian Proverb

Sometimes you just have to go with what you know.  Don’t get me wrong, I take delight in putting a twist on an familiar recipe or coming up with something completely new.  But sometimes there is just as much joy in reaching for something you already know and love.  Dove poppers are that for me.  Every time I make them, I am impressed with their simplicity and yet how down-right amazing they taste.

I have never really experimented much with dove meat.  I think I haven’t because every time I finish up a dove hunt, the only thing on my mind is a barbeque grill, jalapenos, and bacon.  I supposed I should try something new, “live a little” as they say, and create a dove meal that isn’t a popper.  I say that now, but I am certain that come this September, I will make nothing but dove poppers with my harvest.

The big game draw results were published this week, and my family has a lot of tags.  I realized that I needed to start making a little room in the freezer for what will hopefully be successful hunts this fall.  While digging around, making notes on what needed to be used first, I found a bag of dove breasts.  Somehow they had been missed.  That is quite a rare occurrence in this household.  And of course, all I could think of was how I needed to get the grill started so I could eat dove poppers for dinner.

So, even though I know there are lots of dove popper recipes out there, and that this isn’t exactly a new twist or even a creative use for dove breasts, I am going to share my favorite way of preparing dove poppers.  Enjoy!

Start with preheating the outdoor grill.  I create two sections on my grill when preparing poppers: a high heat or “hot” side, and then a medium heat area.  I start all the coals in a central pile on the grill, and then once they are grey and ashed over, I move the majority of my pile, about 2/3, to one side of the grill and place the remaining 1/3 on the opposite side.  This is a good technique when cooking any type of meat, such as steaks or burgers, on the grill.

Popper ingredients are pretty simple and inexpensive.  Each popper needs one slice of bacon, a thin slice of jalapeno, and a thin slice of onion.  For a typical group gathering, I make two poppers per person.

 

The most difficult part, if you can even call it that, for making a great dove popper is cleaning the breast from the bird.  The easiest way is to remove the meat from the breast bone in one solid piece, so that it looks like a butterfly when opened up.  This allows you to wrap the meat around the peppers and onions, which makes wrapping the entire thing more convenient.

Lay the butterflied dove breast open, and in the crevasse place a thin slice of jalapeno and a thin slice of onion.  If you don’t like heat at all, you can substitute the jalapeno for a slice of bell pepper.  If you are someone that loves to cry and sweat while you eat, you can substitute the jalapeno for something a little spicier, such as a serrano or, if you are really crazy, a little piece of habanero.  Fold the breast meat around the pepper and onion, creating a small pouch.

I wrap an entire slice of bacon around each popper.  I only do this because the bacon helps to hold the pepper and onion inside while I am moving things around on the grill.  As far as flavor, you can do just half a slice and it will still taste amazing, it just might fall apart a bit.

Using two toothpicks, secure the bacon around the popper.  You are ready to grill!

I start the poppers on the medium heat area of the grill.  Bacon gets very….drippy…on the barbecue grill.  As it starts to grill, little drops of fat will fall and hit the coals.  This can result in flames, and if the heat is too high the bacon fat sets on fire and burns the dove poppers.  The result is a raw dove inside of a blackened bacon crust.  Not amazing my friends, not amazing.  So, to bar this from happening, I start on the lower heat area.  Cook the poppers, turning often, for about seven minutes on the lower heat side of the grill.  The bacon should be mostly cooked by that time.

After about seven minutes, move the poppers to the higher heat area of the grill and allow them to finish cooking.  I like to let my bacon just start to char and then I know things are ready, which takes about five more minutes.  The result is a crispy bacon crust with a soft, perfectly cooked inside.  The dove should be cooked to just below well-done, and the pepper and onion should be soft.

Dove poppers are the perfect appetizer to start your barbeque off with, or even better, a great meal option!

Happy Hunting!

 

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Farmhouse Turkey Burger

“Some men are mere hunters; others are turkey hunters.” ~ Archibald Rutledge

Nothing beats a good turkey hunt.  The spring turkey hunt kind of feels like a good stretch when you first get out of bed.  You have been tucked up under the covers, dreaming, maybe tossing and turning a little.  Sometimes you wake up in the middle of the night and check the clock to see if it’s time to get up yet, and it isn’t so you roll back into your cocoon of covers and sleep until, hopefully, morning.  And then when you finally do crawl out of bed after that long night’s sleep, you stretch from the tips of your toes to your finger’s end, and it feel amazing.  While the sleeping was great and much needed, that stretch awakens you and sets the tone for the rest of the day.  That is how the spring turkey hunt feels to me.  Like that great stretch after that long winter, and it is going to set the tone for the rest of the hunting seasons.

I was lucky enough to draw a limited entry spring tag this year.  I have wanted that tag for quite some time because it allows you to hunt during the peak gobbling season.  There is nothing more fun than sitting behind some brush, listening to toms gobble, drag their wing tips, and just put on a great show.  The tail displays and chest puffing is at it’s prime, and nothing makes for a better hunt than just getting to sit in the midst of the show and soak it all in.  It is a great time.

I was also lucky enough to bag a nice tom.  So, my next few posts will be turkey recipes that I am creating from this spring’s bird.  The first meal I concocted was a farmhouse turkey burger.  Since turkey meat, especially wild, is quite lean, I mixed in some bacon to my ground turkey.  It added a great hint of bacon flavor to the burger, made things a little extra juicy, and helped the burger hold together.  I topped my farmhouse burger with chipotle mayo, spicy arugula, gorgonzola cheese crumbles, and a fried egg.

The entire recipe can be found here: https://huntinglife.com/farmhouse-turkey-burger-lindsey-bartosh/

Happy Hunting!!!

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Coconut Pheasant Soup

 

”All really wild scenery is attractive. The true hunter, the true lover of wilderness, loves all parts of the wilderness, just as the true lover of nature loves all seasons. There is no season of the year when the country is not more attractive than the city; and there is no portion of the wilderness, where game is found, in which it is not a keen pleasure to hunt.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt

Cooking is a continuous learning process, and working with wild game is no exception.  For me, I tend to focus on building harmonious flavor profiles, and concentrating on that one area takes up more time than I have in a day.  However, there are hundreds of aspects in the cooking process that can all be developed, modified, re-evaluated, and maybe even re-invented.  I try to break myself of solely focusing on flavor medleys and try to improve and learn in different areas.  This recipe, coconut pheasant soup, allowed me to not only work on creating a great flavor profile, but also forced me to look at how textures work together, which is equally important in a dish’s presentation.

I find pheasant meat to have a unique texture.  Many people compare pheasant to chicken.  I don’t think the comparison is accurate when describing pheasant.  Pheasant, like chicken, is a mild flavored meat.  Some meats have very strong and distinct flavors, and working with them can be challenging because they fight with other flavors.  Pheasant is not like that and can be incorporated into a large number of dishes acting as a base for building flavor.

Where I think pheasant differs from chicken is the texture of the meat.  Pheasant is a bit more tough than chicken, which I am sure comes from the differences in how pheasant and chickens live and also how they eat.  Pheasant meat is a bit darker and much leaner than chicken also.  This difference can best be captured by simply pan frying a chicken breast and pheasant breast and comparing the two.  The chicken breast will be moist and light, because of the extra fat in the meat.  The pheasant will be tougher and much drier.  Because pheasant meat can dry out so quickly when cooked, it is commonly marinated, cooked low and slow, or even wrapped in a fat source, such as bacon, to create moisture and tenderness.

I find myself making a lot of meatball recipes because I think the slight toughness that develops when quickly cooking pheasant works well in meatball form.  However, after making a few meatball recipes, I decided that I wanted to try something else with the breast meat.  I am a big fan of Thai food, and especially a hot cup of tom kha gai.  A coconut based soup, tom kha gai is a spicy soup found in Thai and Lao cuisines.  Traditionally, it is prepared using galangal, kaffir lime leaves, lemon grass, thai chili peppers, mushrooms, and fish sauce.  While chicken is the main protein source for the soup, many restaurants also offer shrimp or tofu options.  Besides having a deliciously sweet and spicy broth, one of my favorite attributes of tom kha gai is how it uses textures to enhance the soup.  The mushrooms are soft and tender, while the chicken, since it is boiled, has a meatier, tougher texture.  A little crunch can also be added with a sprinkling of green onions.  The broth is very thin and silky.

The last time I had tom kha gai, I made a mental note to try and create a version at home using pheasant, since pheasant has that meatier texture that I love in the soup.  So, here the recipe is! And I found it to be a great use of my pheasant.

To a large stock pot, add a tablespoon of cooking oil and heat over medium heat.   I used coconut oil for my cooking oil, but you could use vegetable, canola, olive, or whatever oil you prefer.  Add in the minced garlic, lemon grass, and grated ginger root.  Heat for two minutes, being careful not to burn the garlic.  If the garlic starts to brown, turn the heat down.  There are three different options for the lemon grass with this soup.  I used two tablespoons of lemon grass paste, which is found by the fresh herbs in a tube.  You could also use a stalk of fresh lemon grass.  The stalk can either be added whole to the soup and removed at the end, or you could mince it up and leave it in the soup.  The paste or minced stalk both add a bit of crunch to the soup, which some people may not like.  If you do not want the bits of crunchy lemon grass, I would suggest just adding the stalk.  I like the crunch, so I went with the paste.  It is really a personal preference on textures, so go with whatever method you find most appealing.

To the garlic and ginger, add one tablespoons of red curry paste.  Stir and coat everything with the paste.  Once incorporated, add a cup of the pheasant stock and dissolve any leftover chunks of the paste.  You also want to break up any thing sticking to the bottom of the pot, as this will add even more flavor to the soup base.  For the stock of this soup, I used homemade pheasant stock.  The recipe for it can be found here: Homemade Pheasant Stock.  You could also use chicken or vegetable stock.

Once the red curry is fully dissolved, add the rest of the pheasant stock, three tablespoons of fish sauce, and a tablespoon of honey.  If you don’t have honey on hand, any sweetener of your choice will do, such as brown or white sugar.  Stir everything and bring to a light boil.  Once the soup base reaches a slow, rolling boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and allow to cook for twenty minutes.  This will reduce the soup base down and concentrate the flavors of the lemon grass, ginger, and red curry.  The lemon grass, which is a culinary herb commonly found in Asian style cuisines, adds a subtle citrus flavor to the soup while the ginger gives a spicy, fresh crisp flavor, and the red curry adds a hint of heat.

After the twenty minutes, bring the heat back to medium and add the three cans of coconut milk.  The milk will create the smooth and silky texture found in the soup, and you can adjust how creamy you want the soup to be based on which coconut milk combination you use.  I used two cans of full fat coconut milk and one can of lite.  You could do three full fat, all three lite, or a combination of the two.  The more full fat cans you use, the thicker and creamy the soup base will be.  Bring the soup base back up to a gentle, rolling boil and add the pheasant meat chunks.  In order for the meat to cook correctly, make sure they are cut into bite size pieces all roughly the same size.  Allow to cook for five minutes.

Add the sliced mushrooms to the pot and allow the cook an additional five minutes.  With the mushrooms, I used white button mushrooms, but you can substitute in other types.  A lot of recipes use shitakes, which add a nutty element to the soup.  Baby portabellas or crimini would also be great in this soup, as both have an earthy flavor and a slightly meaty texture.

Turn the heat off from the pot and add the final ingredients to the soup: the fresh squeezed lime and orange juices, and the torn Thai basil.  I sometimes struggle with finding Thai basil at my grocery store.  They don’t always carry it.  I tried to substitute in Italian basil, and I didn’t like the way it worked with the curry flavor.  Thai basil has more of a spicy bite to it, while Italian basil can almost be described as sweet.  They are two very different flavors.  If you can’t find Thai basil at your store, I would actually suggest substituting cilantro or green onions instead of Italian basil.

Well, that is it for this coconut pheasant soup recipe!  This soup is easy to put together and has a unique flavor profile of spicy and sweet with a hint of citrus, but it also has great textures and is beautiful to look at!  Enjoy!

Happy Hunting!

Coconut Pheasant Soup

Coconut Pheasant Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 pound pheasant breasts (or about four breasts), chopped into bite size pieces
  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons lemongrass paste
  • 4inch piece ginger root, grated
  • 1 tablespoon red curry paste
  • 4 cups pheasant stock (use chicken or vegetable if you don't have pheasant)
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey (or sweetener of choice: brown sugar, white sugar, etc)
  • 3 can coconut milk (13.5 ounces each)
  • 1/2 pound white mushrooms, sliced
  • Juice of one lime
  • 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 1 bundle fresh Thai basil, torn into bite size pieces

Instructions

  1. In a large stock pot, heat a tablespoon of cooking oil over medium heat. Add the minced garlic, grated ginger root, and lemongrass paste to the pot. Cook over medium heat for two to three minutes.
  2. Add the tablespoon of red curry paste to the pot and stir. Allow to cook for one minute.
  3. To the pot, pour in one cup of the stock, stirring to dissolve any remaining chunks of curry paste and to break up anything on the bottom of the pot.
  4. Add the rest of the stock, the fish sauce, and a tablespoon of sweetener, such as honey. Stir and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and allow soup base to reduce for twenty minutes.
  5. Add the three cans of coconut milk and bring soup to a gentle boil.
  6. Add bite size pieces of pheasant meat and cook for five minutes.
  7. Add mushrooms and cook an additional five minutes, until mushrooms are soft.
  8. Turn off the heat and stir in the juice of one lime, orange juice, and torn basil leaves.
  9. Enjoy!
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Homemade Pheasant Stock

“Be worthy of your game.” ~ George Bird Evans

Learning to process game meat has been an eye opening experience.  It is a challenging and ever-evolving labor.  Cleaning a harvest is different, not only for different groups of animals, but even for different species within a specific subgroup of animals.  For example, it is obvious that a fish is cleaned differently than a duck, but it isn’t always obvious that a duck may be cleaned differently than a goose, or even another species of duck. Cleaning also varies on how you plan to prepare or use the animal.  I feel I have only touched on the surface of cleaning animals.

Cleaning is just the beginning step of processing game meat too.  Storing and preserving meat is an entirely different story.  And not to mention learning how to use different parts of the animal! We often hear stories of how Native Americans used every part of an animal. Meat was obviously processed and eaten, but hides or feathers were used for shelter creation or clothing, bones could be constructed into tools or weapons, and tendons or sinew could be used to create thread or string.  Of course, those few examples only brush on the surface of how many parts of an animal are useful.

Utilizing the entire animal was definitely a survival tactic for Native Americans, and as a modern day hunter, that drive for survival isn’t quite the same.  However, many hunters strive to use as much of an animal as possible.  Whether this desire comes from a simple curiosity as to what you can come up with to use what you have at hand, or is from a deeper desire to use every part of the animal as a form of respect, there are limitless possibilities on what to create or how to utilize an animal in its entirety, and it is definitely a learning process.

So, while this might be a small step in terms of all the possible things I could use a pheasant for, it is a first step and I enjoyed trying something new with a different part of the bird.  After cleaning all the meat from the pheasant, I saved the carcass and made a simple pheasant stock.  While I was excited to find a use for the leftover bones of my pheasant harvest, my primary drive for creating a pheasant stock developed from a nagging feeling I got when using chicken stock in my pheasant recipes.  For some reason, it bothered me when I would create a soup or sauce recipe for my pheasant meal, but had to use chicken stock as the base.  It seemed silly. So, I made a small batch of pheasant stock from the carcass and can now use that as the base for whatever pheasant recipe I work on next.

For the stock, a few simple ingredients are necessary to help develop a deeper flavor profile.  Aside from the pheasant carcass, you will need carrots, celery, and onion.  I used around four medium sized carrots, three stalks of celery, and two medium sized onions.  You could also add a few cloves of garlic.  To create a little uniqueness in my stock, I also added in a four inch piece of whole ginger root.

Preheat the oven to 400 Fahrenheit and roast the pheasant carcass, celery, carrots, onion, and ginger root for 20 minutes.  There is no need to cut anything up or do any type of prep work before roasting.  The only step I took was the cut the onions in half.  I did not peel the carrots or even remove the onion skin.  If I had added garlic to this stock, I would have roasted the cloves whole as well.

Once the vegetables and pheasant are done roasting, transfer everything to a large pot.  I did remove some of the skin from the ginger root before adding it to the pot, but that was about it.  I left the onions whole and broke the celery in half so it would fit in the pot, but other than that not much work to be done!  At this point, toss in a couple of bay leaves and add enough water to the pot to cover everything by about two inches.  The amount of water needed will vary based on the size of your pot, but it should be somewhere between eight and twelve cups.  I used ten for my pot.  Heat the pot over a medium heat and watch until the water starts to boil.  Once it boils, cover the pot and reduce the heat to a simmer.  Let the stock simmer for a few hours, checking occasionally to make sure there is still enough liquid in the pot and that the pot is still just simmering and not boiling.  I let my stock simmer for about four hours.  The liquid reduced from ten cups to eight by the end of the cooking time.

If you are interested in creating a little bit of a different flavor profile for your pheasant stock, instead of using onions you could substitute leeks.  You could also add fennel for a hint of licorice.  Herbs can also be infused into the stock, such as thyme, sage, or basil.  Strain the entire pot through a fine mesh colander, and discard all the vegetables and carcass.  Allow the liquid to cool.  In the end, the stock should be a beautiful auburn color and have a mild savory flavor.

I plan on using my stock within the next couple of days, so I poured it into mason jars and stuck it in the fridge.  It should last in the fridge for about five days.  Canning the stock is another option; however the process for cooking is a bit different.  I prefer to freeze homemade stock that I am not going to use.  I put it in a large Tupperware container and just pop it in the freezer.  It will last indefinitely in the freezer.

This stock has a hint of the richness from the pheasant bones and also a clean, fresh taste from the vegetables.  It is not salty, which took me a minute to get used to.  When using store bought chicken stock, the stock is salted and, for me, that is the main flavor that stands out.  This pheasant stock is a base starting point for any sauces, broths, or soups you might create with it.  Think of the stock as a building block that will enhance and develop flavor in your dish.  This recipe allows you to extract the umami (one of the five basic tastes) to use as an ingredient from a bird carcass or other bones.  It also gives a little more reward to yourself and the animal that provided for you.

Happy Hunting!

Homemade Pheasant Stock

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 4 hours, 20 minutes

Total Time: 4 hours, 25 minutes

2

Serving Size: 4 cups

Homemade Pheasant Stock

Ingredients

  • 1 pheasant carcass, cleaned
  • 2 medium onions, cut in half
  • 3 stalks celery
  • 4 medium sized carrots
  • 1 four inch piece of ginger root
  • 3 bay leaves

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Place the pheasant carcass, onions, celery, carrots, and ginger root on an ungreased baking sheet. Roast for 20 minutes.
  3. In a large stock pot, place roasted pheasant, onions, celery, carrots, ginger roots, and bay leaves. Add enough water to cover the vegetables and pheasant by two inches, about eight to twelve cups.
  4. Bring the pot to a boil over medium heat.
  5. Once boiling, cover the pot and reduce to a simmer.
  6. Simmer the pot for four hours, checking occasionally to see if more water needs added.
  7. Pour the entire pot through a fine mesh strainer and allow liquid to cool. Liquid should be a rich auburn color.
  8. Store in fridge for up to five days or freeze for up to three months.
  9. Enjoy!
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