Raining chukar and quail

by

Dinner Time It was a fowl foul night. The rain came down in sheets, the puddles grew into lakes, and the trickling creek became a torrent, but my kitchen was warm and fragrant with the scent of games birds roasting in the oven. Chukar and quail, to be exact.

Dinner Time It was a fowl foul night. The rain came down in sheets, the puddles
grew into lakes, and the trickling creek became a torrent,  but my kitchen was warm and fragrant
with the scent of games birds roasting in the oven.

 

All thanks to a little prompting from our young friend
Katharine, and wild game contributions from her dad Jay Cassell, hunter extraordinaire
and deputy editor at Field & Stream
, we didn’t care about the weather
because we were anticipating eating some fine roast quail and chukar.

Chukar?  No, it
is not a stringed instrument played at yoga retreats.

Chukar is in the partridge family. (No, not that Partridge
Family. I’m a liberal eater, but I don’t eat singing children.) It is a
Eurasian bird, so it’s not native to the US, and although I’m opposed to
bringing in and breeding foreign animals just for the sport of hunting, I am a
total hypocrite when it comes to chukar. They are mighty tasty birds, a bit
bigger and darker fleshed than the quail. These wild quail were at least twice
the size of domesticated quail. Oh yeah, they’re from Texas, so that might
explain their size. And just in case the thought crossed your mind, Jay will
never, ever go hunting with Dick Cheney in Texas. Better safe than sorry.Chukar

Game birds can be tricky to roast because these small
birdies are so lean it could make them dry and stringy if you aren’t careful.  There is such a-thing as too lean.
There is no such a-thing as too rich.

 

To avoid tough-itis in your bird, you should brine the birds (salt, water,
seasoning, time). Details here.

 

I decided to go with 2 different preparations: Umbrian style
herb roasted for the chukar and bourbon spice maple syrup glaze for the quail.
I could put that glaze on a chair leg and it would taste good. 

 

Roast Quail The chukar was simply roasted with rosemary, thyme, wild
fennel pollen, a few juniper berries and a two cloves of garlic in the pan. When
juices became scarce, I basted the birds with olive oil.  Larding with bacon is a good trick for
slow, steady basting of a roasting bird, but these were skinless and I didn’t
want to overpower the natural flavor of the chukar.

 

Birds were roasted at 325F/163C for an hour and I basted
their skinless bodies regularly.

We devoured the birdies and ignored the deluge outside.  But Jay, we need to talk about field
dressing…could we leave the skin on next time? I’m sure it’s easier to strip
off the feathers with the skin, but I need the skin to keep the birdie juices
in. (I know, I’m sounding ungrateful and picky and I promise I’ll cook whatever
you bring over, but I’m just sayin’ ….)

 

Have a good semester at school Miss Katharine! It was big
fun cooking with you, and you chopped a mean chiffonade with those snow peas.
Love you, Girlfriend!  

A rainy night, a cozy kitchen, good friends, good food, does
it get better than this?

 

 

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