By V. Paul Reynolds
Before me in my garage office are three books about hunting grouse (pa’tridge). These books are large ,elegant, top-shelf coffee-table books with brilliant glossy pages and generous full-page photographs of grouse, gun dogs and upland bird hunters. One of them is “A Passion For Grouse.” It is a keepsake book if there ever was one, at 600 pages and close to five lbs! It retails to close to $100.00. In it you can read about the King of Game Birds and the iconic grouse authors such as Burton Spillar, Corey Ford, William Harden Foster and many others. There is even an interview with Maine’s own sporting artist and columnist the late Tom Hennessey. From expensive high-end bird guns and legendary gun dogs to grouse behavior and evolution, it leaves no stone unturned – save for one. Not a whisper about how best to cook a grouse!
This surprised me. In fact, not one of these grouse compendiums contain grouse recipes, not even a token recipe or cameo mention of the culinary aspect of grouse hunting!
“Hmmm, why is this?” I wondered. Perhaps the lapse is a deliberate marketing nicety by the book publishers, kind of like when L.L. Bean changed the name of their fabled “Hunting Shoe” to the “Bean Boot.”
Grouse hunting sure isn’t catch and release. Maine’s wanton waste law requires consumption of the kill. And, as we all well know, pa’tridge breast is wild table fare that is just about as close to gustatory Heaven as you can get in the temporal realm. When I hunted grouse with my beloved English Setter, Sally of Seboeis, the hunt was for her, but it also was for me, a chance to enjoy grouse breasts sauted gently in a little salt pork.
This is an attempt to fill in the blanks.
* This is a keeper recipe that Diane often prepares. It works well with quail, pheasant, game hens or chicken.
–Place four to six grouse breasts in bag of flour with salt, pepper and lots of paprika.
– melt one stick of butter and place meat in baking dish and pour butter over the meat.
– Bake 30 minutes in oven at 400 degrees.
– Prepare sauce:
one can of cream of mushroom soup
¼ cup water
generous portion of freshly sauted mushrooms
¼ cup of dry cooking sherry or white wine
Remove meat from the oven and turn. Pour sauce over the meat and cook an additional 15 minutes at 400 degrees.
Shin Pond Grouse
Prepare a stuffing of cooked and minced giblets, 3 quarts of stale bread crumbed, 2 large minced garlic cloves, 1 large minced onion, ½ teaspoon ground oregano, 1 teaspoon ground sage, salt, and pepper to taste.
Moisten stuffing ingredients with giblet stock and mix well. Rub inside of bird lightly with butter. Salt and pepper inside and outside of bird to taste. Stuff the bird and close the body cavity, with skewers of twine. Lightly rub outside of bird with butter and then sprinkle very lightly with flour. Roast covered bird at 325 degrees for about 30 minutes per pound, until tender.
Remove roaster cover for last few minutes of roasting time.
Postscript: If you have not the time or the patience, to mess around in the kitchen, just cut the grouse breasts in strips and saute lightly in an iron frying pan with butter and garlic on medium heat. For many more fish and game recipes go to: www.sportingjournal.com and click on Outdoor Connections.
The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine Guide and host of a weekly radio program “Maine Outdoors” heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network. He has authored three books. Online purchase information is available at www.sportingjournal.com.
For more articles about hunting, fishing and the great outdoors, be sure to subscribe to the Northwoods Sporting Journal.