As I stood in front of the open freezer trying to decide what to prepare for my family’s meals for the week, first of all, I really enjoyed the wash of cold air. It’s been over 100 degrees every day for what seems like months here in South Texas. Secondly, I discovered several items that weren’t immediately identifiable in the freezer door. Should I thaw them out and throw them into a mystery stew? Not without a little bit of guilt! I guess every deerslayer’s wife has encountered this dilemma at some time or other. No one likes to waste food. Especially when it was stalked and harvested by a loved one. Ladies, this is no time to be creative! When you grab a plastic bag from the freezer and can’t see beyond the ice crystals and dried bits of unidentifiable flesh, just say “no” and toss it out. Your family will thank you.
I did find some pheasant! Circumstances dictate that our pheasant comes to us skinned. It’s faster and easier to process that way and I’ve come up with a couple of recipes that work with the naked little boogers.
To prepare peeled pheasant, I always boil the meat so that I end up with some nice pheasant stock. I rinse the meat and quarter it or throw the whole damned thing in a large pot. Then I cover it with water, toss in some chopped carrots, celery, onion, and a bay leaf and boil the hell out of whole mess until the meat begins to fall from the bone. I remove the meat from the stock and set it aside to cool. The meat should be boned and shredded as soon as it’s cool enough to handle. The shredding allows the bone shards and shot to be removed. (See my entry on game birds.) The stock can either be strained at this point and stored in the fridge, frozen for future use, or made into a yummy soup.
YUMMY PHEASANT SOUP
a batch of freshly prepared pheasant stock (This will impress friends and family)
a couple of carrots, chopped (if not using the ones from the stock prep)
a couple stalks of celery, chopped (if not using the ones from stock prep)
a couple handfuls of carefully boned, shredded pheasant (Check for shot b-b’s)
a bay leaf
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Bring stock to a boil. Throw in carrots, celery, and bay leaf. Boil until veggies are cooked, around 15 minutes. Add bay leaf, meat, noodles, salt and pepper. Continue to boil for the amount of time listed on noodle bag. Remove bay leaf. Serve with crusty bread or grilled cheese sandwiches! Yum!
Recently, I posted a most disturbing photo of a whitewing dove, pre-flouring. Please keep in mind that this is a learning process. What I learned is that some things needn’t be photographed without decorative parsley, special primping of some sort, or, as my daughter decided, the help of computer enhancement.
Any photos from this point on will not include computer enhancement to this degree.
First of all, most deerslayers are also various-other-wild-game-slayers as well. That’s a good thing. Truly, it is. My deerslayer is also a white-wing-dove-slayer, a pheasant-slayer, an elk-slayer, and a slayer of various varieties of fish.
Today, I need to share some crucial information about the preparation, cooking, and eating of game birds. Since game birds are shot, and since by their very nature they have very thin, brittle, hollow bones, one must be very careful to remove as many bone fragments and bits of shot (small b-b shaped things) from the meat as possible before cooking. Hunters generally are aware of the hazards associated with eating these birds and chew gingerly, daintily spitting out fragments as they go…. to which end I usually set out bowls around the table for this purpose. For the most part, however, other than the whole-carcass white-wing doves in gravy (with white rice and LeSueur peas) that I serve on special occasions, I have pretty much gotten to the point where any pheasant recipes that I prepare call for meat that has been cooked ahead and then chopped and/or shredded. This allows me to carefully go through the meat by hand, feeling for bits of bone and shot. Always inform your guests and/or family that they have been selected to share in the earth’s bounty provided by your game-bird slayer and that they need to chew carefully!
There are two main schools of thought regarding the preparation of doves. My experience has been that most bird hunters “breast out” the birds and bring home only the breast meat; small walnut-sized morsels to wrap in bacon with a sliver of jalapeno and toss on the grill. My dove-slayer, however, prefers ALL of the meat; breast, legs, hearts, gizzards. So does his uncle and so did his dad. I learned how to prepare doves from my hunter’s mother. Preparing them this way is somewhat labor intensive but I always have the undying gratitude of my dove-slayer.
Special Occasion Whitewing Doves with gravy
12 (or so) doves, plucked, washed
salt, pepper, garlic powder mix*
all purpose flour for dredging
1 stick salted butter
32 oz. chicken stock.
Preheat oven to 350 degree. Rinse birds and giblets. Spread out, breast side up on a cookie sheet lined with foil. Sprinkle liberally with salt & pepper mix. Dredge each bird in flour. In a cast iron skillet, melt butter. Add enough cooking oil to cover bottom of skillet. Brown half of the birds, turning from one side of the breast to the other. Brown remaining birds and giblets reserving the skillet with browned bits. Arrange all birds (breast side down) and giblets in a 9 x 13 baking dish. To the browned bits in the skillet, over medium heat, melt enough butter and about 1/4 cup of leftover flour to make a roux. Slowly whisk in about half of the chicken stock, stirring constantly. Season with salt, pepper, and garlic mix. Pour gravy over birds. Because birds vary in size, add more of less gravy until birds are covered about half way. Cover baking dish with foil and bake for about 4 hours. YES! 4 hours!!!!!!!! Every hour, add chicken stock if needed to keep gravy level up. You’ll know the birds are ready to eat when breast meat pulls easily away from the breastbone with a fork or tongs. Serve with white rice and LeSeuer peas.
* My deer/dove slayer’s dad used to mix up this concoction that he used in most savory recipes. It’s versatile and easy to keep on hand.
Tommy’s Secret Mix (Shhhhhhhh!)
1/3 cup salt, 1/3 cup pepper, 1/8 cup garlic powder
Keep in a shaker and use liberally on steaks, in gravies, on eggs, etc.
As I begin this strange journey into blogging, I pondered long and hard on a starting point. It needed to be a good one, a beginning, an introduction. Since I hope to share information about cooking wild game (almost exclusively wild game) and since I couldn’t decide on a brilliant beginning to introduce everyone to my world of “all things gamey”, I now choose to start with “a day in the life of a deerslayer’s wife”. The rhyming was an accident and I promise that it won’t happen very often.
Usually, my Sunday starts with a strong cup of coffee and notebook for carefully planning out my menus, grocery list, and lists of things to do for the week. I prepare three meals a day for my husband, who comes home for lunch, one of my daughters, whom I homeschool, and my other daughter who is starting graduate school.
Yesterday, we prepared toast from the beautiful, round loaf of rustic bread that my 12 yr.old (almost 13!) baked the day before. One of the great things about homeschooling is that the domestic arts are equally as valuable as the more academic subjects. For lunch, I boiled some pheasant from the freezer to put in a pasta dish that the girls and I have chosen to refer to as “Pheasant Phantasmagoria”. Alliteration is important in the naming of these recipes! This one is similar to a dish that we had at a local Italian restaurant. For dinner, I prepared my husband’s favorite meal of all time, baked white-wing doves in gravy. This is ALWAYS served with white rice and LeSueur peas. This was his father’s favorite dish, as well. It holds a place of honor, usually reserved for special days like Fathers’ day, birthdays, etc. However, as dove season nears, and our freezer is still overflowing with white-wing from last year, special days now consist of days that end with “y” . Such is a day in the life of the deerslayer’s wife.
As I prepared the doves, I decided that readers might benefit from photos of the process. Mistake. While the photos might be beneficial, they are ugly and silly looking. Tiny plucked carcasses, I decided, just aren’t very photogenic. Nor are they appetizing.
See? Should I have told him to smile? If, after being exposed to the “dove of doom,” you’d still be interested in a recipe, I’ll be happy to provide one.
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