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    The Upland Kitchen

    Chukar Partridge with Vidalia Onions, Mushrooms and Roasted Lemon

    My friend David spends much of his life hunting and fishing around the world, and his emails from the road always leave me with mixed emotions. Sure I feel pure joy for him – “You’re where? Slovenia fishing for grayling? Nice!” But I’m simultaneously disgusted, envious and jealous – “I can’t leave town for a month, Dave. I’m just going to hunt stocked pheasants again this week. Really I’m fine with it.” Right.

    His emails from the road are wonderful, especially this description of a recent chukar hunt. It paints a terrific picture of how tough these birds can be.

    Food preparation and photography by Gordon Hamersley
    Food preparation and photography by Gordon Hamersley

    “Hell’s Canyon, Idaho.

    “Hey Gordon, my new favorite place to hunt chukars is Hell’s Canyon. I think the canyon must have been named either by hunters frustrated by the challenging birds or by aching legs. The terrain is so steep that, at times, you have to unload your shotgun and use your hands to climb over a small ledge before you again start slogging up the steep incline.

    “They (chukars) combine the ability to quickly run uphill through tiny gaps in seemingly impenetrable rock outcroppings and then suddenly fly downhill while dipping and diving behind rock ledges and Ponderosa pines. The hunter is forced to turn around while his feet are at dramatically different elevations and try to shoot under these fast, erratic flyers.”

    As far as the kitchen goes, chukar partridges are one of the tastiest game birds around, and they are a lot easier to cook than they are to hit. Chukars tend to be on the mild side, and they are lean because of their athletic abilities, so brining is a good idea to keep them moist.

    Getting ready to put this braise in the oven is easy. Dust the meat lightly with flour first and then, working in batches, brown the pieces over moderate heat. Do the same with the onions, the mushrooms and the garlic. All this takes less than ten minutes, and the oven does the rest of the work.

    Plan to cook two birds per person as they are on the small side, something between grouse and quail. Cook them very slowly to ensure they stay moist and tender. Like any game bird, hard cooking has a tendency to dry them out. Vidalia onions enhance the flavor of the birds by adding a touch of natural sweetness to the dish, and the mushrooms a complementary earthiness. A tart spike of caramelized lemon gives the dish some mild acidity, and a splash of medium dry sherry adds some smokiness.

    Served with rice or pasta, chukar partridges make for a fabulous winter evening meal. As for Dave, he rarely feels the sting of a New England winter for too long. I think he’s somewhere in Argentina fishing for large brown trout about now. He doesn’t know what he’s missing.

    Chukar Partridge with Vidalia Onions, Mushrooms and Roasted Lemon

    Ingredients

    8 chukar partridge, quartered
    1 tablespoon kosher salt
    ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
    8 tablespoons flour
    2 tablespoons canola oil
    3 tablespoons unsalted butter
    2 Vidalia onions, cut into ¼-inch rounds
    12 ounces mixed mushrooms, sliced
    4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
    1 lemon, zested and then sliced into 4 equal rounds
    ¾ cup medium dry sherry
    1 ½ cups game bird stock or chicken stock
    2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano

    Directions

    Set the oven to 325 degrees.
    Place the chukar pieces into a non-reactive baking dish and sprinkle with the kosher salt and black pepper. Toss to evenly coat. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for a minimum of 3 hours and up to overnight. When you are ready to cook, rinse the birds with cold water and pat dry with paper towels.
    On a small plate, spread the flour out and coat each chukar piece lightly with the flour. Heat the canola oil in a heavy skillet large enough to hold the meat pieces in a single layer or use two or three pans as needed.
    Place the bird parts into the pan and then add the butter. Brown the meat lightly for about 2 minutes on each side and then remove from the pan and reserve.
    Next add the onions to the same pan and brown lightly. Reserve. Now add the mushrooms and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes. Finally add the lemon slices and brown lightly.
    Place the chukar pieces, onions, mushrooms and garlic back into the pan. Add the sherry and stock and bring to a boil. Cover the pan with a lid or foil and place in the oven. Cook for about 30 to 40 minutes until the birds are just cooked through.
    Tip the juices from the pan into a small saucepan and reduce the liquid by about half. The remaining sauce should be very slightly thickened and flavorful.
    Divide the partridge pieces along with the onions, mushrooms and lemons among 4 plates. Pour the sauce over the meat and serve immediately with rice or pasta.

    Mise en Place:

    To prepare for cooking, chefs often utilize the concept of mise en place, which means “to set into place” a recipe’s ingredients prior to starting. You can help Chef Hamersley prepare by suggesting ingredients you’d like him to set into place. Here’s how:
    1. Look through your pantry to find a maximum of five “legitimate” ingredients you think might work well in a game bird recipe.
    2. Send a list of those ingredients in an email with the Subject: In Place to kitchen@uplandalmanac.com.
    3. From time to time, Chef Hamersley will select an entry and create a dish out of some or all of the ingredients (plus add some of his own, of course).



    Wolfe Publishing Group