Seems like each year innevitably a friend of a friend of a friend contacts me wondering if I want pheasants to cook with since they filled their limit.. After they bring by some birds I process them and bring them to my home, since it’s not exactly legal to sell game you’ve shot where I live. I’m usually happy to do something with them, rather than have them go to waste. I imagine every year, plenty of pheasants are brought to deep freezes and forgotten about until the next year (or five), when the pheasants either hits the trash or the roasting pan freezer-burnt, neither option being a great way to treat the birds.
This year I was processing a batch of such birds, one of the breasts on my cutting board was way different from the others, darker with a nice, rich smell. At first I thought one of the pheasants had been eating something weird, then I second guessed myself and did a little digging on pheasant look-a-likes. It took a minute or two, but it was obvious I had a sharp-tail grouse masquerading as a pheasant.
Excited to try a new-to-me bird, I cooked it up for lunch. Since the birds had been breasted out and not plucked, there wasn’t any skin to insulate the meat, so I put a few pieces of my homemade pancetta on the breast to insulate it from the heat of the pan, prosciutto is easier to completely cover the breast though, so I’m writing the recipe with that instead.
Alongside I made a little sauce from elderberry vinegar, which is a great compliment to any game meat. You could substitute elderberry jam and some red wine vinegar for the sauce, but be careful it doesn’t become too sweet, it should be sharp and acidic to compliment the rich meat.
Sharp-Tail Grouse With Prosciutto and Elderberry Vinegar Sauce
- For the sauce yields enough for 4-6 entrees
- 1 cup infused elderberry vinegar
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- Pinch of kosher salt
- For the sharp tail grouse
- 4 each sharp tail grouse breasts
- 4 thin slices of prosciutto or country ham like Bayonne
- Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
- Wild rice flour as needed for dredging optional, all purpose flour can be substituted too
- 2 tablespoons duck fat animal lard, or high smoke point oil like grapeseed
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter for basting (optional)
- a few sprigs of fresh thyme for basting (optional)
Elderberry Vinegar Sauce
- In a non reactive saucepan, reduce the vinegar by half, then whisk in the butter until the sauce is thick enough to lightly coat the back of a spoon. Reserve the sauce until needed.
- Season each grouse lightly with salt and fresh ground black pepper season the side you will place the prosciutto on a little less since it's salty.
- Press a piece of prosciutto on top of each breast and press down to make it adhere. on the opposite side of the tenderloin.
- Heat the lard or oil in a saute pan until hot, then quickly dust each breast in the wild rice flour and, tap off the excess, then place prosciutto side down in the saute pan. Cook on medium-high heat until the proscuitto is browned and caramelized, then add the butter and herbs to the pan and baste the breasts with the hot bubbling fat until medium-rare or medium, depending on how you like to eat duck. Meanwhile, re-heat the sauce an whisk to emulsify it.
- Remove the birds from the pan when done and allow to rest for a minute or two, prosciutto side up. Slice the breasts on the bias with a sharp knife, then fan them out onto warmed plates, garnish with the sauce and serve immediately.