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Ten Best: Wild game recipes

by Amy Kingsley

Venison

Are you tired of domesticated meat? Sick of tasteless pork chops and genetically altered drumsticks? Yearning for sustenance a carnivore can really sink his teeth into? Well, you’re in luck. Deer season opened in early September, and bear, rouse, bobcat, possum, nutria and quail seasons start anywhere from mid-October to November. Until early winter, when the various seasons begin to close, North Carolina is an embarrassment of riches for the tree-stand epicure. Venison – or deer meat – is popular as a sausage, but can be consumed as a steak as well. In his book, The Scavenger’s Guide to Haute Cuisine, author Steven Rinella concocted his version of venison sausage with pistachios and sometimes serves the dish with roasted vegetables, according to a New York Times article.

Bear

According to the available online literature, bear as entrée is a hit-or-miss proposition. Eat a bear hunted in the fall for best results (bears pick up parasites during hibernation). Also, a bear that’s been eating carrion makes for a rotten main course, according to the websites. Seek berry-fed ursidae. “And what does bear ham taste like?” wrote Bon Appetit features editor Hugh Garvey in his blog. “Like a cross between corned beef and brisket. Served with a fig sauce and a hearty Rhone red, it was delicious.”

Wild boar

Meat from the wild pig differs from its penned cousins in a couple of important respects. It’s leaner, like most game, and tighter grained. Broken Arrow Ranch, a distributor of game meats like antelope, venison and boar, has a recipe for wild boar leg stuffed with figs, dates and walnuts and served with a wine/fig reduction. A bone-in leg from Broken Arrow will run you about $8 a pound. In six of North Carolina’s 100 counties, wild boar can be had for the cost of your time and whatever ammunition is expended.

Wild turkey

The season for wild turkeys starts in April and lasts a scant four weeks – not really a convenient schedule for trying to land a feathered centerpiece for your Thanksgiving spread. On the upside, turkey hunters get to make funny squawking noises while stalking the woods for their prey. You can cook a wild turkey in the same manner you prepare a regular turkey, and you can make jerky out of it. Visit the national Wild Turkey Federation website for tips on cleaning and cooking your bird.

Squirrel

According to creative assistant Chris Lowrance (making his second 10 Best cameo in six weeks), you hunt squirrel by settling in a quiet spot and whistling. When the squirrel pokes its head around the tree trunk, blow it away. Then take the body, remove its dozens of tiny bones, cream it and serve it over biscuits. Or in a pie. Yum.

Skunk

Some folk’ll never eat a skunk

But then again some folk’ll

Like Cletus the slack-jawed yokel – “The Simpsons”

Most of the hits you get searching for “skunk recipe” return concoctions for removing the smell from your dog/child/jeans/whatever. One promising method of preparing the meat – French-fried skunk – uses bear fat, eggs and cream. Other recipes available from the web appear to be jokes.

Quail

Quail is bona fide haute cuisine, whether or not the animal originated in the forest or the farm. A search on the site Epicurious.com turned up 32 recipes for the small game bird. The most highly rated involved bacon wrapping and a goat cheese stuffing. Quail is a versatile bird, good for roasting, grilling and good with just about whatever kind of sauce you want to slather on.

Nutria

Lacoast.gov helpfully posts a recipe for healthy crock-pot nutria on its website. The dish is a stew of nutria saddle steaks with onions, carrots, Brussels sprouts and white wine. Fur dealers imported nutria to the Gulf Coast in the 1930s, and now the population of water-dwelling rat creatures threatens the Louisiana wetlands. Consequently, the state of Louisiana enacted a nutria bounty of $5 per tail. Which means that down in bayou country, you can even get a little financial return on your dinner.

Grouse

Grouse are an elaborately feathered variety of game bird more commonly found in the world’s colder regions. You can substitute grouse for pheasant in some recipes, and generally the bird works in a variety of preparations. Grouse requires the addition of fat during cooking, and one of the promising takes involves pan-frying and baking in a cream-based sauce.

Swan

The NC Division of Wildlife Resources holds an annual swan hunt for families in the spring. However, recipes for the bird are scarce, and most are derived from the Medieval period. The Old Elizabethan recipe requires the chef to generously salt, pepper and ginger the skin, then lard it and put it in a coffin of rye paste. You serve the dish the same way you would a beef pie, according to Elizabethan-era.org.uk.

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