Sunday, November 30, 2014

Grouse Cordon Bleu

If you've ever gone grouse hunting you know how fun it is. And if you've ever eaten grouse you know how good it is. I'm primarily a vegetarian but when it comes to wild fish and game I'm suddenly transported back to my native roots and become a carnivore. Three species of grouse are found in the interior of Alaska where I live: ruffed, sharp-tailed, and spruce. I prefer the taste of ruffed grouse because they have a nice mild tasting white meat as opposed to say a spruce grouse which has dark red meat and a gamier taste. For this recipe, ruffed grouse is the way to go. Happy hunting! ~Audrey  
4 grouse breasts
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 egg, scrambled for egg wash
4 slices prosciutto
4 slices Swiss cheese
stone ground mustard

Cream Sauce:
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon stone ground mustard
1/2 cup white wine
salt and pepper to taste

Serves: 2

First you need to get your grouse. I shot this one with my .22 on a crisp morning in October just south of Fairbanks in an area known as the Tanana Valley State Forest Nenana Ridge Ruffed Grouse Habitat Management Area. Basically, it's an area with miles and miles of logging roads. Ruffed grouse are found in forested areas like this where dense young stands of aspen predominate as a result of forest management activities. Along with a variety of other plants such as wild rose shrubs and cranberries this area is the perfect habitat for these tasty birds. 

I always like to open the crop to see what my grouse ate. As you can see the one on the left had a crop full of highbush cranberries and the one on the right was full of aspen buds.     

The breast meat is really the only edible part of a grouse. You can save the thighs and legs for stock later on. Start by placing the bird on it's back, carefully slice the delicate skin covering the breast and tear it away with your with your fingers.

Then, using a sharp knife, carefully cut down the center and around the breastbone. The idea is to get as much of the meat off the breastbone without mutilating your dinner. Here's the official way to do it according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game website:

To remove the breast meat from game birds such as ptarmigan and ruffed grouse, slit or tear the skin down the middle of the breast. Tear the skin loose from the entire breast. The two breasts are separated by the keel of the breastbone. Slip the blade of a sharp knife under the breast meat and work it forward. When you hit the front, the wishbone, follow the it right on down and peel the meat off. It’s also possible to simply pry the breast meat out with your thumbs. There is no need to gut the bird. To take the drumsticks, peel the skin and feathers off the legs. Cut the feet off, then cut the legs off at the hips. Rinse the meat off.

Place your breasts between plastic wrap and gently pound them flat with either a mallet or rolling pin.

Once flattened, rub with a little mustard and top with Swiss cheese and prosciutto. 

Gently roll them up, brush with an egg wash and cover in bread crumbs. I used toothpicks to hold them together while they baked. Sprinkle a little paprika on them. Place in a 350 degree oven for about 15-20 minutes. Grouse breasts are small so keep an eye on them so they don't over cook. If you feel they are getting too brown, you can cover with foil. To check for doneness, place a thermometer in the center. If it reads 165 degrees, it's done.  

While they are cooking, make your cream sauce. Heat your butter over medium-low heat until it melts. Wisk in flour and heat for a couple minutes. Then add your cream and wine along with the stone ground mustard, salt and pepper. Let simmer on low, stirring every few minutes until your grouse is finished cooking.

Serve with your favorite veggies. I think sauteed mushrooms and steamed brussel sprouts pair perfectly with wild grouse.

Grouse can pretty much be found anywhere in Alaska. These two were in my mom's driveway and they quickly became dinner.  

My dog, Roxy enjoys grouse hunting and is quite the little 
helper :)

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