Beyond Chicken: 7 Game Birds To Cook This Fall
When it comes to bringing a group of people together for a meal, it’s hard to beat the hushed moment of appreciation that arrives when you place a roasted bird down on the table. Whether you’re dining with family or friends, the ceremony of gathering around a whole bird, skin crackling and moist flesh waiting to be carved, brings an air of celebration and excitement to any occasion. Nothing says fall, the traditional hunting season, like game meat, and there’s a whole host of lesser-known birds out there just waiting to impress your guests and delight your palate. Here are seven you need to try this autumn.
Young heritage-breed birds that weigh under two pounds, poussins have a similar flavor to chicken but a moister, more refined texture. We’re offering them on our Chef’s Table this week, rubbed with truffle butter and served over a beautiful celery root and apple puree that’s essentially autumn on a plate.
About the size of an average chicken, pheasant is both mild and extremely lean, with a delicate flavor similar to a young chicken. Because it’s low in fat, pheasant can dry out if overcooked, so make sure you keep it moist during the cooking process. Here, duck and veal demi-glace and white truffle butter bring luxury to the bird. Escarole and beautifully roasted Cippolini onions both complement the pheasant with gentle, earthy flavors.
Duck is most likely one of the more familiar items on this list, with a rich, gamey flavor like similar to the dark meat of a chicken. The skin is especially fatty, so if you’re cooking the breasts individually, make sure to score them to encourage rendering. But no matter how you prepare it, don’t miss the classic flavor combination of duck and cherries. The tartness of the fruit helps cuts through the warm richness of the meat—and also makes for a stunning presentation.
(Image: New York Times)
Quail are better known for their eggs than their meat, but they pack a wallop of flavor—especially considering their diminutive size. With a taste that’s more assertive than chicken but less so than duck, the birds are so small that you should plan for two per serving. Quail are best cooked high and fast, for about 15 minutes at 500 degrees. Brine the bird beforehand to keep it nice and moist, then serve over a homemade pasta like cavatelli and pour a glass of crisp white wine.
(Image: Honest Food)
A medium-sized bird, partridge boasts an abundance of white meat with a texture that’s slightly firmer than that of chicken. Be sure to keep it moist during the cooking process, then try to complement the bird with soft polenta, saucy blackberries, and fried sage.
A large gamebird originally from Africa, guineafowl’s predominant dark meat tastes similar to pheasant’s, but with a juicier texture. Showcase that depth and richness with a multifaceted presentation that includes tangy wilted spinach, sweet roasted pears, and a lovely wine sauce to finish.
It’s no coincidence that goose was historically served for Christmas dinner—its hefty size ensures that it feeds a large group, and the depth and fullness of its flavor goes wonderfully with other classic garnishes such as chestnuts and brandy. For a memorable feast, stuff your goose with chestnut and leeks, and finish with a brandied sauce made from the leftover pan drippings.
Considered a delicacy in many cuisines, squab is a young pigeon, with meat that is tender, moist, and rich—the trifecta!—as well as dark and rich, like that of duck. With the gamebird bringing all that flavor to the table on its own, don’t overcomplicate the sides: try serving roasted squab with a nice, smoky pea and bacon braise for a plates that’s both rustic and refined.
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