Friday, October 3, 2008

What To Do With Ptarmigan

So, J finally got an invite to go hunting with one of the locals. Since the big game license is a bit spendy for "non residents" (we don't qualify for resident status until next year), he bought the small game license, and headed up into the hills with his buddy.
His buddy was looking for caribou, and J was lucky enough to spot them for him. With the caribou kill in the bag (the licensed friend, not J-in case any fish and game guys are reading!), they decided to look for some small game.
I personally was hoping for rabbits. Not only do I like Bunny Stew, Bunny Braised, and Bunny Pot Pie, their pelts are great for making realistic stuffed animals.
Before you say "eeewww!", think about it. It's my goal. To make a stuffed bunny out of a dead bunny or two.
(Oh, gosh, here comes the hate mail from the PETA folks, I'm sure.)

ANYWAY... they were also on the lookout for fox. If you think MY goals of stuffed bunnies is nuts, J's friend's wife has a goal to have a fox fur coat made of fox she and her husband have hunted themselves.
I don't think that's nuts, BTW. I think it's pretty cool. Though I would prefer lynx or, well, bunnies.

I digress... (imagine that).
So, J and the friend dd not come home with bunnies or fox. J did manage to come home with three ptarmigan. For those of you who don't know what one is, it's a wild bird, similar to a grouse. They are kind of on the small size, about the size of a Cornish hen once you get the feathers and such off them.
But, My Mighty Hunter returned home with these dead little birds and it was only fair to stroke his ego and make a fuss about making dinner from them.

All kidding aside, I was interested in trying them. And I AM very proud of J, who spent a lot of time in the hills freezing his hiney off to bring these birds home. His friend was also incredibly generous with the caribou, giving us the back strap (think T-Bone, minus bones) and the tenderloins (think filet mignon), and I guess the guys made some arrangement to split the cost of processing and we are getting somewhere in the neighborhood of half the sausage and other cuts that come back from the processing place.
Not bad at all, and I DO like filling the freezer with stuff that doesn't cost what the grocery charges for meat. Not to mention, with genuinely "organic" and free range animals, ya know.

So, back to the ptarmigan.
I was a little leery when I first laid eyes on the little dead critters. J had already cleaned and skinned the birds. I was expecting them to look like chicken, you know, pink flesh and such.
If you are squeamish, skip this part.
Ptarmigan is actually a dark meat. And by "dark", I mean like a red meat. The little birds looked more like sheep hearts. I know because I saw Bear Grylls on Discovery Channel eat a raw sheep heart while I was waiting for my own hunter to return.
That part was kind of gross, and it required me to beg J to cut the meat off the bone and make it look more like something I would buy in the grocery store. Which he did. Thank goodness.

I found a recipe on line and was actually brave enough to slightly improvise as well. I normally do not take kitchen risks when I am not familiar with something I am cooking, but I got enough online "advice" about cooking the little birds to know that I should treat it more like red meat than poultry.

For any locals (or if you happen to just have a ptarmigan sitting around in your fridge or freezer), this is what we did:

Ptarmigan Stir Fry

3 little birdy breasts, cut into pieces (like for stew meat)
1/4 C Soy Sauce
Onion Power to taste
Garlic Power to taste
Fresh Ground Pepper to taste

Put in shallow pan with enough water to cover the birdy pieces and simmer until sauce has almost boiled away (about an hour on ours).
Meanwhile, fry two pieces of bacon, crumble the bacon and drain,reserving the bacon grease.
Drain your ptarmigan, reserving the sauce in your wok pan (or whatever you are going to do the rest of the cooking in).

Toss the ptarmigan pieces in the bacon grease, fry on high heat. Dump everything into the hot wok, adding the crumbled bacon and whatever stir fry veggies you want to add- and we added a sprinkle of Cajun seasoning. Cook until veggies are tender.
Then serve it over brown rice, because brown rice tastes better and it's healthier for you than white rice.

All in all, it was pretty good. The ptarmigan does NOT taste like poultry at all. If you go into it thinking it will, you will probably freak out. Kind of like I did, at first. It tastes very similarly to beef, and if you are squeamish about trying game meat, you can trick yourself through the meal by telling yourself that it's beef. It's what's for dinner. (ha ha)

Even Beans tried it. She didn't eat much of it, I think it was too spicy for her tastes, but she didn't spit it out either.
And after I got used to the idea of what I was eating, I actually went back for seconds.
And, I even gave J "permission" to ptarmigan hunt again. I'd eat it again. I would. And now that I know what to expect, I can think of a few creative ways to cook it.

Speaking of creative recipes, I did find one that I'd actually like to try. Someone posted a recipe for "Ptarmigan Cheese Steaks", basically cooking and shredding the meat in Philly Cheese Steak manner and spices, then putting on a hoagie bun with cheese and other toppings. Now that I've eaten it, I can totally see that being pretty yummy.

I'm proud of my hunter. I'm also thrilled that this particular meal cost next to nothing for us. I don't count the cost of the license ($20) in this meal because I would have paid more than that just to get J out of the house and to stop talking my ear off about how much he wants to go hunting. And, the $20 license is good for a year, so it's money well spent, in my opinion.

Y'all will have to stay tuned to see what kind of concoctions we come up with for Caribou. Meanwhile, this pregnant chick is actually craving a ptarmigan hoagie. I wonder if I could find J a small game hunting buddy for this coming week?

Until then,
Happy Moose Trails!


Anonymous said...

A hunting we will go - sing that with the Fudd accent ... :)
Ptarmigan - I even just like saying it - cause you don't say the 'p'! HA! Looked like a great recipe! I love it - although I haven't had it much. Were they white or dark or in between in the feather colors? We used to see them up at the Ski Lodge - esp. on the upper hill! ;)
Sounds like you have a great set up for the winter. :)
Oh and your wanting to stuff a wabbit is so CUTE! Also, PLEASE use gloves whenever you handle the carcass - b'c you can get touleramia from the raw meat - cook completely. My x-hubby (if you can call him that) got it once and my cat got it 2 times from eating wabbits that he took down. It lives FINE in the flesh of the wabbit but not for peoples and you need antibiotics to get rid of it. My cat got a high fever both times and was really listless. ;)

Susan Stevenson said...

Caribou makes an excellent chili and stew. I'm not a chili maker, so I don't know his recipe (which everyone loves), but I make the stew exactly as you would beef stew - slow cooking in a crock pot with veggies, some beef broth, etc.

Congrats on the ptarmigan. I never ate ptarmigan, but a friend of mine came home a few weeks ago with about a dozen of the birds. Poor little birdies. Not much meat there, you know?!

Kay said...

If you decide to avoid hares because of the touleramia issue, perhaps you would want to stuff a poor little red squirrel.
Found one in the bottom of our dog food bag, and couldn't help thinking of you sending a Christmas present to someone with a name tag on it saying "Fluffy".
We do miss your squirrel stories!

Michelle said...

Are you still living there???