Pop-Kabobs – The Perfect Sharp Tailed Grouse Recipe
From Upland Game Bird Cookery:
This recipe was originally written for sharp tailed grouse, in my Upland Game Bird Cookery book Ducks Unlimited published a few years ago. I’d been asked to write it for Fall 2001 by DU, but 9/11 intervened. That changed things for everyone. For us, two things happened. I had to drive to the Salt Lake city airport to pick up John. Actually to Logan, Utah. He’d been on his way to Zimbabwe for a Teddy Roosevelt hunt. (As in no scopes etc.) While in the air from Helena, Montana to SLC, the terrorists struck, and all flights were cancelled. When John got access to a phone, he called our friend, gun maker D’Arcy Echols who lived in Logan, just a short ski-bus hop from the airport and they spent the day together. (D’Arcy’s wife Rebecca’s Mom as stranded in Nova Scotia, as I remember and, while I had to drive 9 hours to reach John, Becca’s Mom was beyond an easy retrieve.)
The second thing that happened was that DU contributions fell off, and they decided to put off publishing the upland bird book for another year. With the airlines not flying, we hopped in our big Ford truck and travelled all over collecting birds, for the book, and hunting with old and new friends all over the western US. Despite the horrible events of that day, I’ll remember that fall for the time we spent with our bird hunting friends. (At one stop, we had 10 bird dogs of all breeds hanging out in an old farm house, and all so tired, there wasn’t a single fight over the course of several days.)
The recipe? Originally, with DU in charge, I had to separate pheasant recipes from quail, Hungarians from forest grouse, which really is a pretty arbitrary thing—except for size of the birds. All those pale-meated , milder tasting birds can be cooked with the same flavors, though tenderness varies whether they’re runners (legs re tougher) or flyers. As for size, a quail recipe uses less volume of ingredients than a Blue grouse, but a little multiplication fixes that. So, this recipe was in the sharptail section, with a marinade for stronger taste, but it’s a very adaptable recipe, since the meat is boned out, and you can make it with any milder flavored bird. (And may I point out that while I find sharptails mostly pretty strong, we once happened into a large flock of them gorging themselves on heavily laden buffalo-berry bushes. They were the sweetest tasting birds I’ve ever eaten. And even I shot a limit that day.)
So, make this with any bird you have in the freezer, that’s fairly pale in meat color, and the marinade will take care of the rest.
You’ll need to start this marinade a few days ahead of time. I’ve soaked the breasts for as long as 4 days in the ginger ale, but 3 is enough to really tenderize and mellow out even sharptailed grouse on their normal diet.
Boned breasts of 4 sharptail grouse or prairie chickens
12 ounce can ginger ale
1 sweet green Bell pepper
1 medium yellow onion
8 strips bacon
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon dried leaf basil
- Rinse and dry the boned breasts with paper towels. Pour the ginger ale into a quart-sized resealable plastic bag. Dump the breasts in and massage the bag a bit to get everything well mixed up.
- Place the bag in the refrigerator for 3-4 days, turning it morning and evening to keep all the pieces of meat well mixed in ginger ale.
- Preheat your barbecue to medium high, about 450⁰F at cooking level. Drain the ginger ale off the breasts. Dry the breasts with paper towels, and cut them into 6-8 bite-sized chunks. Cut the pepper and onion into about equal-sized chunks.
- Arrange the bacon on 8 spits with the chunks of sharptail, peppers and onions. Start by spearing one end of the strip of bacon, then alternate the meat with vegetables. End by wrapping the bacon around the kabob, and spear it at the other end to secure it.
- Place each kabob on the grill, cooking about 8-10 minutes total, turning 3-4 times as they cook. Spritz fat fires with a water pistol as necessary, so the fat flare-ups don’t burn your dinner.
- When the bacon is done, so is everything else. Gently push the grilled meat and vegetables off each spit onto a plate, and serve with corn on the cob.