Upland Bird Recipe for New Year's Eve

Surfin’ New Year’s Eve with Upland Birds

Having Company? How about a Wild Game Recipe for Christmas or New Year’s Eve?

The holidays are a time of making traditional recipes, the traditional recipe often depending on where you live or what your parents and grandparents did when you were little. And impressionable.  For me it’s always a turkey for Christmas with creamed onions, and Stroganoff for New Year’s despite the fact that my Mom usually made oyster stew for New Year’s. (I’m not fond of oysters.) John’s Mom also made oyster stew. (Still wasn’t fond of them.)

Norm and Sil Strung, (Norm was a longtime contributor to Field & Stream and one of John’s two hunting mentors) made two big birds for Christmas. A store-bought turkey just to make sure no one went protein-shy, and one of the Canada geese Norm liked to hunt. The turkey cooked in the gas oven; the goose in the wood stove, which always seemed fitting to me. The goose was always stuffed with a sausage stuffing, and basted each hour while cooking long and slow.  And was always tender and delicious.

Inevitably I make the store-bought turkey for the many days of left-over munching it provides—days off for the cook–but bring out the wild meat for New Year’s Eve.

One year it was wild pig cooked with a recipe from the Spanish cookbook John gave me for Christmas; one year a diced turkey breast sauteed in lots of butter and herbs with a large bottle of champagne on the side.  For several years we made wild pig and venison sausage Hoppin’ John for good luck, in a huge slow cooker, invited our friends over and gobbled it down. The sausage flavor varied from Cajun wild pig to Tex-Mex Canada goose and Polish venison sausage one year.

Then there was the year we’d gone down to Boise, Idaho for a Barsness family  Christmas gathering, and we all had dinner at a very fancy restaurant. (Boise has a huge regional hospital complex, so great restaurants of every stripe are fairly common.) Point is, what I had for dinner that night blew me away, and since I was in the middle of writing the Upland Game Bird Cookery, and that had been a ‘chicken’ recipe I had to try to replicate it—as close as I could get without being a fly on the wall in their kitchen—and after several attempts, it ended up very close and I added it to the book.  Today, I’ll share it with you as my New Year’s present.

It’s a great wild game bird holiday recipe, a rich and elegant, Polynesian-style blend of surf and sky that will spark up a very cold winter’s night. The best part is that it’s easy and infinitely variable: any pale-meated upland bird you’ve stashed in the freezer will work: from pheasant and forest grouse to wild turkey and quail. And if you don’t like squash, substitute rice or pasta.  It’s really all about the sauce.


Surfin’ New Year’s Eve with Upland Birds

Serves 2, but can be multiplied endlessly


For the Squash

  • 1 whole acorn squash
  • 1 tablespoon butter or margarine

For the birds

  • ¼ cup frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed but not diluted
  • ¼ cup coconut milk
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  • ¾ pound breast meat
  • 6 large shrimp (about 4 ounces)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 green onions, chopped, white and green parts separated


  1. Preheat the oven to 300F.  Cut the acorn squash in half, across the middle (not through the stem). Scoop out the seeds and loose pulp with a tablespoon and turn open side down on a cutting board. Slice enough off the bottom of each ‘bowl’ so that the squash will sit on a baking pan without tipping. Be careful not to make a hole in the bowl.
  2. Brush the inside of the squash with the butter and place on a baking sheet. Bake in the center of the oven for 45 minutes.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the orange juice concentrate, coconut milk and ginger. Stir well. Add the cubed breast meat and shrimp. Toss to coat everything and set that aside at room temperature for 20 minutes.
  4. Pull the shrimp from the marinade aside for the moment. Melt the butter in a 9-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the minced whites of the green onions to the butter, sauté 1 minute until they start to sizzle.  Pour the breast meat with all the marinade into the skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly to keep the meat coated. Let the breast meat cook 3-4 minutes. Add the shrimp to the pan and cook another 2-3 minutes until the shrimp turn pink.
  5. Place the squash bowls on plates, divide the shrimp, bird and sauce mixture into the two bowls, and garnish with the minced greens of the green onion.  Serve with a nice dry champagne.
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