Upland Bird Poppers

Upland Bird Poppers (for any pale-meated upland bird)

Upland Bird Poppers (for any pale-meated upland bird)

Serves 4
From  Upland Game Bird Cookery   https://www.riflesandrecipes.com/product/upland-game-bird-cookery/ 

Upland bird season is opening here–very very soon.  And while we won’t be able to hunt pheasant yet, there are a plethora of pale-meated birds out there that are perfect for this dish.
 
There are also a few dark-meated birds from sharptails and sage grouse that we’ll be chasing, and prairie chickens and woodcock for people further east of us. I’d save this recipe for pale birds–but check out my earlier blog post, ‘The Cure for Sharptails (and any other bird you don’t particularly love to eat unembellished).  You’ll have a simple but very effective way to cut the dark flavors down to size.
 
As for this recipe, it has three choices in breading flavors, and no marinade. But if you need a little marinade too, ginger ale or buttermilk is a great marinade that won’t add marinade flavors that might compete with these coating flavors.
 
Dipping fried food in ranch dressing is a local custom where I live.  And while these poppers are juicy, tender and delicious without any dip (or with a low-cal chili sauce,  ketchup or a mix of sour cream and salsa, mixed half and half–at least for the Tex-Mex version.) you need to at least try them with creamy ranch.  Heat addicts may want to add a few drops of Tabasco sauce to the egg, with the Mexican version.

Ingredients

For Italian

  • 1 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons dry leaf basil
  • 2 teaspoons dry leaf thyme
  • 3 tablespoons dry onion flakes
  • 4 teaspoons salt

For Tex-Mex

  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 4 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic salt
  • 2 tablespoons dry leaf oregano
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2  teaspoon black pepper

For Indian Curry

  • 1 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 4 teaspoons curry powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt

To cook

  • 8 ounces boned pheasant breast, diced in bite sized pieces (about 1 inch thick)
  • Peanut or canola oil
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup ranch dressing
 
Cooking
  1. Let the pheasant meat come to room temperature.   Preheat a deep fat fryer (or Dutch oven with enough oil to cover the birds) to 350-375 F.  In a small bowl, mix one or more (your choice) of the seasoned bread crumb mixes.    Set it aside.    Put the egg in a second bowl, and the flour in a third.
  2. Starting with the flour bowl, then the egg, then the bread crumbs, dredge dip and dredge the pheasant bites.  Fry in small batches until deep golden brown (about 2-3 minutes).   Remove from the fryer, and drain on paper towels.
  3. Serve immediately as an appetizer or snack, with creamy ranch dressing, Del Monte chili sauce, or plain.
 
From Upland Game Bird Cookery, though it’s the Pheasant Popper recipe there.  Originally published by Ducks Unlimited, the DU folks felt most people would want specie-specific recipes, but at our house we don’t separate so much specie by specie as by the color of the meat, and whether the bird has tough legs–or not.   FYI  Pheasants run, forest grouse and Hungarian Partridge don’t. They fly when spooked.  And whatever muscles get used–a lot–are generally tougher than those muscles that don’t.  Older birds also get tougher, as their collagen gets more ‘organized.’
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