Game Time Dishes

By Nick Simonson

This stretch of year is game time.  Not only with the teams to square off in the Super Bowl yet to be decided, but also due to a stock of harvested birds and big game from the field in the freezer ready to hit the table in many tasty dishes to warm up those cold nights and help fuel that playoff fever.  Tapping into the bounty of fall, these great winter meals are perfect for special meals with family or for friends gathered around the TV for the final stretch of football.

Ruffed Grouse Pizza
While the preferred meat for this dish is ruffed grouse; partridge or pheasant breast will also work in a pinch to make a pizza with some upland flare that doesn’t last long on the counter.  It’s an easy fix for even the untrained chef, and the suggested toppings are only the beginning.  Experiment with peppers, pineapple or a tangier barbecue sauce to find your favorite flavor.

Thin pizza crust (store bought or homemade)
1/4 cup Sweet Baby Ray’s Brown Sugar Barbecue Sauce
1 ruffed grouse breast
1/4 medium red onion
4 sprigs fresh cilantro
1/2 cup of four-cheese Italian blend
(Romano, mozzarella, asiago and parmesan)
1 tbsp olive oil
salt, pepper & garlic powder to taste

Directions: In olive oil, cook the ruffed grouse breast in a frying pan until it is done, seasoning with salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste. When fully cooked, cube the meat and set aside.  On the thin pizza crust, spread barbecue sauce so it is evenly covered, leaving 1/2-inch uncovered on edges for crust.  Cut the red onion vertically, and separate layers into small crescents, distributing them evenly over the cheese.   Next, add the ruffed grouse meat to the pizza, distributing evenly. Sprinkle four-cheese blend evenly over the sauce.  Finally, cut the sprigs of cilantro over the pizza with some kitchen scissors to taste.  Bake pizza in the oven at 425 for 8-to-12 minutes. Serves 4.

Pheasant and Wild Rice Soup
Combining wild game and wild rice is a tradition of hunters, trappers, traders and natives who roamed this part of the country long before the first pheasant set off running across the prairies.  But after 150-plus years of hunting, roosters and wild rice have become a cold weather pairing that rivals hot chocolate and marshmallows.   This rich and creamy soup combines the flavor and texture of wild rice and pheasant together with the hues of fall in the greens, oranges and browns of the supporting ingredients for a perfect cold-weather combination in terms of sight, smell and most importantly, taste.

¼ cup butter
4 med. stalks celery, sliced
2 cups sliced baby carrots
1 large onion, chopped
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
3 cups cooked wild rice
2 cups water
2 10.5-oz cans condensed chicken broth
3 cups half-and-half
4 cups cubed cooked pheasant meat (about 2 birds, deboned)

Directions:  In a four-quart saucepan melt butter on medium-high; cook celery, carrots and onion in butter for about 10 minutes.  Then stir in flour, salt and pepper then add wild rice, water and chicken broth; bring to a boil then reduce heat, cover and let simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Then stir in half-and-half and cooked pheasant meat.  Let simmer, stirring occasionally, then serve.  Serves 7.

Upland Venison Jambalaya

Some like it hot, and this dish brings all the spice of the Mississippi delta together with your favorite fowl and venison for a zesty main course that goes perfect with Sunday afternoon.  Growing up, my mom served Cajun jambalaya for family gatherings after church using store-bought meats like chicken and smoked sausage.  Replacing chicken with whatever upland game I’ve had available (dove, grouse, pheasant or partridge) and swapping in a ring of deer sausage, has allowed me to add wild new flavors to an old tradition.   Finish this meal-in-itself off with a praline for dessert and laissez les bon temps roulez!

1 ring deer sausage
Meat of one pheasant, cubed and cooked.
1.5 cups uncooked instant rice
1.5 cups chicken broth
¼ tsp. thyme leaves
¼ tsp. chili powder
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
1 small green bell pepper, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 can stewed tomatoes, undrained

Directions: Cut sausage diagonally into ½-inch thick slices.  In deep skillet, cook slices until warm.  Stir in remaining ingredients.  Heat to boiling, stirring occasionally, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Serves 4.

(Featured Photo:  Ruffed Up.  A ruffed grouse pizza fresh out of the oven seems to get eaten faster than it gets sliced on game day – or anytime! Simonson)

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