Hot bird summer is here
I count myself lucky when in June or July I can reach into the freezer and find an abundance of birds. All too often, grilling season for hunters means burgers, steaks, and loins. Now, thanks to a good dog, I’ve found a well of succulent white meat in the form of chukar and respite from burger burnout.
Cooking Great Chukar is All in the Brine
All this deliciousness happens thanks to the brine. It has become standard practice for me to brine all my white-fleshed birds, from chukar, pheasant, grouse, and wild turkey. Brining gives the birds’ meat a food-safe environment to both come out of rigor and tenderize. Additionally, brining transports salts deep into the meat. This makes the seasoning even throughout the bird and keeps optimal moisture retention during cooking, resulting in a tender bird.
In all seriousness, this chukar recipe is the best new thing I’ve cooked in a long time. It’s not at all odd that I find myself hunched over the last drumstick heaping effusive praise on my dog, and spicy spoonfuls of green goodness on the bird. I really can’t get enough of it.
This recipe will change your life.
- 2 whole chukar, grouse, quail, or partridge plucked with skin on and brined
- 3/4 cup olive oil
- 4-6 tbsp cider vinegar
- 1 cup fresh parsley chopped
- 6 cloves garlic pressed or chopped
- 1/4 cup fresh chili peppers diced
- salt to taste
- pepper to taste
- Since we are grilling, it is advantageous to spatchcock your birds sothey cook evenly. To duo this, remove the backbone of a whole birdusing kitchen shears. Place the bird breast-up on a cutting boardand, using the heel of your hand, press firmly down breaking theribs and breastbone such that the bird is flattened. Salt lightly andset aside. Side note: I like to reserve these in a ziplock bag andfreeze them for making stock or Demi glasses later.
- Combine chopped parsley, diced garlic & pepper, vinegar and oil ina bowl, along with about one teaspoon of salt and anotherteaspoon of coarsely-cracked black pepper. Give the mixture a stirand set aside.
- Apply the chimichurri generously to both sides of your Chukar.This can be done up to 24 hours in advance of cooking, but makesure to reserve plenty for serving.
- Now, it’s time to fire up the grill. Heat a wood, charcoal orpropane grill up to around 500 degrees. Be sure to clean and oil thegrate, and then gently nest your birds bony-side down & cover.
- After 5 minutes have elapsed, check on your meat. On a properlyhot grill, a good char should be forming on the underside withsome color forming around the sides. At this point you can flip thebirds over for another 3 or so minutes or until the skin of the breastand thighs becomes crispy. You’ll know that you’ve achieved aperfectly done bird when a leg can be removed at the jointsomewhat easily.
- Baste with extra fresh chimichurri and enjoy!
Tristan Henry is a lifelong Oregonian and perennial student of wild food and wild places. Tristan spent his youth in wetlands and on farms of rural western Oregon, where he cultivated a sense for stewardship and love for cooking. After college, he relocated to central Oregon, where he manages a small advertising agency, co-chairs the Oregon Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, chases elk with his bow, and wanders the hills with his wife and dog in search of food and fun.