Monday, October 20, 2014

Cooking Birds

Cooking Birds

   The hard part of eating grouse or any other kind of wild bird out in the wild (other than catching one) is cooking them. You can always do the "I'm starving and need to eat" thing and just roast them over the fire. The problem with that is the lack of fat on them. No matter how careful you are they are going to end up really dry. That's the next best thing to eating them raw (been there, done that) but it's not a meal you'd want to invite friends over for. Of course you can just drop the whole bird on the fire. You don't have to pluck it that way and you get the fat from under the skin. Try hard to stand up wind of the fire if you decide to try this. Another option is to boil them. At least that way, as long as you boil them with the skin on you do get what little fat they have by drinking the broth. Again, it's not the best unless you have some kind of veggies and a little salt to go with them, but, it is filling.

   My favorite way of fixing any bird and especially grouse in using a pit oven. I start by digging a hole at least a foot deep and a couple of feet wide. You can make it bigger or smaller if you want because you can use the same cooking method for every thing from birds and fish to a whole hog. Next I line the bottom of the hole with rocks then build a fire on top of them. You want the rocks to get really hot so the bigger fire you can make the faster you can start cooking. I was always at the mercy of the firewood situation, along the beach where there's lots of firewood is easy, in the middle of the Arizona desert it takes a little longer. While the fire is burning you can gut your birds. If you have a way to boil water you can soak and pluck them just like a chicken, if not, toss them on the fire and burn the feathers off but not cook them. If you are in an area where you can find something to stuff them with they will be even better! I like using cat tail stalks, stinging nettles (either blanch them or toss them in the fire for a few seconds), clover (test the clover first, if it's bitter and biting it's good) dandelion leaves. fern tips and even nuts (walnuts are my favorite). Salt and pepper are great depending on how you do the next step. If you are in a place where you can find them wrap the birds in the biggest leaves you can find. Let the leaves soak in some water so the are nice and wet when you wrap them. Cat tail leaves work great for this. If you can't find any leaves you can always wrap them in mud, this works just fine because the mud will bake along with the birds and peels right off but unless you have a lot of salt and pepper don't put it on with the mud, the mud will soak it all off and you get very little flavor, better to save it till the birds are done.

   When you have the rocks hot let the fire burn down. While their still hot, set a few of the coals aside and spread rest in a layer over the rocks. Next add a layer of dirt over the ashes at least an inch thick. Put the wrapped birds on this layer, in the center of the fire pit and cover with dirt. After you have at least 2 inches of dirt covering the birds add more firewood on top and use the coals to start another fire, it doesn't need to be very big or last long time as all you want to do is warm the dirt.

   Now you can do anything you want for about 3 hours if you covered the birds with leaves and about 4 if you used mud. After that just dig em out, unwrap em and chow down!