Chukar: wily and delicious

October 12, 2006 12:00 am
It's chukar season. The bird substitutes for chicken in most recipes. (Baker City Herald/Kathy Orr).
It's chukar season. The bird substitutes for chicken in most recipes. (Baker City Herald/Kathy Orr).

By LISA BRITTON

I hate chukars.

I didn't have anything against the upland game birds until I went hunting with my dad near the Snake River.

We chased the chukars up the hills, down the hills and across the hills until I was convinced the wily birds could throw their voices, and then would laugh their "chuck, chuck, chuck" cry as they watched the ones with the guns give a weary sigh and trudge uphill to where they thought the birds were hiding.

And that happened again, and again, and again.

But if the hunt was successful, we got to eat the fleet-footed things — which made all that hiking seem not so bad.

My earliest memories of eating these birds, though, aren't very pleasant — I was so tired of chomping down on the shotgun BBs that I tended to smash each piece with a fork, then gently chew to avoid chipping teeth.

I've since learned to appreciate this bird, which can be substituted for chicken in almost any recipe.

Cooking chukar, though, is a personal preference, and most people you ask don't really follow a recipe.

"I always just do my own thing," says Bea Edmondson, who's cooked many chukars thanks to her hunting husband, Dick.

After cleaning the birds, Dick soaks the meat overnight in saltwater mixed with a little baking soda.

Then, after rinsing the bird, Bea's favorite way to cook it is to brown the meat in oil or butter, then add sliced onions and mushrooms, cover with white wine and bake in the oven for about an hour.

Ken Bardizian simply dips the meat in egg, then in flour, then fries it in a pan.

Pat Elms, who has seen many birds brought home by her husband, Ed, and sons Russell and Ryan, has a couple suggestions (again without measurements).

The Elms family uses only the breast of the chukar, which they wrap in a piece of raw bacon, marinate in barbecue sauce for a few hours and then cook on the barbecue.

Another favorite is to brown the breasts in a pan, then transfer to a baking dish, add cream of mushroom soup and then bake.

For cooks who prefer more detailed recipes, here's a few that were found by searching "chukar recipes" on the Internet.

Following recipe from:

Chukar Stir-Fry

3 chukar breasts

2 egg whites

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1/2 cup peanut oil

-----ADD-----

1/2 cup cashews or almonds, unsalted

4 green onions, cut diagonally

4 tablespoons rice wine

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1/2 pound snow peas, stems removed, or 8 ounces of frozen peas, thawed

Wash chukar and pat dry. Cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Mix egg whites, salt and cornstarch. Add chukar and toss to coat. Refrigerate for 20-30 minutes.

Heat oil in wok or deep-sided saute pan. Add chukar and quickly stir-fry. Don't let pieces stick together. Cook 3 minutes. Remove chukar to plate with slotted spoon.

Reserve 2 tablespoons oil and pour into clean pan or wok on high heat. Add the additional ingredients. Stir-fry cashews or almonds and green onions for 1 minute. Add rice wine, soy sauce and chukar to pan. Stir 1 minute. Add snow peas and stir 1 minute. Transfer immediately to heated platter. Serve with rice.

Serves 4.

Following recipes from:

Easy Chukar Bake

12 chukar

12 strips of bacon

1 large onion, sliced thin

1 can cream of mushroom soup

1/2 garlic clove, chopped

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

Wrap each bird with bacon and sear them in a hot skillet with olive oil. You're done when the bacon looks done. Set the birds aside.

Combine the soup, garlic, salt, and pepper, and spread the mixture into the bottom of a baking dish. Place the seared chukar breast up in baking dish and cover with the sliced onion.

Cover the dish and bake at 350 degrees until the meat is tender, or about one hour. Can serve with rice. Serves 6.

Grilled Ginger Chukar

2 to 4 chukar partridges

1/4 cup of dry wine

1/4 cup feshly squeezed lemon juice

2 tablespoons of grated fresh ginger root

3 cloves of garlic, freshly minced

1/4 cup of brown sugar

1 teaspoon of salt

teaspoon of black pepper

Ingredients for the glaze:

1/2 stick of butter

1/2 cup of red currant jelly

2 tablespoons of lemon juice

1/4 cup of red wine

Mix the red wine, lemon juice, ginger root, garlic and brown sugar in a resealable bag. Add the chukar birds and marinate for 2 to 4 hours.

While the marinade is working, work on your stove top and mix butter, red currant jelly, lemon juice, and red wine in a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and continue to cook until the mixture is slightly thickened.

Heat your grill and place the chuckar on, basting them with the glaze. Cook until done — the birds are done and tender — then coat once more with the glaze and serve.

Following recipes from: Arkansas Game and Fish Commssion:

Crockpot Beans with chukar

2 pound package dried great northern beans

1 large onion, chopped

1/3 cup dark molasses

1/3 cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon dry mustard

1 1/2 tsp. ground ginger

1 1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. black pepper

1 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 pound piece salt pork, scored

1 chukar

Cover beans with water and bring to boil in heavy pot with lid. Turn off heat and let set one hour.

Drain beans, rinse and place in crockpot.Add onions, molasses, brown sugar, mustard, ginger, salt, pepper, garlic and salt pork. Add water to cover beans.Turn crockpot to high and cook for two hours.Add chukar to middle of crockpot.Turn down to low and cook for 8 hours, stirring once.