Monday, January 19, 2009

Hunting for Dinner on Long Island

Yesterday, Henry went upland bird hunting near Riverhead (Long Island Farm country between the north and south forks) with my brother, Jim, and brought home a few Chukars -- cleaned and ready to cook AND enough for dinner! That's my kind of hunting husband (for the record, I've cleaned quite a few ducks and geese in past seasons but I prefer my husband's catch to be cleaned).

Inspired by the combination of licorice and orange, I came up with this flavorful recipe that would be good with any white meat game birds or chicken. The juice and stock keep the birds moist and the flavors are complementary (the mildness of the orange and smooth anise flavor would be overpowered by duck or goose meat).

Chukar Braised with Anise and Orange

8 whole star anise

8 chukar breasts, cleaned and skinned, bones on

3 tblspn olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1 orange, peeled, chopped and seeds removed

2 1/2 cups chicken stock

3/4 cup orange juice

2 tblspn orange zest

3 cups cooked rice, wild rice or farro

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Ground star anise to a powder using a spice grinder, mortar and pestle, or coffee grinder. Rub anise evenly onto chucker breasts. Heat a large dutch oven or deep saute pan (oven proof) to high for 3 minutes, then turn down to medium heat. Add olive oil and chucker, saute for 1-2 minutes until brown, turn over and saute another 1-2 minutes, then remove from heat and set aside. In the same pan, over medium heat saute onion, celery, carrots and garlic, stirring until it begins to soften and brown lightly, about 8 minutes. Add cut orange, chicken stock and orange juice and bring to a rigorous boil for 2-3 minutes. Add chucker and turn off heat. Cover and put into preheated oven and braise in the dutch oven for 1 hour when the birds are tender and moist. Move chukar to a plate and cover with foil. Move pan with vegetable, orange and liquid to the top of stove to reduce. Over high heat,liquid should be at a rolling boil for 5-6 minutes.

Serve chukar over cooked rice or farro and generously spoon vegetables and sauce over the chukar.

According to "The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America" Chukar were introduced to the northeast US from the Middle East (Chukar is the national bird of Pakistan). The breed is not "established" on LI rather the Chukar is in the area solely because they have been raised and released for sport hunting purposes only. A game bird similar in size to a partridge with a chunky (and meaty) breast.

Additional research reveal that in Indian Mythology, the Chukar is believed to be in love with the moon and to gaze at it continuously. Chukar is derived from the URDU word Chakhoor.

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