Pheasant and Dumplings

One of the hardest lessons for me to learn as a cook is that less is sometimes more. The first time I cooked wild game myself I was 17 and brought a grill to a pre-football game party in High School. I brought along a few pack of venison steak and a large shaker of Lowry's Seasoned salt. I grilled the steaks with a  heavy dose of Lowry's and all who ate them raved about how good they were.  When I think about the amount of seasoned salt I put on those steaks I am certain that I could have been grilling roofing shingles and no one would have noticed. 

Unfortunately I think people feel they have to over season their wild game to cover up some unpleasant flavor they don't like. I have been guilty of this in the past, using heavy marinade's and exotic ingredients to make wild game more pleasant. What I have discovered in the last 10 years is that wild game doesn't need a lot of fancy extras to make it great. Taking care of your wild game is one of the biggest keys to success the other is, you have to cook it right. 

When I say that you have to take care of your game meats I mean from beginning to end. Practicing at the range to ensure a good clean kill and taking the time to properly field dress an animal are two of the biggest factors in caring for your meat. If you gut shot a deer or rupture a bladder while field dressing it you can taint the meat and end up with a bad product. After that comes proper butchering and storage and then of course how you cook it. There are literally dozens of factors that go into killing and butchering an animal that will dictate how the meat tastes before you even get to the kitchen. 

Understanding the ingredients you have and  knowing that over cooking your meat will most likely result in dry, stringy meat is important. I know a lot of people who don't like duck because they say it tastes gamey. I always tell those people that they have never had it cooked right. I recently wrote a post about Simple Perfection and cooking duck breasts with nothing more than salt and pepper. I would be willing to bet that anyone who doesn't like duck who would be willing to try duck cooked this way would have a hard time telling me they don't like duck.

Using wild game isn't hard but it does take a little more patience and a willingness to experiment. Pheasants in my opinion are probably the easiest wild game to start cooking because they are very similar to chickens and can be substituted for chicken in many dishes. This dish is just a chicken and dumplings recipe, there is nothing fancy about it and only calls for 7 ingredients. You could of course throw in more if you wanted to carrots, potatoes, and celery would be great but you don't have to. All by itself it is one of the most satisfying meals I have ever made. 

Pheasant and Dumplings
2 whole pheasants
2 ½ quarts of chicken stock
5 cloves of garlic
For the dumplings
2 cups all purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
1.       Place the two pheasants and the garlic in a large pot and add the stock, bring to a boil then turn down to a simmer and cook until the meat easily falls off the bone, about 2 hours
2.       Pick all the meat off the bones and reserve the stock in the large pot
3.       Mix together the dumplings making sure they are not to thin and and keep some form 
4.       Bring the remaining stock back up to a boil and add spoonfuls of the dumpling mix until all the batter is used.
5.       Return the meat to the pot and cover, cooking for an additional 10 minutes on a low simmer.
Season with salt and pepper