Most people probably aren't aware that Sand hill Cranes are a huntable bird. I would be willing to bet there are more than a few people out there that don't even know what a Sand hill Crane looks like. And I am most certain, that other than a privileged few, not many people know what a Sand hill Crane tastes like. This is all a very good thing for me and a bad thing for them. If the general public and even most hunters knew how good a Sand hill Crane tasted there might be a problem.
Two years ago I was given some crane to try and was very impressed at how much it tasted like a combination of duck and beef. Two of my favorite things to eat. I have heard many refer to the cranes as the "rib eye of the sky" and I completely understand why. The meat is a dark, rich, red color and when the breast portion is cooked just south of medium rare it takes on a very beef like quality. In fact the first thing I made this year with the crane I got was Steak Au Poivre. Last fall I was given the opportunity to hunt cranes in Northwestern Minnesota, I only got the one crane so I wanted to cook it in as many different ways as possible. The first breast was used for the Au Poivre, the other breast is being cured into a prosciutto and the legs, thighs and wings were all braised together to make these steam buns.
Steam buns are somewhat of a popular item as of late and you are starting to see them pop up on menus everywhere. There seem to be an almost limitless amount of variations for these. I was looking for recipes for the actual bun and found a sight that claimed that Pillsbury Grands Buttermilk biscuits can be used as a substitute. I was just to curious to not give it a try. If you roll out the biscuits to about a 1/2 inch thick, fold them in half and then place them in your steamer for 12 minutes you get a pretty serviceable steam bun. The texture is light and airy and the flavor is pretty similar to other steam buns I have had. Add some hoisin and some quick pickled carrots and cucumbers and you have a sand hill crane steam bun.
The leg, thigh and wing potions of one sand hill crane
2 tbls sesame oil
1 tbls chinese five spice powder
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
11/2 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup cooking sake
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup dark soy sauce
2 tbls oyster sauce
2 pods star anise
2 tbls honey
6 cloves garlic smashed
Rub the roast with the five spice powder then heat the oil in an oven safe pan until hot. Add the crane and brown on all sides. Remove the crane from the pan and add the remaining ingredients, bring to a boil and place the crane back in the pan. Place the pan in a 300 degree oven for 2 1/2 to 3 hours or until the crane is easily shredded with a fork.
For the buns
I used the Pillsbury grands buttermilk biscuits, roll them out till they are about a half inch thick then fold them in half and steam them in your steamer for 12 minutes.
For the pickles
Shred some carrots and cucumbers and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of sugar, let sit for 20 minutes and then cover with rice vinegar and let sit for at least 30 minutes before using.
Take a hot steam bun and squirt about a teaspoon of hoisin on the bun, then add the meat and top with the pickles serve immediately and enjoy.