The list of reasons is long, and undoubtedly there are some that I am forgetting, but the last one is probably the real reason.
- It's too warm
- The sun was in my eyes
- It's too cold
- There's not enough wind
- It's too breezy
- The birds are running
- I almost stepped on that grouse
- I slipped on an old log
- That tree got in the way
- The cover was so tight that I couldn't swing my gun
- I rushed my shot
- I didn't hear that one flush
- The leaves are too crunchy
- Too much foliage
- Not enough foliage - they're seeing us from a great distance and getting out
- My reflexes are getting slower as I grow older …
Many clients that have hunted with me over the years have heard (probably more than once) the time a few years back how I cooked a woodcock recipe for my soon-to-be-wife and how it took a turn for the worse. Conversely, my hard working German Shorthaired Pointers, unlike my betrothed, appreciated my efforts at preparing a dinner focusing on timberdoodles - yes, they ate well that night.
This recipe comes to us from Mark Ramel, a client of mine, who visits the north country to hunt grouse and woodcock, along with his father and a good family friend. This year, their group took quite a few woodcock, so Mark brought their livery goodness home with him, to be excellently prepared by a friend who just so happens to be a professional chef in New York City - yes, just as in life, it helps to know the right people …
6 woodcock (12 breasts), served with a side of sauerkraut. Sausage, needless to say, is a must whenever sauerkraut is in the picture.
Liberally salt and pepper
the woodcock. This could be the most
important step in the recipe.
Don't be shy and don't mention
this step to your doctor:
use lots of butter.
Dredge the woodcock breasts in
flour and/or corn starch.
Pan fry the woodcock until they are seared on the outside, and not a moment more.
Make sure you do not overcook the woodcock - rare to medium on the inside is what you're shooting for!
Prepare your sides of sauerkraut and spaghetti squash. Chef Kendall uses white wine and seasonings to sautee the squash in.
Birds removed. Leftover juices and butter used to cook down apples and garlic, finished with a Sherry demiglaze.
Mostly cooked birds.
Combined with apples & garlic and cooked until medium - medium well. I assume that this step could be to the reader's taste.
Enjoy! The object of our affections plated, with a recipe truly fit for one of our greatest gamebirds, the American Woodcock.
Thanks to Chef Kendall for his creation and Mark Ramel for documenting it. That's Kendall with Mark's son (and presumable sous chef).
You may ask how my weak attempt at cooking woodcock a few years ago for my bride-to-be affected our relationship going forward. Well, she became my wife, so I must have gotten an "A" for effort.
Since then, she has come to appreciate and love my grouse dinners …
Yesterday was spent in New Hampshire, as we hunted some low elevation coverts, in the hopes of catching some of our late departing woodcock as they migrate south. We had a good morning behind Bode, even in the (at times) pouring rain. He pointed several woodcock and had a nice point on an escaping grouse, and my clients managed to scratch down a grouse and a woodcock.
The afternoon was spent hunting with Monty, and he was simply great yesterday, as he began pointing lots of woodcock in one of our upland coverts. The rain on Friday got rid of most of the snow that was paralyzing us in these areas, so we were able to get back in there. While Monty provided lots of opportunities on the woodcock, only one paid the price. Later on, he would point four or five grouse, and one of them hung around just a bit too long and my client bagged him before escaping.
Yesterday was probably our best day of the year in New Hampshire, as we encountered 15 grouse and 16 woodcock over the course of our travels.
Today was spent in Vermont, in an effort to avoid deer hunters (it's muzzleloading deer season in NH) and explore some new territory as well. The action started right off this morning, with Monty systematically pointing three woodcock and a grouse, and one of the woodcock ended up in the back of my client's vest. We did a lot of walking today, in a walk-in only area, and while it was frustrating at times (yes, even these grouse were acting typically "grousey") as we had trouble getting close to some of them, Monty still managed to point quite a few of them.
Not all of them gave us good chances, but they were there, and so were we - that's grouse hunting at times. He managed to point four or five grouse this morning, and by our lunch break we had moved 13 grouse and 4 woodcock.
Bode did the afternoon duties, and he started out hot right away, making a nice point on a woodcock that my client took. He also had a couple of grouse points and a couple more woodcock points in his time out there, working tirelessly and thoroughly. Unfortunately, none of the grouse were taken, but one more of the woodcock fell to my client's shotgun. We moved 8 grouse and 5 woodcock this afternoon behind Bode, for a day's total of somewhere around 30 birds moved for the day.
That's not bad, and along with yesterday's 31 birds moved, we had quite a weekend. Hopefully our hot streak continues through this week, and it looks as though our weather will not be a hindrance in this. More updates to come …