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Get Creative This Thanksgiving with Wild Game

  • 11/19/2014 5:49:00 AM
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Wild game Thanksgiving recipes from the Iowa DNRNot all Thanksgiving turkeys come from the grocery store. If you’re preparing your own wild turkey this Thanksgiving – or living on the extra wild side and trying goose, duck or other wild game instead – you’ll want to check out these recipes, favorites of DNR staff.

Wild Game Basics

“We all know not to overcook it, but yet we still do,” says Jim Coffey with DNR Wildlife of wild game. He suggests using a cooking bag to help keep the bird from drying out. For a moister bird, brine it first and cook it breast-side-down. If you’re thinking of putting duck or goose on the table, consider serving it in thin slices with a good sauce, Coffey says, or try it as an appetizer with crackers and cheese.

Goose With Apples

A Jay Winter with the DNR’s Springbrook Conservation Education Center lent us his go-to waterfowl recipe, one he loves using with geese. It takes a little prep time – starting 24 hours before you plan on cooking your goose, refrigerate it with an apple mixture. To make the apple mixture, peel, core, and thinly slice 1.5 pounds of apples and mix with 3/4 cup of brown sugar – this will produce a syrup and your apples will soften during this time. When it’s time to cook the goose, cut the breast into half-inch cubes, roll in flour with any seasoning you’d like and brown in a small amount of oil. As Coffey pointed out, be sure not to overcook the meat, as goose meat is very lean. When goose is cooked through, add the apple mixture and a small amount of water to the goose and simmer as long as you can stand before eating.

Chesapeake Bay Barbecued Canada Goose

A holiday tradition for former Iowa Outdoors writer and photographer Lowell Washburn, the Chesapeake Barbecued Goose gives a bit of a kick to traditional Thanksgiving flavors. You’ll just have to make a few trips out to the deck, as it’s best prepared on a charcoal kettle grill.

1 whole, plucked Canada goose
½ pound butter
½ cup ketchup
1 tablespoon sugar
1 ½ tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice
1 medium onion, chopped
2 or 3 cloves of garlic, pressed (or substitute 1/8 tsp. garlic powder)
¼ tsp. Tabasco (optional, but highly recommended)
½ tsp. salt (also optional)
Ground black pepper to taste

Cooking Directions:
On a covered charcoal kettle grill, bank two medium-large beds of charcoal on opposite sides. Lightly brush the skin of the goose with oil and your favorite seasoning – Washburn recommends a six-pepper blend. When coals are hot, place the goose breast-up in the center of the grill and cover; cook for about 1.5 hours, depending on the size of goose. Start checking the goose after an hour and 20 minutes – when juices run pink, remove the goose from the grill and allow it to rest for 5 to 10 minutes. When the juices run clear, the bird is cooked.

As the goose is cooking, combine the rest of the ingredients for the sauce in a sauce pan and simmer for eight to 10 minutes, but do not boil. When the goose is done resting, carve it into thin slices and smother with sauce.

Turkey or Pheasant A La King
Iowa Outdoors managing editor Alan Foster suggests skipping the roasted bird and serving up some pheasant or turkey a la king instead. The recipe below calls for pheasant, but chunked turkey breast could easily be substituted.

1 pheasant
½ cup pancake mix or flour
1/4 cup butter or cooking oil
1 small onion
1 package mushrooms
1 can chicken broth
1 bag frozen mixed vegetables or peas, carrots, anything with color

If you’d like, marinate chunked-up pheasant in Italian dressing first. While the bird is marinating, sauté  mushrooms and onions in butter until they release liquid. Then, pat them dry and dredge in flour (add seasoning if you’d like) or the pancake mix. Brown pheasant in the pan, but don’t fully cook it – add onions and mushrooms back to the pan, and add chicken broth. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring now and then. Add the veggies and simmer for another half-hour, adding more broth if needed. Foster suggests serving this dish over mashed potatoes, egg noodles or biscuits.

Pheasant or Turkey Fajitas

Spice up Thanksgiving dinner or make the best of leftovers with this fajita recipe, featured in the Iowa Game Wardens Cookbook and courtesy of conservation officer Allen Crouse.

4 to 6 filet halves of pheasant breast or 1 pound of turkey breast
¼ cup fresh lime juice
¼ cup fresh orange juice
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 bell peppers (any color), sliced
1 large onion, sliced
Sour cream, guacamole or any other toppings you’d like

Prepare the meat by slicing the filets across the grain of the meat in half-inch wide strips to keep it tender when cooked. In a plastic food storage bag, combine the sliced meat, juices, half of the oil, cumin, garlic and some of the cilantro. Marinate in the fridge for at least four hours or up to 24 hours.

Mix peppers, onions, rest of oil and cilantro and stir to coat. On a hot cast-iron griddle, place meat in the center with peppers around the outside edge. Cook meat for 6 to 8 minutes and turn. Cook for another 6 to 8 minutes or until done. Remove meat and let it rest while peppers and onions continue to cook – when peppers start to show black spots, remove. Serve with tortillas, sour cream, guacamole or your favorite toppings.

Smoked Duck with Orange Sauce
Featured in the January/February 2010 issue of Iowa Outdoors magazine (and pictured above), this menu favorite from Augusta restaurant in Oxford is sure to please at the Thanksgiving table as well.

1 duck

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup salt
1 cup pickling spice
1/2 gallon orange juice

1 cup sugar
1 cup red wine
1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar
2 cups orange juice
4 cups duck stock, described below

  • Mix brine ingredients and bring to a boil to melt sugar and salt. Cool.
  • Cut breast and leg quarters from carcass and soak in brine at least overnight.
  • Meanwhile, to make stock, roast duck carcass in oven set at 450 degrees until brown—about 15 to 20 minutes. Place in a large pot and cover with water. Simmer 2 hours, ensuring the carcass is below water. Reserve liquid.
  • To make sauce, put sugar in a pot and cook until caramelized to a deep brown, about 5 minutes. Stir frequently. Be sure not to burn the sugar. Add all liquid ingredients and cook for 20 minutes until reduced by half. Salt and pepper to taste.
  • Smoke brined duck pieces in a smoker or on a grill using hickory or a fruit wood, such as apple or cherry. Cook to about medium, slice meat and arrange on plate. Drizzle with sauce.

For more recipes for wild game and outdoor cooking, check out our Outdoor and Wild Recipes board on Pinterest.