Recipes & Cooking  |  08/23/2019

Gamebird Gourmet // Gamebird Ragu

This content is presented by Walton's - Everything but the Meat

By Lukas Leaf

‚ÄčItalian food is a great vessel for wild game and the translation of unique flavors that wild game brings to a dish.The options are endless, the flavor profiles move with the seasons, and one single recipe can morph into whatever you like. That’s the beauty of ragu. And this savory tomato-based dish can be made with any gamebird meat you can think of.

Leaving the bone on the bird adds depth and flavor to the dish. The ragu gets covered and left in the oven to braise, slightly reducing the meat and concentrating the flavors. Braising is a classic form of cooking that lends itself to countless preparations, but it’s really quite simple. Almost cover the meat in your preferred liquid, bring to a simmer, cover and cook at a low temperature until the meat is juicy and tender. 

Recipe: Pappardelle with Braised Gamebird Ragu and Goat Cheese

Serves 4

1 whole pheasant quartered, with bonein and skin on if possible (or substitute the equivalent in other gamebirds)
16 ounces of dried or fresh pappardelle noodles
1 28 oz can crushed tomato - pureed 
¾ cup balsamic vinegar
¾ cup red wine - good enough to drink
2 cups pheasant stock (optional) - chicken stock is an easy substitute 
1 bulb garlic chopped fine 
1 large yellow onion sliced into ¼ inch pieces 
1 large red pepper sliced into ¼ inch pieces
Fresh rosemary 3-5 sprigs
3 bay leaves
Crushed red pepper (optional)
Kosher salt
Cracked black pepper
Grated parmesan cheese
Goat cheese - 4 oz log or crumbles
Fresh herbs to finish such as parsley and basil
2 tbsp vegetable or canola oil
Extra virgin olive oil to finish
2 tbsp butter

Quarter your bird(s) and preparing your vegetables. It's very important with pasta sauces, stews and soups that you have all your ingredients ready and accessible. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Heat the vegetable oil on high in a Dutch oven or deep pan that can be covered. You want the oil to just begin to smoke. This will ensure a beautiful sear on the meat. Lightly season the meat pieces with salt and lay in the oil skin-side down. Make sure that they are not touching in the pan so the pieces to brown evenly. Let the meat sear on its own until it is golden. Flip the meat and repeat. 

Remove the pheasant from the pan and add the red peppers, yellow onion and ¾ of the garlic. Season with salt, black pepper and crushed red pepper. Let the veggies cook until the onions are lightly caramelized. Stir regularly so that nothing burns. Add the bay leaf and rosemary.

Turn the heat down to medium high. Nestle the meat back into the pan, pushing the pieces into the vegetables. Get as much contact with the liquid as possible. Each liquid should reduce by at least half before the next is added. Begin by adding the vinegar and cook for 3-5 minutes. Next comes the red wine, cook for 3-5 minutes. Third is the stock. Lightly season and cook for 5-10 minutes or until reduced by half. Lastly add the pureed tomato. Stir to combine the tomato, lightly season again with salt and pepper. Bring the sauce to a simmer. Cover and place in the oven for 1 ½ - 2 hours or until the meat is tender and falling off the bone. 

Cool the sauce, remove the pheasant pieces and pull the meat from the bones. Take your time and watch for bones. Add your pulled meat back to the sauce after careful inspection.
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Season lightly with salt. In a large saut√© pan or cast iron add butter and the remaining garlic. Cook until the garlic is just golden. Add in the sauce and bring to a simmer. Check for seasoning. Boil your pasta to desired tenderness, strain and then add to the sauce along with a touch of the pasta water to help the sauce stick to the noodles. Add the goat cheese and lightly stir to incorporate into the sauce. Finish with, olive oil, freshly grated parmesan and herbs. 
Lukas Leaf is the lead chef at Modern Carnivore when he’s not hunting, fishing, foraging or working for Sportsmen for the Boundary Waters as executive director.