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The author's dog, Remy, retrieves a ruffed grouse during a fall hunt. Tyler Shoberg / West Fargo Pioneer

Kitchen experimentation: 'Homemade' wild recipes worth saving

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Inspiration for the "recipes" came to me during a long run with my trusty one-year-old dog, Remy.

At the time, we were scooting south on Elm Street next to a very swollen Red River. It wasn't our normal route, since that would have involved traversing river trails now submerged several feet under water. Still, the scenery was nice and the day surprisingly pleasant given the awful weather we'd suffered of late.

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As we neared our eastwardly turn onto 15th Ave. North, three ducks shot up and over the brick wall surrounding El Zagal Bay (amply named for what, at one time, was El Zagal Golf Course, but that now looked like the perfect place to anchor a boat and jig for walleyes).

Remy's instinct was to immediately freeze in place as the birds - two drakes and a hen that I imagined were fighting in a soap-opera-esque love triangle - flew erratically over our heads, quacking all the while.

When the waterfowl eventually disappeared, Remy gave me a look like he knew exactly what I was thinking:

"Ducks...yum!"

I urged the pooch along to finish the run, but those delectable butterballs of the sky got me sidetracked and thinking about dinner. I knew I had a pack or two left in the freezer, which my wife and I salvaged for grilling weather.

But I wasn't thinking about grilling at the moment. For some reason, I was picturing a rich, earthy cream sauce. Something started by caramelizing shallots and sliced baby portabellas before deglazing the pan with a dry white wine.

The wheels of creation were turning and my novice culinary brain was at the driver's seat. What sparked from a recipe for ducks, however, actually began with ruffed grouse breasts. It worked out so well that I tweaked it for waterfowl and the result was, if I do say so myself, decadent.

Now, before anyone decides to criticize my concept, I'll come straight out and say it: this isn't a new idea. Although I didn't use any physical recipe when making these homemade creations, they're based on techniques from other recipes. In fact, the whole shebang is basic cooking, and all I've done is expand on it.

That said, these open themselves up for broad utilization and experimentation. A cream sauce, in and of itself, is a multi-purpose flavor transporter. Be it fish, fowl or four-legged beast, a cream-based sauce will amply cover the spread.

For proof, look no further than the following renditions. The first is the original that I made for ruffed grouse. My idea was to make something that would both keep the breasts moist, without covering that oh-so delicious natural grouse flavor.

The second recipe is the other end of the spectrum. While it still is meant to retain moisture, the flavors are much more pronounced, and work well to both compliment the naturally-rich duck flavor and mask any pertained gaminess.

Tyler's creamed grouse breasts with mushrooms

1 package sliced baby portabellas

1 shallot, chopped (or an onion if it's more convenient)

1 garlic clove, minced

¼ cup white wine (don't be fussy, just use what you have)

½ pint whipping cream

1T butter.

Vegetable oil

1T flour

½ - 1 cup chicken broth

2 ruffed grouse breasts (or pheasant or chicken)

Dash of dried rosemary, ground

Dash of dried thyme, ground

Salt and pepper to taste

Drizzle a tablespoon or so of oil in a high-walled frying pan and heat over medium. In the meantime, slightly pound grouse breasts with a meat mallet so they are of even thickness, then season with salt and pepper. Quickly brown grouse 1-2 minutes per side and remove from pan. At this point, they should be medium rare at most. Drizzle more oil as needed, and sauté shallot, mushrooms and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Once everything has given up its liquid, add flour and stir to make a thick base. Decrease heat to simmer and deglaze pan with the wine. Add butter, rosemary and thyme. Stirring frequently, wait for liquid to reduce and thicken. Add cream and stir over low heat. Be careful that heat is low, as too high of heat will curdle cream. Place grouse back into pan and briefly simmer for a few minutes. Serve over a bed of brown rice.

Tyler's creamed fruit duck breasts with mushrooms

1 package sliced baby portabellas

1 shallot, chopped (or an onion if it's more convenient)

1 garlic clove, minced

¼ cup white wine (don't be fussy, just use what you have)

½ pint whipping cream

1T butter.

Vegetable oil

1T flour

½ - 1 cup chicken broth

2-4 ducks breasts

Dash of dried rosemary, ground

Dash of dried thyme, ground

Salt and pepper to taste

8 oz. can crushed pineapple, un-drained

1/3 cup orange juice

Follow the steps as the first recipe, but add the juice and pineapple at the same time as the chicken broth. As an added touch, consider soy sauce for a bit more flavor in this Asian-inspired dish.

Tyler Shoberg is Sports Editor of the West Fargo Pioneer, but also is an avid outdoorsman. He can be reached at 701-451-5717, or tshoberg@westfargopioneer.com.

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