Growing up in Valemount BC, surrounded by vast wilderness and unexplored terrain, it was not uncommon to see grouse and other small game during my outings.
Sometimes they’re unavoidable, and seem to end up under the wheel of your motorbike, no matter how hard you try to avoid them!
Moving to the Yukon, I had similar encounters while out mushrooming and foraging.
From September 1 to November 30 is hunting season for small game birds in the Yukon. There are four types of small game birds in the Yukon: spruce, blue and sharp-tail grouse, and ptarmigan. All are excellent for eating, including the legs and organs.
Too many times I see carcasses of game birds with the hunter only removing the breast meat, leaving the rest wasted. For me, the organs and legs are the best part!
This recipe is a great way to use the whole bird. The name is taken from the recipe “murgh makhanis” or “butter chicken” which I originally adapted to cook a spruce grouse from Dezedeash Lake, in the Kluane region.
The legs come out so tender and delicious that you will wonder why anyone would ever leave them out in the bush to rot.
Kluane Butter Grouse
Don’t be thrown off by the long list of ingredients. Once the grouse is marinating, you can make the sauce the same day, leaving the cooking and finishing a breeze.
This can also be used successfully with snowshoe hare, ground squirrel, chicken, pork shoulder, or lamb.
4 grouse, jointed, including gizzards (sliced) and hearts (halved). Approx 2kg of meat serves 6. Pan fry the livers and top with chutney on toast for a nice starter.
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp thick yoghurt
Juice of 1 lime
3 tbsp garam masala
2 tsp chili powder
2 tbsp whole coriander
1/2 tsp saffron soaked in 3 tbsp warm milk
2 tbsp fenugreek
1 heaped tbsp grated fresh ginger
4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tbsp sunflower oil
2-4 green chilies, finely chopped; more if you like it hot!
(this can be done a day ahead)
1 780g can non salted, chopped tomatoes
1tbsp fresh ginger, grated
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1-3 small green chilies, depending on heat, finely chopped
1 tsp salt
120ml crushed tomatoes
2 tsp ground cumin
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp fireweed honey
170ml 35% cream
1 tbsp ground fenugreek
1 tbsp lime juice
freshly ground black pepper to taste
Coriander leaves, to garnish (optional)
Toast the whole spices and pound in a mortar and pestle to make powder. In a large bowl, mix together the marinade ingredients.
Add the grouse joints, gizzards and hearts, turn over with your hands to ensure they’re well coated, and leave to marinate overnight in the fridge.
Put all the ingredients for the sauce in a large pan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for 30 minutes. Put through a food mill and cool. Or you can leave it chunky, but you must fish out the cloves.
Heat the oven to 450F. Transfer the legs and thighs, gizzards and hearts into a roasting pan, along with some of the marinade, cover with a piece of buttered foil and roast for 20 minutes.
Add the breasts, give everything a good stir, and cook uncovered for 15-20 minutes or until breasts are just cooked and leg meat is pulling away from the bone.
Finishing the dish
While the grouse is roasting, complete the sauce. Melt the butter in a large pan, add the ground cumin and fenugreek, sizzle gently for a minute.
Add the tomato sauce, bring back to a simmer and cook for five minutes. Add the tomato purée, honey, cream, lime juice and black pepper, and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for five minutes, until the sauce is thick, rich and creamy.
Finally, add the roasted grouse, mix well and simmer gently for five minutes. Serve with basmati rice and scatter with coriander leaves, if using.