I belong to a local food coop that orders quarterly, so on Saturday morning we were able to replenish our supply of frozen organic chicken. We considered having a final-firepit-of-the-year cookout, but Sunday was rainy, so I reconfigured my dinner plans. In the meantime, it was not too rainy to haul firewood, which is what Tom spent his day doing . . . driving his truck back and forth to his various small woodyards around the property, loading it with logs, and then bringing them back to the woodshed to stack for splitting.
At one point in the afternoon, he noticed a dead ruffed grouse where there had been no grouse before. Apparently it had been hit by car in the 15 minutes between one load of logs and the next. So when I walked out of the house to help him stack, he was waving a dead bird at me.
Tom and I don't hunt, so the only time we ever have wild meat is when we hit a bird with a car or someone gives us venison. A ruffed grouse is small, and this one had been hit from behind, meaning that only the breast was intact. So it was a good thing I'd already planned a chicken dinner; the grouse would be a small added treat.
Tom hung the bird in the woodshed for a couple of hours and then, when he was done with firewood, brought it in and reduced it to one small whole skinless breast. I made a marinade of salt, black pepper, lemon juice, and garlic chunks, and poured it over the chicken thighs and the grouse breast. I let the fowl pieces sit in the marinade for a couple of hours, turning them often and trying to work the juice into the grouse breast as best I could. Grouse is much drier than chicken, and I had no bacon to wrap it in for cooking, so I was trying to tenderize it thoroughly.
After wiping the pieces dry, I browned them in grapeseed oil. Then I poured out the oil and dropped a chunk of butter into the pan, along with some chopped garlic and chopped fresh sage--both from my garden. When they were soft, I returned the fowl pieces to the pan and let them cook for about 45 minutes at low heat, covered, turning them often. When they were tender and ready to serve, I topped them with minced green onions--also from the garden
Alongside the chicken I made stuck-pot rice, a Mark Bittman recipe involving yogurt, lime juice, home-ground curry powder, and basmati rice, which ends up as a lovely yellow pilaf with a crunchy layer on the bottom. I also peeled and grated raw beets and carrots, added rice vinegar and salt and pepper, and served the mixture as a salad.
For the vegetarian family member, I made a three-egg omelet with parmesan and green onions.
It was interesting to eat the wild meat alongside the domestic meat. The chicken thighs, being dark meat anyway, were much moister and more buttery than the grouse breast was. But the grouse was nonetheless tender, with a lovely fresh flavor that is difficult to describe--not gamey, but certainly far more complicated and interesting than the chicken was. It tasted like a bird that had done something with its life.