by Naomi K. Shapiro
Most of us enjoy many different types of wild game. When it comes to "birds," many of us feel that grouse is "numero uno" as far as flavor and taste is concerned. Grouse tastes much akin to pheasant, and does have some similar "chicken flavor," but is not nearly as bland as chicken and has a different texture. Grouse has a very delicate flavor.
Grouse are not usually that big (undressed they'll normally range anywhere from a pound to around three pounds plus or minus), so if you want a meal for four -- a minimum of four is recommended. Frankly, we usually make as many as we can at any one time, because, however many there are, we've never had one leftover from any meal of grouse. They're that good – indeed, they are absolutely wonderful (grouse is not gamey, and, while tasting like chicken, it is not nearly as bland And the nice thing is that when you've successfully hunted grouse and are enjoying a meal with your family or friends, you can smile, thinking of the posh crowd who are paying fifty bucks a pop or more for a much smaller serving than you're enjoying, courtesy of Mother Nature.
After you've shot your grouse, immediate proper preparation is necessary. The simplest way to clean a grouse is to lay it on the ground on its back, open its wings, stand on each wing, grab its legs and pull - -the breast will literally pop right out, as the skin comes right off. What you'll have is the entire body and breast cavity. Cut off the wings and the head, and finish gutting the bird.
When you get the grouse home, rinse and wash it out thoroughly, and it's then ready for cooking. Like always, I don't like to waste a thing. 99% of hunters will only the keep the breast. We try to use as much of the bird as I can.
A simple and delicious way to prepare the grouse quickly is to filet the meat off the breast in strips, dip it in your favorite "wash," bread it, and deep fry it. Incredible. The problem is that you'll probably eat everything up as it comes out of the deep fryer – add a ranch dressing dip for these "grouse nuggets."
A personal favorite preparation is to lightly season the grouse with Lawry's, salt, and pepper, wrap the grouse in bacon, stuff a big slab of butter inside the cavity, and throw it on the grill on a LOW HEAT (remember you're not grilling a big sirloin!). Use a meat thermometer, because it's essential that you neither undercook or overcook the bird. Carefully watching the grouse on the grill is an absolute must. Concentrate while grilling, and enjoy the beer later on. Remove the bird from the grill when the meat thermometer reaches 170 degrees F. We all know that 180 degrees F. is the safe minimum "norm" for cooked poultry ( and that includes grouse), but I've found that if you remove the bird at 170 degrees and let it sit for a while, the inner temp will usually get up to 180 degrees; and by not letting it sit on the grill too long, you'll insure a moist, tender bird.
There's always the tried and true slow cooker method -- just make sure you don't put the slow cooker on too high a temp; "simmering" is the optimum result you want. Cover the grouse with cream of mushroom soup, some favorite seasonings, and just let it cook slowly – the results are beyond adjectives.
Oh yeah -- don't worry -- no one is going to refer you to "Ms. Manners" if you "crunch" on the bones and suck out all the goodness of every part of the bird – and, if they do, just keep on "crunching," and send THEM to KFC. Your gain. Their loss.
Related Links: Grouse Recipes
(Phil Schweik of Hooksetters Guide Services contributed to this article).