Ruffed grouse are hard to beat on the table. This highly coveted game bird ranges across most of North America. It has a strong following of hunters, conservationists and wild game cooks. Their cyclical populations often mean feast or famine when trying to harvest a few birds for the year. However, those dedicated to thundering wing beats never give up hope.
Early settlers and trappers considered the ruffed grouse to be a medicine bird. The ruffed grouse, foraging on herbs, berries, and tree buds, was seen as a natural collection of herbal remedies. A pot of soup or stew was a historical therapy for a cold or someone feeling under the weather.
Ruffed grouse are known for their succulent white meat. The bird is mild in flavor, and even fussy game eaters often embrace the bush partridge. No matter how you look at the ruffed grouse, the benefit is its diversity and adaptability for cooking.
This recipe is a spin on grouse cordon bleu. The ham is replaced with bacon and moved from the middle of a folded breast to the outside. Use the thinnest bacon you can find, as it is used to hold everything together without overpowering it with flavor. The fat in the bacon does help keep the grouse moist. Simplicity and flavor are the best parts of this recipe.
• 6 boneless grouse breast, tenders attached
• 6 Tbsp basil pesto
• 3 slices swiss cheese, halved
• 12 slices thin-cut bacon
1. Lay each breast facedown on a cutting board and fold the tender to one side. Pat dry with a paper towel.
2. Spread 1 tablespoon of pesto on each grouse breast. Place half a slice of swiss cheese on each breast and fold the tender over the top.
3. Wrap each grouse breast with bacon. Stretch the bacon when wrapping to hold the ingredients tightly together. Use two pieces of bacon if the breast is not wrapped entirely.
4. Place the grouse rolls on a Camp Chef pellet smoker set to Hi Smoke. Smoke for a half hour or until the bacon starts to render. Turn the heat to 300°F and cook until the breast has an internal temperature of 160°F, which takes about 15 minutes.
5. Remove the grouse rolls from the smoker and let rest for five minutes. Serve hot.
*Note: The grouse can also be done in the oven or on a barbecue over medium heat. The trick is not to cook too fast.
For more delicious wild-game recipes, click here.