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Chukar Piccata

Chukar Piccata on the table Everyone's had Chicken Piccata at some point, and that familiar approach to boned domestic poultry meat can treat mild game birds very well indeed. Though this recipe is built for two birds, and for the two people eating them, it scales up well for a larger table. The amount of garlic, shallot, capers and lemon juice are always a matter of taste, and we're listing them according to our own.

  • Chukar partridge - boned and dredged in flour, salt, and pepper to season. Usually one bird per person is enough for a meal. Depending on the time of year and circumstances under which they were harvested, chukar can range from being slender and tough to big and plump. It may help to review our illustrated tip page on How To Bone A Game Bird.
  • 1 minced shallot clove
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons of capers
  • 1/2 of a lemon - ideally, fresh
  • 1/2 cup of chicken broth
  • Dry white wine. It's been suggested that you shouldn't want to cook with any wine you wouldn't also pour yourself a glass to drink. We tend to agree. For this recipe, we like a nice, crisp sauvignon blanc - both in the pan, and in a glass on the kitchen counter while doing all of this hard work (and a tip of our blaze orange chef's hats to the immortal Julia Child).

Chukar partridges have a very mild flavor (especially young and pen- or farm-raised birds), so with that in mind we started with a classic, mild recipe and added a couple of flavorful ingredients. We removed the meat from the bones of 2 birds, and - since these were field-shot birds - carefully cleaned out any birdshot, bone chards, and feathers. Do your boning under a nice bright light so you can see all of the possible offenders - your dinner guests will thank you.

Chukar Piccata in the pan Dredge the pieces in flour seasoned with salt and pepper. In a hot pan of olive oil and a tablespoon of butter, brown each piece quickly. The meat should still be pink in the middle when removed from the heat so that it won't over-cook during the remaining steps (we always emphasize that important detail when it comes to cooking game birds – fast overcooking will make the meat dry and tough, and that may ruin your guests' ideas about game birds forever... remember, even in the kitchen, you're on a diplomatic mission to maintain bird hunting's positive place in our suburbanizing culture).

Move the pan from the hot burner (so the oil and butter won't burn) and remove the browned chukar pieces to a plate and set them aside to keep warm in the oven (use a very low heat and cover the plate with foil to keep the meat just slightly warmer than room temperature).

Place the same pan back on the burner and saute one medium clove of minced shallot until it just begins to turn brown, and then add a small clove of minced garlic. Cook the garlic for just a minute or so, and don't let it get too brown - it burns easily.

Once the shallot and garlic are done, and while the browning pan is still quite hot, deglaze it with a quarter cup of the dry white wine. If no one is looking, you can use a little more.

Squeeze the juice from half of a fresh lemon into the pan, and add half a cup of chicken broth. Allow that to reduce a bit, then return the browned chukar pieces to the pan. Add 2-3 tablespoons of capers (or more if you like them as much as we do) and keep the heat on just until the sauce begins to thicken – that will happen quickly, so watch carefully and remember not to over-cook the meat.

For more color, you can add a bit of minced parsley and serve the dish alongside wild rice. Garnish the plate with lemon slices and a sprig of parsley. An accompanying bit of fruit and cheese, and field-green salad will complete the meal. Serve the remaining Sauvignon Blanc (or, if you're in a red mood, try a light-duty Pinot Noir) and enjoy the spring evening!

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