Monday, June 8, 2009

Hungry For Huns

The Zip-Loc block of ice labeled "4 HUNS 09/08" that was laying in the sink had finally melted, revealing four skinned, whole birds, slightly larger than bobwhite quail.
In nearly two weeks of traipsing through the entire eastern half of Montana, this was the extent of our Hungarian partridge bounty. Jon and I went to Montana last fall, looking for new experiences and challenges. And Big Sky Country delivered on all fronts. We shot as many sharptails as we cared to, and found the sage grouse hunting to be embarrassingly easy (beginners luck?). But for the most part, the Hungarian partridge eluded us. So this quartet of birds was literally worth its weight in gold, thanks to more than 2,000 miles driven in a 13-miles-to-the-gallon pickup and four-dollar gas. Mrs. Scampwalker hadn't yet blessed a return trip this fall, so there was no telling how long it'd be before I got the chance to hunt them (or eat them) again. This meal would be a special one.
The preparation, however, was a simple and classic one: wrapped in bacon, with pickled jalapeno rounds stuffed into the breast. They were sprinkled lightly with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and hot Hungarian paprika (a fitting touch, I thought), sourced from my parents, who had recently completed a tour through eastern Europe. The key is to grill the birds over hot, but indirect, heat. Doneness is as much calculated luck as skill. When pinched, the breasts should feel firm, while still yielding slightly. (Did I just write that?)
As an accompaniment, we prepared farfalle with homemade basil pesto, wilted leaf lettuce salad with bacon and hard-boiled farm-fresh egg, and a fresh-baked French baguette. This was truly a meal of God's bounty -- grown and harvested naturally, prepared and eaten with respect.
And eaten it was. My son quickly abandoned the knife and fork and tore into the bird with his teeth. My daughter commented that the bird tasted like the soil and grass where it lived. To non-hunters, that seems absurd, but those who kill and eat their quarry will no doubt understand.
It was truly one of the most enjoyable and exquisite gamebirds I've ever eaten, and I quietly savored every atom of sweat, ache, effort, and pride that went into hunting this lone Hun. I was satisfied. I wanted more. My wife did too. And now, I'm planning a return trip to Montana this fall.

1 comment:

  1. Just drooled all over my key board....I agree w/your daughter, Prtridge do taste like the soil and grass of thier home...mmmmmm. I think I'll have some for dinner!