By Clair Kofoed
Pheasant, Quail, Cottontail is a handsome new cooking title from foodie/forager Hank Shaw and his partner/photographer, Holly Heyser. Shaw’s previous books, Hunt, Gather, Cook; Buck, Buck, Moose and Duck, Duck, Goose dealt with fish, foraging, venison and waterfowl. This volume addresses upland birds and small game. New to hunting at age 32, the 48-year-old Shaw embraces taking and eating game with the zeal of a convert. And in PQC, really more of a “cookbook” than a “game cookbook,” he strives to teach us to eat well and wild too.
Shaw cut his chops in the gas-flamed trenches of commercial cookery, including a stint at an Ethiopian restaurant. That experience and his access to world cookbooks, television programs, family favorite recipes and even roadside taquerias inspire the current volume. Dishes such as Vietnamese Crispy Quail, Pigeon Jägerschnitzel, Ptarmigan Gravlax, Grouse Doro Wat and Pheasant Burgers illustrate some of the cultures visited. The recipes span simple to complex, domestic to world, and all show an attention to detail and ingredients not commonly seen. For those unable to access caul fat or achiote paste, alternatives are offered. But why not try cake flour for pheasant dumplings? The lower protein content will make them “fluffier.”
If there were one word that might best describe this book, “flavorful” comes to mind. I, for one, love discovering new flavors, and I enjoyed trying Ethiopian Spiced Butter. I also made the simple yet savory Doves a la Mancha, which employs smoked Spanish paprika, sage leaves and bacon fat to elevate our most common gamebird much higher.
In writing a catchall, all-inclusive book, Shaw can be forgiven for missing the mark a few times. In my opinion, sage grouse and ptarmigan could have been treated better. I also would have liked to see addressed the flavor-influencing items that wild birds eat. That said, there are very good sections on marinades, broth and stock making, butchering, freezing, hanging/aging, and game diseases (backed up with factual data and references). These alone are worth the $35 price, a portion of which Shaw donates to wildlife conservation.
Shaw often can be found cooking game and signing books around the country. He also has a popular, award-winning blog, “Hunter • Angler • Gardener • Cook,” where recipes and tips are offered free to subscribers.