Tasty & Tender Upland Birds

A recipe by By Eileen Clarke

Upland birds come in many varieties, some larger like blue grouse, some smaller like quail and Hungarian partridge. This recipe for pale birds is one that fits both large and small upland birds. It relies on long, moist cooking – so legs and breasts are both done at the same time. It’s also flexible enough to use on birds you’ve taken the time to pluck whole, as well as birds that are skinned and parted out.  Using oven cooking bags makes cleanup easy. Or you could just build a foil packet for the dish and not have to look for anything special at the store. (If using an 8×8 baking pan, cut a piece of foil twice that length and fold into a packet.)

A Note From the Chef: As for the salsa, I used to use fresh salsa, but it would curdle the sour cream a bit. As long as we weren’t serving it for company, I preferred the fresh taste, but bottled Pace Picante Sauce doesn’t curdle the sour cream.  I use the mild version, and it gives this dish a nice tang.


1 large foil oven bag or length of aluminum foil

1 cup sour cream

1 cup Pace™ Picante Sauce, medium heat

1 cup shredded Mexican style four cheese blend

1 teaspoon Better than Bouillon™ (roasted chicken base)

1 pheasant, whole or parted out

Chopped fresh cilantro



  1. Preheat the oven to 300˚F. Prepare the foil packet or oven bag (per package directions) in a baking pan at least 1 inch deep but not much larger than the birds will be in a single layer. (That helps keep the cooking sauce on top of the birds, rather than spread out beyond them.)
  2. Combine the salsa, sour cream, shredded cheese and chicken base in a small bowl (first mashing the chicken base well into a bit of the sour cream), then pour 1/3 of the mixture into the oven bag. Set the bird(s) on the sauce in a single layer, pour the rest of the salsa/sour cream over them. Seal the foil packet tightly, or close the oven bag as per package directions.
  3. Place in the center of the oven, and bake for 90 minutes. Transfer the birds from the bag to a serving bowl, and pour the cooking sauce over all. Serve over rice or pasta with a sprinkling of chopped cilantro on top.

When using oven bags, using a baking pan just big enough to set the birds in a single layer is one way to keep the sauce on the birds. And you don’t need to use a ‘roasting’ pan for this. Just a pan slightly larger than the birds. So how many do you have? A whole pheasant, laid on its side, will easily fit in an 8×8” pan; 3 whole Hungarians would fit in a loaf pan. Did you part out a pair of pheasants? The 8×8” pan works. You can even mix species, as long as they’re all pale-meated birds.


About the Chef: Eileen Clarke has just published Stalking the Wild Jerky. It has over 100 recipes for big game, waterfowl, upland birds, bear and pigs—everything from spicy pepper sticks, to bologna and stroganoff jerky.  (There’s even a bacon piggy jerky.)  For more game bird recipes, check out Eileen’s Upland Game Bird Cookery, $20 (includes media rate shipping in the US) and Tenderize the Wild at ww.riflesandrecipes.com 406-521-0273.


Categories: Featured, Game Birds & Waterfowl

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