In Italian, cacciatore means the hunter, so this is truly the hunter’s dish. Make it with your favorite pale-meated birds: pheasant, Hungarians, chukar partridge, and blue and ruffed grouse. But don’t forget the lemon zest and parsley at the end. It’s the powder in this cacciatore’s charge.
As for the wine, many white wines are aged in oak casks. And despite finding birds among oak trees sometimes, I’ve never thought they should be marinated in the bark.
So read the labels, and if you can’t find a pinot grigio/gris (which usually isn’t aged in oak), the alternative is an inexpensive bottle of bubbly, preferably “brut.” (Brut in French just means it’s dryer than sec, which means dry in French. For the sake of this recipe, a very dry white bubbly.) FYI, pinot gris is a French designation, while grigio is Italian – pretty much the same grape. Neither is traditionally oaked, though there may be rare exceptions.
2 slices bacon
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried leaf sage
½ teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ cup dry white wine, like pinot grigio/gris
14-ounce can peeled, whole tomatoes
8 ounces chopped breast meat (about 1 1⁄3 cups)
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons freshly minced parsley
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2-3 cups cooked pasta Parmesan cheese, grated
From Eileen Clarke’s Upland Game Bird Cookery, available at www.riflesandrecipes.com or (406) 521-0273, with her husband, John Barsness’, handloading and hunting books.
Makes two servings but can be multiplied as many times as you have birds and wine.
1. In a large skillet over medium heat, lightly brown the bacon. Add the onion garlic, sage, rosemary, and black pepper, adding the oil if needed, and continue cooking until the onions begin to soften and brown, about 3 to 4 minutes.
2. Raise the heat to medium-high and add the white wine to the skillet. Continue cooking the wine until the pan is almost dry, about 3 to 5 minutes.
3. Reduce the heat to medium and add the tomatoes and chopped meat. Stir to coat the meat. Once the sauce comes to a low simmer, reduce the heat to low and cover the pan with the lid tipped slightly open on one side to allow steam to escape. Simmer 10 to 15 minutes allowing the meat and tomatoes to swap flavors with the bacon and spices.
4. Just before serving, taste the sauce and add salt if desired. Then add the parsley and lemon zest. Serve over pasta with a dose of grated Parmesan cheese.
How to zest a lemon: It helps to have a zester, an inexpensive little gadget that scrapes off just the yellow of the lemon rind and none of the white (or pith). The yellow part is a super-duper flavor enhancer – which is why it’s called zest – while the white is flavorless except for being bitter. If you don’t have a zester, use a grater on its finest side. Whatever you use, don’t go over a de-zested area twice. You’ll get mostly pith.
How to reduce wine:
Reducing wine concentrates its flavor, and it’s easy to do. In this recipe we reduce the wine until it’s almost gone, judged by running a spatula across the pan’s surface. If the bare spot in the pan isn’t backfilled within a few seconds, it’s reduced enough.
Some recipes ask you to reduce by half. Once you’ve done it a few times, you can eyeball it, but if you’re new to “reducing,” keep the measuring cup you used to pour the wine into the pan to carefully ladle the liquid back in and measure it as a gauge of how much it has reduced.
One more thing about adding an alcohol beverage to a hot pan: It’s more dangerous with higher-percentage alcohol liquids than it is with wine, such as a sherry or a Madeira, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry. What could happen? The alcohol could ignite and the flame could ride back up the stream, into the bottle, and cause an explosion. The safest way to do this is to always pour it into a measuring cup first, then add it to the pan.
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