Game for a Gourmet Fall | To-Table

 If your cooking has been accused of having "no game" (ie: no character) perhaps actually adding game to your ingredients will easily enhance your culinary rankings. Add to those ingredients the fabulous fall flavors from fresh figs, winter squash, late season vegetables, wild mushrooms and other fall classics and you become a real star.

Here are recipes for Quail, Rabbit, Pheasant, Duck and Wild Boar to put on your list of menus to consider. Happy Fall!


Roast Quail with Fig Sauce

Quail and marinade:
  • 2 fresh limes
  • 8 whole quail (these are larger than most quail)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
Fig and Date Sauce:
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 8 fresh figs, chopped
  • 8 dates, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Rub for quail:
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary leaves
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  1. Early in the day, place the limes in s small bowl and microwave them for about 3 minutes to release the essential oils. Set aside briefly until they are just cool enough to handle. Rinse the quail and dry with paper towels. Set the quail in a non-reactive bowl and squeeze the lime juice over, and then season generously with freshly ground black pepper. Let sit refrigerated for about 3 or 4 hours.
  2. While the quail are marinating, make the sauce. Heat the olive oil over medium high heat in a medium saute pan and saute the shallots until translucent. Deglaze the pan with the red wine, and stir in figs and dates and let sauce reduce by half. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper as needed.
  3. With proper equipment, the quail can be roasted over a spit. If you have a rotisserie arrangement you can roast them that way. Otherwise, preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Combine olive oil with rosemary, thyme, and salt, and rub over surface of the quail. Roast until tender but still juicy, about 20 minutes. Remove and let rest. Serve with fig and date sauce.

WIld Boar Shoulder Braised with Ancho Chili

  • 2(4 to 5 lb) skinless bone-in Wild Boar shoulder
  • 1 ¾tsp salt, divided
  • ancho chiles, seeds and stems discarded
  • cups boiling water
  • onion, chopped
  • garlic cloves, chopped
  • Tbsp brown sugar
  • about 2 Tbsp canned chipotles in adobo
  • Tbsp tomato paste
  • whole cloves
  • Tbsp olive oil or vegetable oil
  • Tbsp unsweetened cocoa
  • cinnamon stick
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Sprinkle meat with ¾ tsp salt and let stand at room temperature while making purée.

  2. Soak anchos in boiling water to soften, about 15 minutes. Transfer chiles to a blender with a slotted spoon with ½ cup chili soaking liquid (reserving the remainder). Blend with onion, garlic, brown sugar, chipotles, tomato paste, cloves, and remaining tsp salt. Purée until very smooth.

  3. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add purée and cook, stirring, until it turns a rich brick color, about 8 minutes. Stir in remaining soaking liquid and cocoa. Add boar and cinnamon and bring to a simmer. Cover and braise in oven, basting occasionally, until very tender, 3½ to 4½ hours.
  4. Skim fat from sauce. If sauce is thin, transfer meat to a bowl and loosely cover. Simmer sauce until thickened. Ease meat from bones with a fork and pour sauce over.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Delicata Squash

  • 1 1/2 pounds brussels sprouts, trimmed, quartered
  • 1 large red onion, halved, cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges
  • 1 delicata squash, halved lengthwise, seeded, sliced into 1/4-inch half moons
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • Flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Toss brussels sprouts, onion, squash, 2 Tbsp. oil, and half of spiced salt on a rimmed baking sheet. Transfer to center rack in oven and roast 10 minutes. Toss and continue to roast until vegetables are browned and cooked through, 10–15 minutes more

Pheasant Under Glass



  1. Flatten pheasant breasts slightly with a mallet or rolling pin, then rub each with 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice and season with black pepper.
  2. Melt 4 tablespoon of the butter over medium-high heat in a 15-inch skillet. When it foams, sear the pheasant, skin side down, about 5 minutes per side. Remove to a plate, cover and keep warm.
  3. Steep the dried morels in 2 cups hot water for about 5 minutes. Drain and strain, reserving the soaking liquid. Discard stems and slice caps thinly.
  4. Melt the remaining tablespoons of butter in the skillet and saute the shallots for 2 minutes, until golden, then add the morels and chanterelle mushrooms for 2 minutes. Remove to a bowl and keep warm.
  5. Boil the reserved soaking liquid with the brandy and white wine until reduced by 1/2, about 4 minutes, then whisk in the cream and demi-glace and boil about 4 minute, until sauce is thickened and smooth. Whisk in the remaining lemon juice and the cayenne.
  6. Place the pheasant breasts skin side up on hot serving plates and top each with half the mushroom mixture, then the sauce.
  7. For extra, but mandatory, flair, enclose each breast with (ideally) a glass cover. Alert your guests to the olfactory possibilities. Once they are seated and you have their attention, lift the cover and fan the essence toward them, if necessary.

Hasenpfeffer (Rabbit Stew)

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup finely chopped shallots
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon chicken bouillon granules
  • 1 tablespoon currant jelly
  • 10 each black peppercorns, crushed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ¼ teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ⅛ teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
  1. Place bacon in a large, deep skillet. Cook over medium high heat until evenly brown. Drain on paper towels and set aside. Sprinkle rabbit with salt and coat with 1/3 cup flour, shaking off excess. Brown rabbit in remaining bacon fat. Remove from skillet, along with all but 2 tablespoons of the fat, and reserve.
  2. Saute shallots and garlic in skillet for about 4 minutes, until tender. Stir in wine, 1 cup water and bouillon. Heat to boiling, then stir in jelly, peppercorns, bay leaf, and rosemary. Return rabbit and bacon to skillet. Heat to boiling, then reduce heat to low. Cover and let simmer about 1 1/2 hours or until rabbit is tender.
  3. Remove bay leaf and discard. Place rabbit on a warm platter and keep warm while preparing gravy.
  4. To Make Gravy: Stir lemon juice into skillet with cooking liquid. Combine 3 tablespoons water with 2 tablespoons flour and mix together; stir mixture into skillet over low heat. Finally, stir in thyme. Pour gravy over stew and serve, or pour into a gravy boat and serve on the side.


Roast Duck with Potaotes Rosemary and Figs

  • 1 8-pound whole Domestic Ducks 
  • 2 medium onions, quartered
  • 1 bunch large rosemary, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 pounds small Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled
  • 2 pints fresh black Mission or Turkish figs, halved
  1. Preheat oven to 425°. Set ducks, breast side down, on a work surface and score fatty areas along backs and thighs with a paring knife, being careful not to cut into flesh. Turn over and score fat, concentrating mainly on breasts but extending to tops of legs. Poke a few holes around extra-fatty areas of cavity.

  2. Stuff ducks with onions and all but 4 sprigs rosemary; season generously with salt and pepper (much of the seasoning will melt away as the fat renders).

  3. Place ducks, breast side down, in a large roasting pan; pour in ½ cup water. Roast, rotating pan occasionally, until duck fat starts to render, water is evaporated, and skin is golden brown, about 40 minutes. Remove pan from oven and transfer ducks to a platter or baking dish. Carefully pour rendered fat into a heatproof measuring cup.

  4. Toss potatoes and ¼ cup duck fat in roasting pan (save remaining fat for another use); season with salt and pepper. Scoot potatoes to perimeter and return ducks to pan, breast side up. Roast until potatoes and dark meat are tender and an instant-read thermometer inserted into breasts registers 155°, 50–60 minutes. Transfer ducks to a cutting board; let rest at least 10 minutes before carving.

  5. Meanwhile, add figs and remaining 4 rosemary sprigs to pan; toss well. Roast until figs are soft and juicy, 5–8 minutes. Serve duck with figs and potatoes.


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