"Bayou Bill" Scifres
Dedicated to the conservation and enjoyment of Indiana's natural resources
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Residuals of Wild Game Cookery
Copyright © 2003 by Bill Scifres

With upland game seasons freshly opened, deer (gun) and duck seasons knocking on the door, and myriad other hunting opportunities available now or coming soon, it is time to think about the residuals of wild game cookery.

Yes! Yes! Yes! A venison roast surrounded by veggies, a heaping platter of fried rabbit and trimmin's, or a beautifully roasted duck or goose bring smiles to the faces of many hungry outdoorsmen. And why wouldn't they? Cooking and consuming the things we bag is the culmination of the hunt--it gives the hunt an undeniable purpose.

That's just fine . . . but . . . when we skin (dress . . . or undress) the birds and animals we bag, we let a lot of really good and tasty food go to the garbage can with the offals.

That is what this column is about--livers, hearts, gizzards and kidneys.

Everything I hunt--and have hunted for nigh on to three-quarters of a century--has at least three of those organs (for dabbling ducks and game birds you can add the gizzard). And while many folks who enjoy the "meat" of these birds and animals, many others turn up their noses in unison at the thought of eating gizzards, hearts, kidneys and livers.

When I bag a deer I save the heart, liver and kidneys, the latter being used FMTO (for my tummy only). I am sneaky with kidneys--even the kidneys of smaller animals--because some folks do not even want to think about eating this most-questionable organ. Kidneys are tasty, perhaps more tasty than any of the "real meat" of most mammals.

When I was a kid in Southern Indiana, wild rabbit (winter), and squirrel (summer) were important meats for many families. At suppertime, the most sought piece of fried rabbit or squirrel on the platter was the back piece that included the two kidneys surrounded by massive globs of fat. 

Rabbits and squirrels were cut into six pieces (not counting the head of squirrels). There were two front legs, two back legs (also choice), and two back pieces. The front back pieces included rib cage, but it also offered some good tenderloin meat. The rear back piece included good side meat and large rolls of tenderloin, in addition to the kidneys.

Larger small game--raccoon, opossum groundhog, etc.--were treated in the same manner or baked whole (body cavities stuffed with dressing or veggies).

Because the internal organs of game birds and animals (including ducks) are not large, I save them (frozen) in airtight sandwich bags until I have enough hearts, gizzards and livers to make a heart-gizzard-liver a la king type dish--served over hot biscuits or beds of rice.

Smaller birds like doves and quail have very small hearts and gizzards, but are big contributors when saved with the organs of other birds and animals.

Deer hearts should be sliced to remove blood from the various chambers soon after the deer is killed. But it, like the liver, can be sliced and sautéed in olive oil, or dredged in flour and fried just as beef or pork liver is prepared.

We should note here that the livers of animals and birds often have a small, usually greenish spot of gall that should be removed. It also is good to remove any membrane that is used to hold the liver together.

For sautéing or frying one-fourth-inch-thick slices of liver and heart, I start by frying three or four strips of bacon (chopped), slices of sweet onion, and some fresh, dried or frozen mushrooms, wild or cultivated. When the onion starts to brown it is removed with the bacon and mushrooms.

After frying or sautéing the strips of liver and heart, I make a pan of brown gravy, stir in the bacon-onion-mushroom mixture and serve this upgraded gravy over the heart and liver strips.

All of these residuals of game birds and animals can also be turned into mouth-watering goodness by my simple method of "skillequing," which is simply barbequing in a skillet on top of the stove. 

I start this process by slicing onion and mushrooms into an iron skillet with chopped bacon, a few tablespoons of olive oil or both. When this is cooking, I add an ounce or two of water, an equal part of red wine, several tablespoons of brown sugar, and enough good barbeque sauce to give the liquid a good tangy taste. When the onion is showing some sign of tenderness (don't let it burn), stir in the pieces of meat (parboiled in advance or raw). If parboiled in advance, this stock can be substituted for water. Meat or pieces of heart/liver/gizzard should be allowed to cook longer if they are not parboiled or otherwise pre-cooked.

Heat is turned down to a slow bubble when most of the water and wine has turned to a thick gravy, and the skillet is covered to steep until chow time.

Pre-baked goose breast (Canada honker) skilleques in my old iron skillet.

All columns, essays, and photos are copyrighted by Bill Scifres and may not be reproduced in any form without prior permission from the author.  For reproduction permission and media usage fees, contact: Bill Scifres, 6420 East 116th Street, Fishers, IN 46038, E-mail: billscifres@aol.com

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