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Yes it is that time of the year!
The ptarmigan have blanketed our area heralding the coming of spring. Much more reliable than any ground hog. They usually show up right before the willow start to bud.
Since I have moved here I have been experimenting and learning about ptarmigan and their many little quirks. I have also been trying new recipes. The first batch of ptarmigan this year went to making a ptarmigan stew, something a little different. I like this much better than roasted ptarmigan or fried ptarmigan.
Be aware that I don’t really measure things so you will have to use a bit of common kitchen sense and adjust to your own tastes and requirements.
3-4 ptarmigan cleaned and cut into bit sized pieces
half an onion
a few strips of really good bacon
a couple of garlic cloves (or about a tablespoon of powdered)
a couple pieces of celery (or a teaspoon of celery seed)
a tomato (or a can of tomatoes)
three or four good sized potatoes
a cup or so of rice
Tablespoon dried rosemary herb finely crushed
one bay leaf (remove before eating)
teaspoon dried dill
teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional, but we like it hot!)
A coupled of cubes of chicken bouillon or replace some water with liquid chicken stock
1. Prep ptarmigan and add to a big pot. I personally like to use cubed breast, the legs, and the heart meat only. which is not traditional Native way but I get lazy. :/ Add water (or chicken stock) to half way up the pot. add salt, bouillon and pepper to taste. turn heat up to med-high.
2. Add finely chopped bacon to a frying pan and fry.
3. chop rest of veggies to bites sized chunks while bacon is frying and add to pot.
4. when bacon is just about done (I like it browned and crispy) add onion and garlic and cook til clear. make sure the bacon mix is cool BEFORE adding to pot, since hot oil and water will bubble and splash something fierce. Add to pot. (ptarmigan is very lean so I use the bacon for a fat source, you can of course omit it)
5. Add rest of the ingredients minus the rice. Once it is boiling….add rice. cook till rice is done.
Notes: I like using a mix of wild rice sometimes but you will have to adjust cooking plans to allow for the wild rice to cook without making everything else mushy. Mushrooms also go very well with this recipe. I have learned that the ptarmigan will taste like what they eat, so I only get them right before the willow really starts budding, when they are eating last years berries and labrador tea. Once the willow start to bud vigorously the birds will taste more like the astringent willow brushes.
Serve with bread and butter or pilot bread!