By: Stacey Viera
For more photos from the demo, visit http://staceyviera.zenfolio.com/wildgamewithrobertwiedmaier
Chef Robert Wiedmaier’s class at The Butcher’s Block, his shop in Old Town Alexandria, on October 13 was for the birds. Actually, to be honest, it was for the humans who enjoy eating birds.
That Wednesday evening, Wiedmaier’s team set up a demo table, passed out complimentary glasses of wine and instructed about 20 of us Washingtonians about how to prepare game birds. Not quite the avid hunter myself (being a city girl and all), I enjoyed listening to some of the local wild game hunters explain how they go after their favorite fowl.
The chef brought in Scottish game birds, such as wood pigeon and grouse. There were also squab, guinea fowl and others.
“One of the biggest problems with cooking wild game,” Wiedmaier noted at the beginning of the tutorial, “is over-cooking it.” He explained that the birds dry out quickly, and often “the best way to cook any bird is to cook it whole” to retain moisture.
If you do go out to shoot game, you already know that you must find and remove the shot from the bird or risk a broken tooth. Keep this in mind if you’re ever adventurous and purchase a wild bird at a farm market or specialty shop. At BRABO, Wiedmaier’s restaurant next door, you can find the Hunter’s Platter from time to time, a dinner that features a variety of game, should you wish to have the pros prepare the delicate birds for you.
A few of Wiedmaier’s tips for deconstructing, seasoning and cooking a bird:
- Find and remove the shot.
- The bird should smell “sturdy” and “pungent” – in a good way.
- Use a sharp knife and keep it to the bone – safety first!
- Out of “respect to the animal, use the whole animal” and retain the carcass to make sauce or stock.
- “Any bird has the same bone structure,” so once you’ve learned how to prepare one type of fowl, others can be prepared in a similar manner.
- Slow cook the bird and use plenty of butter to retain moisture. A wonderful way to season is to insert herbs, butter, garlic, etc. under the skin while cooking.
He also included an “offally” gross description of how to use the gizzards, heart and other innards. The “foodies” in the crowd were intrigued, but I’m more the simple “eater,” not one who is likely to embark on a gastro-adventure. Oh, and he showed us the duck testicles, too. That’s enough of that. Moving on…
While most of us will never make a guinea fowl, squab, pheasant or other game birds at home, Wiedmaier’s demo made me think of a holiday challenge for Every Food Fits readers. Instead of a holiday turkey, how about preparing a holiday duck instead?
The Moulard is a big duck, weighing at least 10 pounds, and yields a good amount of meat for a family. Wiedmaier suggested breaking the duck into pieces, removing the legs and breast meat from the bone, just as with other birds. Slice off much of the fat on the bird and set it aside to render and make duck confit or use the fat to make French fries. Marinate or season the pieces of the bird, lay them in the pan skin side down to get the skin crisp as it cooks. Wiedmaier has a “75/25 rule” to keep the bird skin-down for 75 percent of the cooking time, and flip it skin side up for the final 25 percent of the time.
That’s not exactly a recipe for those of us who are inexperienced in the art of cooking duck, so I found step-by-step instructions from one of my favorite cooks, Alton Brown, for his “Mighty Duck.”
Attached to Kimpton Hotel’s Lorien Hotel & Spa and adjacent to Wiedmaier’s BRABO and more casual BRABO Tasting Room, The Butcher’s Block is part butcher shop, part sandwich shop, part wine cellar and a treasure trove of unique seasonings and spices for the sophisticated home cook.
Introduce yourself to store manager Pamela Doherty when you visit. She’s not just knowledgeable about every product in the store, she’s also friendly and able to help with whatever you need. Want to be adventurous and get a big duck for the holidays? Need a recipe to go with it? Just ask! They’re taking orders for Thanksgiving and Christmas and can guide you in the preparation of the fancy fowl.
My recommendation: Make an afternoon of it and stop in next door at the Tasting Room for Wiedmaier’s mussels with chorizo. That dish left me saying, “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing!”
The Butcher’s Block is located at 1600 King Street in Alexandria, Virginia. Follow BRABO on Facebook for news about future classes and exclusive dinners. For more photos from the demo, visit http://staceyviera.zenfolio.com/wildgamewithrobertwiedmaier