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Game - Game Essentials

Λογότυπο DK PublishingDK Publishing 2/7/2014 DKBooks
Photo: Small game birds, such as quail, can be quickly cooked on a barbecue, or under a grill. A glaze adds flavor, but be careful not to mask the delicate flavor of the meat. © Provided by DKBooks Small game birds, such as quail, can be quickly cooked on a barbecue, or under a grill. A glaze adds flavor, but be careful not to mask the delicate flavor of the meat.

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

Place game birds upside down in the liquid to keep the breast meat moist, then turn right-side up and baste with the sauce.

© Provided by DKBooks

Fast-cooked game meat should be browned on the outside, but pink in the middle. Leave larger cuts of meat to rest before slicing to ensure the juices are evenly distributed.

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

Photo: Fast-cooked game meat should be browned on the outside, but pink in the middle. Leave larger cuts of meat to rest before slicing to ensure the juices are evenly distributed. © Provided by DKBooks Fast-cooked game meat should be browned on the outside, but pink in the middle. Leave larger cuts of meat to rest before slicing to ensure the juices are evenly distributed.

Small game birds, such as quail, can be quickly cooked on a barbecue, or under a grill. A glaze adds flavor, but be careful not to mask the delicate flavor of the meat.

Photo: Place game birds upside down in the liquid to keep the breast meat moist, then turn right-side up and baste with the sauce. © Provided by DKBooks Place game birds upside down in the liquid to keep the breast meat moist, then turn right-side up and baste with the sauce.

Photo: Game soaked in a strong marinade can have a dry surface, so brushing it with oil and spices will keep it moist and impart flavor. Take care not to overcook it. © Provided by DKBooks Game soaked in a strong marinade can have a dry surface, so brushing it with oil and spices will keep it moist and impart flavor. Take care not to overcook it.

Game soaked in a strong marinade can have a dry surface, so brushing it with oil and spices will keep it moist and impart flavor. Take care not to overcook it.

Game Essentials

The term “game meat” covers a large number of species, roughly divided into furred game (animals), and feathered game (birds), which are further divided into land birds and waterfowl. Their common feature is that they are wild and hunted for both sport and food. In a global context, therefore, the list of possible species is huge, since nearly every animal has been hunted for food at some stage. So, for the purposes of this guide, the species covered here are those that are most popularly sold across the world. Availability varies between countries, of course; in some, such as the US, it is illegal to sell indigenous wild game, although it is eaten in large quantities. Much game is farmed; some in free-ranging conditions, so they are similar to the young of wild species, others semi-intensively.


Buy

Wild game is best bought in season when it is fresh and in best condition. Game that has no season is generally best in late summer and fall. Farmed game is sold all year round.


Buying and handling game

Although you can buy oven-ready game from supermarkets, a specialist game dealer will be able to give you more advice on your meat.


Game seasons

In most countries, game animals and birds have a “close season”; or a period of the year during which the animal may not be killed or its meat sold. Close seasons are designed to protect animals while they breed and rear their young; however, species that have become pests due to overpopulation have no close seasons. Each country has its own laws regarding killing game, though as a general ruled the spring and summer are the periods during which close seasons often apply.


Shot

When game meats have been shot with guns there is always the possibility of finding fragments of shot or bullets in the meat. (This rarely applies to farmed game.) This is particularly true of small animals, like rabbits and birds, which are dispatched with shotguns that fire a dose of pellets, unlike large animals such as deer or boar that are shot with rifles that fire a single bullet. Some waterfowl guns now use steel pellets, which are even harder than lead. Pellets and bullet fragments can damage teeth if they are bitten into, so examine the meat when purchasing to see if pellets have entered the flesh, then remove them where possible. Removing the breasts from game birds makes it easier to see any lurking pellets.


Hanging and storing

In some countries it is customary to mature game meat by hanging it in a cold, airy environment to enhance the subtle characteristics of the meat. The amount of hanging time required varies according to the size of the animal or bird, the surrounding temperature, the humidity, and the air circulation. Cold, dry conditions are ideal, and the larger the animal, the longer the time it needs. Boneless meat is sometimes matured in a vacuum pack, which gives very different results to open hanging of a carcass. Vacuum-packed meat should always be opened at least one hour before cooking. In all storage instructions, it is assumed that the temperature of a domestic fridge is 40°F (4°C) or less.


Prepare

Game birds were traditionally sold with their feathers on and undrawn; very often a “brace” (a male and a female) was sold. Nowadays most are sold plucked and drawn, ready for cooking. Male birds are bigger than females, and although a brace was traditional, it is actually better to cook two or more of the same size together, regardless of sex, so that they cook evenly. Game birds are most commonly cooked whole, though increasingly just the deboned breasts are sold to be cooked as steaks. Occasionally the “crown” of a bird (the two breasts attached to the breastbone) is sold roasted on its own. Crowns are usually skinned, in which case the meat needs to be protected with bacon or some other lubricating substance during cooking. Small game birds are sometimes spatchcocked, that is, split down the middle and opened out flat so that they will cook evenly when grilled or barbecued. Small game animals, such as hare and rabbit, are usually sold as whole skinned carcasses, although occasionally they will be sold jointed into pieces. Large game animals, such as deer and boar, are butchered as for domestic meats, although sometimes there is less variety in cuts. If you prefer not to prepare your game from scratch, a good butcher will do some or all the work for you.


Joint a rabbit

Rabbit is best skinned as soon as it is shot. If sold in fur, wash carcass after skinning. Wild rabbit varies in size and tenderness. Young and farmed rabbit has firm, meaty flesh that is tender and so can be roasted, but it is just as good slow-cooked in casseroles or stews. Stew or simmer old rabbit. Allow 12oz–1lb (350-450g) per person to account for the bonier parts.

Place the rabbit on its back on the work surface. Using kitchen scissors, cut away the liver from the cavity and set aside.

Next, remove the leg by cutting through the ball and socket joint in the direction of the backbone, with a very sharp boning knife.

Repeat this with the other leg and set it aside. Turn the rabbit over and cut off each foreleg as close to the rib cage as possible.

Once all the legs have been removed, use a sharp chef’s knife to cut away the backbone that is now visible. Press hard on the knife in order to make a clean cut through the bone.

Flip the rabbit over onto its back again, and cut right up through the breastbone using sharp kitchen scissors. The breast meat should separate into two even sections.

Turn the rabbit over once more, tucking the breast sections neatly underneath. Make a clean cut with a chef’s knife, so that there are just four ribs attached to the loin.

The saddle may be grilled or roasted, and the rest casseroled, while the bones can be cooked up for stock. The liver and kidneys can be fried or grilled, or added to stews or pies.


Cook

A feature of many game meats is that they have very little fat and no marbling. From a culinary point of view, as a general rule, the darker and leaner the meat, the more dense it is and the more carefully it needs to be cooked—overcooking at high temperatures can make it dry and hard. Young, tender game can be roasted, but tougher, more mature specimens are better braised.


Fast cook

Roasting, grilling, and frying are excellent ways of cooking game, but as it is lean, it should be served pink to prevent it becoming dry and tough. Brown the meat first, then part-cook it to an internal temperature of 1 15°F (45°C). Let the meat rest to distribute the heat and juices. (Thicker pieces need longer to rest.) Small or thin pieces 1/2in ( 1cm) or less (thin steaks or stir-fry) should be served as soon as they are browned. If you don’t want pink meat, cook it slowly at a low temperature, unless the meat is a prime cut from a very young animal or bird.


Slow cook

Tough cuts and older game animals and birds are best cooked gently in a liquid over several hours. The breasts of large game birds and joints of lean meat benefit from larding before cooking in this way; the meat should be browned first to add flavor and then immersed in a large pan of liquid to keep them moist. Other flavors may also be added to taste. Food can be slow-cooked by being simmered on top of the stove, or by being baked in the oven at the lowest temperature. Once cooked, it is important that the meat is kept completely submerged in liquid, or it can dry out very quickly.


Marinate

This essentially means soaking meat in a mixture of wine, acids, oils, spices, and herbs. It is not necessary to marinate game, as it masks its elegant flavor. However, some countries like to marinate game because they believe it gives a richness to the meat, and over-strong or bruised game can benefit from this treatment. An hour or two is sufficient for steaks, 24 hours for roasts. It is worth noting that many children do not like the taste of wine in stews or casseroles, so the rich natural flavor of unmarinated game meats are a good substitute.


Lard and bard

Larding is the technique of inserting fat deep into meat. This is completely unnecessary when serving game pink; it is only necessary if you want to cook the meat past that stage, for example when braising. To lard, cut the fat into strips and insert the strips deep into the meat with a larding needle or sharp knife. This task is much easier if the fat has been frozen beforehand. Barding means wrapping the meat in fat before cooking it. However, this does not help to lubricate the inside of the meat, and so it is now deemed unnecessary unless you are spit-cooking a large joint over an open fire.

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