Real Hunters Know Their Gravies: Roasted Grouse with Hunter-Style Gravy

The origin of hunter-style gravy, or “sauce chasseur” as the French call it, remains rather unclear. Seen on modern menus today, the term hunter-style or hunter’s sauce typically refers to a recipe that includes sautéed mushrooms and is made from beef demi-glace. Some sources suggest the sauce got its name from the practice of hunters returning home from a successful hunt and foraging for mushrooms along their route. Other sources speculate instead of wine—a common ingredient in modern hunter-style gravies—hunters employed the blood from their kill in the recipe. I prefer to believe the latter and have sought to create a recipe that aims to celebrate the ritualistic nature of returning home from the woods after a great day bagging grouse.

Beer can chicken was a major fad a couple of decades or so ago. Kenny Chesney even wrote a song about it, from my understanding. Proponents of the technique praised the flavor and juiciness of a bird roasted vertically atop a beer can containing a mix of beer and spices. However, most professional chefs claim beer inside the cavity of a bird does not add any sort of flavor. They consider the method simply a waste of beer, though they do agree on one thing—a bird roasted vertically over indirect heat will cook evenly and finish with a crispy, delicious skin.

A vertical poultry roaster is a great investment or gift for any serious bird hunter. A plucked bird will roast evenly on one of these and the small dish at base of roaster will catch all drippings, which can be later included in any sauce. Additionally, if you take the time to brine your bird, it will retain more moisture during cooking and also produce more flavorful drippings.      

 

Makes two servings. Requires two grouse plucked in addition to below ingredients.

 

Brine

  • 1 gallon cold water
  • 1/2 cup non-iodized salt
  • 1/4 cup whole black pepper corns
  • 3 bay leaves

 

Hunter-style gravy

  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
  • 2 large cloves of fresh garlic, finely minced
  • 8 ounces baby portabella mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 cup Marsala cooking wine
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • All drippings from roasted grouse
  • 32 ounces beef stock
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch with 1 teaspoon water (slurry)
  • Salt to taste

Optional sides:

Grilled broccoli with bacon bits and cheddar

  • 8 ounces fresh broccoli, cut into large florets
  • 8 ounces bacon, diced
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • Light dusting of salt and pepper

 

Grilled acorn squash slices

  • 1 acorn squash, seeded and sliced vertically
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon each of salt, pepper, nutmeg and brown sugar

 

Garnish

  • 1 bundle scallions, finely sliced

 

Method

Clean and pluck grouse. Brine for 4 to 6 hours and thoroughly rinse afterward. Truss grouse so legs and wings are tied closed to breasts. Pre-heat outside grill to medium-high and create a two-zone setup (all coals or all burners lit on one half and no heat source on other half). Place poultry roasters, with birds, on indirect heat side and close lid. Rotate as necessary to ensure an even roast. Pour drippings from dish into separate bowl and add intermittently to gravy while it simmers. Roast until grouse skin is crisp internal temperature of breast reads 160 degrees Fahrenheit. (Cooking time can vary from 25 to 45 minutes or more depending on grill setup.)

Before placing grouse on grill, on stove inside, heat a deep, medium sauce pan on medium heat and thinly coat pan with butter. Add diced onion, lightly salt and pepper. Sauté until soft and slightly brown, deglaze with Marsala cooking wine. Add mushrooms and minced garlic, stir until mushrooms absorb Marsala and become soft. Add thyme, pepper and beef stock and turn heat to simmer. Reduce beef stock to one-third original amount, while skimming and discarding solidified fat atop surface, until stock has viscid texture. It will take over an hour for stock to reduce, so plan roasting time accordingly. Salt to taste.

For bacon bits, heat a sauté pan on medium heat and add diced bacon. Stir often until bacon is brown and crisp. Remove and drain grease and set bacon bits aside. Cut acorn squash in half from stem to base. Remove pulp and seeds and slice along furrows, creating 6 to 8 slices of squash. Mix salt, pepper, nutmeg and brown sugar with oil and coat all sides of squash. Place squash slices onto direct heat to achieve charred texture, then onto indirect heat to finish cooking. Squash is finished cooking when a fork can smoothly pierce exterior skin.

While grouse roasts, cut fresh broccoli into large florets and melt 2 tablespoon of butter in microwave. Coat florets in butter and lightly salt and pepper. Place on direct heat when grouse is almost finished roasting. Turn for an even roast. On final turn, add bacon bit and cheddar. Remove once cheddar is melted. 

When ready to serve, if gravy isn’t desired texture, mix tablespoon of corn starch with little bit of water, into a slurry, and add to gravy and stir thoroughly. Add corn starch slurry as necessary for desired consistency. Remove kitchen twine from grouse to serve and ladle gravy over grouse. Garnish grouse and broccoli with sliced scallions. Enjoy!