When four friends limit out on pheasants and one guy calls dibs on gizzards, much like the childhood game of calling “shotgun,” there can be no argument.
Such was the case a few years ago when three friends and I spent half a week before Thanksgiving stalking birds and slinging lines just south of Canada in Eastern Washington.
Prior to our day of departure, we didn’t have much to show for our miles of mountain trails and water covered—simply one pheasant, one spruce grouse and one rainbow trout.
On the morning of our last day we cleaned the cabin and loaded up the trucks, decided to test one parcel of land before taking off.
Once we laid eyes on that first flush of roosters, it didn’t matter how late we arrived home on Thanksgiving eve—we were determined to work every draw.
The time afield paid off, as 12 roosters lay lined at our feet. Before I could even fathom how I might cook these birds after Thanksgiving, my buddy Mike politely uttered his request.
The gizzard, an essential organ for a bird’s digestive system, looks like a giant snail shell. One alone isn’t enough for a meal, but gizzards from a few limits of birds can make for great appetizers if cleaned and cooked properly, since, essentially, they are really just another meaty muscle.
So next time you and some friends bust a slew of birds, make certain to be the first to call “gizzards.”
Makes 4 servings.
Gizzards from 12 birds, halved
Basic beer batter ratios:
1-1/2 cups flour
1 cup preferred beer
1/3 cup favorite spice mix or 1/3 cup from the below mix:
2 teaspoons each: salt, pepper, brown sugar, chili powder, paprika, granulated garlic, onion powder, ground jalapeño pepper, dry oregano
To clean a gizzard: Using a short, very sharp fillet knife, split the gizzard along visible diagonal line. Do not cut all the way through. Use thumbs to remove grit into a bowl of water (using a kitchen faucet to rinse gizzard grit may ruin your pipes). Separate gizzard into two halves, trim white fat edges. Either pinch yellow membrane (grinder plate) or use knife to slice off. Because the silver skin is rather tough, you may choose to use the tip of your knife to slip under the silver skin and cut it off, leaving only burgundy meat for frying.
To prep gizzards: Rinse gizzards once more. Place in a pot, cover with 2 cups of pilsner beer. Bring to a boil, remove pot and drain gizzards after 15 minutes. Rinse. Place gizzards in 2 cups of pilsner beer to soak for 24 hours.
Beer batter basics: A solid beer batter ratio follows the basic measurements listed above. Feel free to experiment with spices, but add spices, especially salt, to beer batter mix slowly and test first by frying a drizzle of batter. My personal spice recipe involves 2 teaspoons of the following: salt, pepper, brown sugar, chili powder, paprika, granulated garlic, onion powder, ground jalapeño pepper, dry oregano.
To fry: Cover a medium sauce pan with 1 inch of canola or vegetable oil. Heat on medium-low until oil reaches 375 degrees. Add a couple tablespoons of batter, sans gizzards, to oil to fry and imbue oil with flavor. (Fresh, virgin oil just can’t yield great tastes.) Remove fried dough, test for spice accuracy, then adjust beer batter as necessary in minor amounts. Test again or begin frying gizzards. Dip gizzard halves into beer batter with either fingers or toothpick and drop into oil, three at a time, turning often. The gizzards should reach that perfect golden brown after 45-50 seconds. Remove and set on a napkin-cover plate to dry.
To serve: Pair with your favorite dipping sauce—barbecue, ranch, blue cheese, etc.