It was mid-October in eastern Montana. The warm afternoon sun slipped below the horizon as a cool breeze swept across my face. I had filled my pronghorn tag earlier that day, leaving me with time to scour the prairie for coveys of upland delicacies. A fluttering glimpse of flushing quail caught my eye and I moved toward their landing zone. My Mossberg instinctively settled into my shoulder upon the unexpected burst of fast-beating wings. I swung through one bird, dropped it, and then moved onto the next in line. Two shots, two small gray birds. I carefully plucked their feathers on the tailgate of my F150, taking an occasional break to glass mule deer as they materialized from nearby folds. Pushing a shopping cart to procure a meal will never yield this level of satisfaction.
This marked the first time I’d been fortunate to bag Hungarian partridges. And let me tell you: These charming little fellers are exceptionally tasty. The meat of a Hun is sweet and robust, but not in a “gamey” kind of way. If you can collect some of these birds, you’re in for a real treat.
As is often the case with upland bird hunting—at least for me—I didn’t kill a whole pile of partridges. If that were the case, I would’ve certainly roasted them whole and served them intact. Instead, I only managed to bring home four of these beauties and I wanted to savor the flavor. Gourmet soups are a great way to spread out a lean supply of upland treats, so this recipe applies to Huns or any of their winged cousins.
4 plucked Hungarian partridges
12 ounces fresh mushrooms (baby bella/shitake combo recommended)
1 quart heavy whipping cream
1 cup flour
1 1/2 sticks butter
1 cup Marsala cooking wine
2 tablespoons minced green onion
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1 cup fresh parsley
2 tablespoons coarse salt
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried rubbed sage
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Homemade Rye Croutons
1 loaf rye bread
1/4 stick butter
1 tablespoon garlic powder
Dice bread into small cubes. Melt butter in small bowl and stir in garlic powder. Put bread in a 1-gallon Ziploc bag, pour in garlic butter, and shake for even coating. Cook in 400-degree oven for 10 minutes or until hard croutons are formed. Remove from oven and store at room temperature.
Melt one stick of butter in a small bowl. Add 2 teaspoons ground black pepper, 1 teaspoon rubbed sage, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, and 1 tablespoon of coarse salt to butter and mix evenly. Coat the partridges entirely with herb butter. Place in a Dutch oven and roast for 15 minutes in a 500-degree pre-heated oven. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
In a cast-iron skillet, add 1/2 stick butter and mushrooms. Sprinkle lightly with coarse salt and fry on medium-high heat until golden brown. Add Marsala cooking wine, heavy whipping cream and flour. Whisk well to thicken. Add green onions, 1 tablespoon coarse salt, 1 teaspoon ground black pepper and fresh thyme. Pull the bird meat off bones and chop, leaving decent-sized chunks of meat. Add meat to soup and simmer on low for an hour.
Serve up a fat bowl topped with rye croutons and fresh parsley. This soup is delicious served fresh, but the next day’s reheated leftovers are even better.