As the leaves transition from green to a fiery array of blazing reds, electric yellows, and intense oranges and winter looms, the season for wild game is on. From ducks and pheasant to elk and venison, chefs showcase the bounty of the backwoods (including those at the 2015 100 Best Restaurants in America). These rusticated ingredients resonate with diners at this time of year because they evoke America’s pioneer roots and deep culinary traditions while being the kind of hearty, heartwarming fare that helps ward off the increasingly chilly days. Here are 11 wild game dishes to try now.
Blue Duck Tavern, Washington, D.C.
It takes a full week for chef de Cuisine Brad Deboy to prepare his show-stopping roasted Rohan duck. He begins by drying the fowl and coating it with housemade Worcestershire sauce before cooking it for a day and finishing it with a spicy honey glaze. It arrives at the table whole, so you and your guest can ooh and aah, and then the succulent meat is carved for family-style service.
Sepia, Chicago, Illinois
You know the old saying: two birds on the plate are worth four in the bush. Or something like that. Chef Andrew Zimmerman offers pheasant two ways: simply seared and tucked into a pot pie. You could call it a tasting flight if you were so inclined to employ such bad puns.
The Wine Kitchen on the Creek, Frederick, Maryland
Time to sharpen your tusks. Executive chef Jeff Beard char-braises a wild boar shank, which comes out tender, but still toothsome. It’s served on a brushstroke of parsnip gratin with rounds of smoked pear and collard greens.
Two, Chicago, Illinois
Looking for a beef break? Elk tastes similar, but the flavor is richer. To highlight this superior protein, executive chef Kevin Cuddihee offers a grilled loin accompanied by bacon-roasted turnips, chanterelle mushrooms, and dollops of herb butter that melt over the meat for extra oomph.
Bastille, Alexandria, Virginia
Trust the French to do a très magnifique canard. Chefs and spouses Christophe and Michelle Poteaux offer a pepper-crusted breast in a piquant long pepper sauce. The spice is balanced out by a sweet mélange of roasted pears, figs, and grapes, along with a soothing swipe of earthy celeriac puree.
Et Voila, Washington, D.C.
It doesn’t get more autumnal than this. Chef-owner Claudio Pirollo makes a wild boar stew enriched with chestnuts and chanterelles and served with Jerusalem artichokes. Try not to make too much noise as you scrape your spoon along the bottom for the last drop.