photos by Taylor Byrne Dodge

My daughter and I often cook together, so naturally we like to attend cooking classes together as well. Here in Houston we are fans of Central Market’s cooking school where we take a class every six months or so.

A few weeks ago we learned to prepare three wild game dishes. Perhaps there are hunters in your family, and you need some fresh ideas for cooking their quarry. We recommend all three of the recipes below, which are easy to prepare and will seem very special. And note: If, like us, there are no actual hunters in the household, you can buy farm-raised game meat at Central Market.

To drink with any or all of these game dishes: Ars in Vitro 2013, Tandem, Valle de Yerri, Navarra (a Tempranillo-Merlot blend) and Matthew Fritz 2014 Pinot Noir from Carneros, Napa Valley.

From Foods of the Southwest Indian Nations by Lois Ellen Frank

6 quail, backbone removed (or partially deboned)

1 Tbsp. fresh sage, chopped
1 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
1 Tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. chipotle chile powder
1 fresh serrano chile, seeded and finely chopped
½ cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. lemon zest

4 dried red New Mexico chiles, stemmed, seeded and broken into small pieces
½ cup water
½ cup honey

METHOD: Wash each quail under cold running water. Cut the wings tips off each quail at their joints and set aside.

In a medium-size mixing bowl or resealable plastic bag, combine all the ingredients for the marinade. Add the quail, making sure each bird is thoroughly coated. Cover and place in the refrigerator and let marinate overnight.

For the glaze, in a small saucepan heat together the dried red chiles and water over high heat. Bring to a boil and boil for 3 minutes, then remove from the heat. Let stand 10 minutes. Place the mixture into a blender and add the honey and blend for 1 minute. Pour the glaze through a fine sieve to remove the chile skins. (Discard the skins.) Set glaze aside.

When ready to cook, preheat oven to 350 degrees.

On the stove top or backyard grill, heat a grill or cast iron grill pan over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking, then place on the marinated quail. Grill for approximately 5 minutes, turn over and grill another 5 minutes, then remove from the heat. Brush the glaze onto both sides of each grilled quail. Reserve the remaining glaze for serving. Place the quail topside up in a shallow roasting pan or rimmed cookie sheet and place them in the preheated oven. Cook until done, approximately 15 minutes.

Serve quail with mashed sweet potatoes, sautéed greens or wild rice. Pass the remaining glaze. Serves 6.

From Daniel Boulud, October 21, 2015

1 tsp. coriander seeds
½ tsp. black peppercorns
2 whole cloves
½ tsp. ground allspice
1 Pekin duck (4 to 5 lbs.)
1 small bunch thyme
½ cup Scotch whiskey
salt and pepper
1 yellow onion, quartered
2 lbs. celery root, peeled
1 Tbsp. butter
2 bunches Swiss chard (about 1 lb.), tough stems and center veins removed; leaves washed and torn into large pieces
1 orange, zested and juiced
1 Tbsp. honey
1 cup chicken stock
pinch of chile flakes

METHOD: In a small, dry sauté pan over medium heat, toss the coriander seeds, peppercorns and cloves until toasted and aromatic. Transfer to a mortar and pestle or spice grinder and grind with the allspice. Transfer the spice mixture to a small bowl.

Remove the neck and wing tips from the duck and set aside. Discard the giblets (or cook them up for your cat or dog). Stuff the duck with the thyme and ½ teaspoon of the spice mixture. Truss the duck with butcher’s twine and then lightly prick the skin all over with the tip of a knife. Rub the entire duck with the remaining spice mixture and place it in a large resealable bag. Add the whiskey, then seal. Place the duck in the fridge and let marinate for at least 6 hours or overnight, turning the bag over every few hours.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Remove the duck from the refrigerator. Let drain, reserving the whiskey marinade, and lightly pat dry with a paper towel. Season the duck all over with salt and place on the rack of a large roasting pan. Place the quartered onion and the duck neck and wing tips in the pan.

Place the celery root on a sheet of aluminum foil with the butter and season with salt and pepper. Wrap the celery root tightly and place directly in the oven at the same time as the duck. Roast the duck and the celery root for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, while the duck is roasting, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and set a bowl of ice water to the side. Add the Swiss chard to the boiling water for 3 minutes or until just tender, then transfer to the ice water. Squeeze dry and set aside.

After 30 minutes, remove the roasting pan from the oven and set the rack aside and drain the fat from the pan, reserving it. Set the duck on a platter to rest for about 30 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Leave the celery root in the oven.

While the duck is resting, set the roasting pan over medium heat, add the reserved whiskey marinade, orange zest and juice, honey and chicken stock and cook until the liquid is reduced by half to form a glaze. Strain and discard the solids and brush the duck with the glaze. Return the duck to the rack and set it back into the cleaned roasting pan. Continue roasting for another 20 minutes or until it is golden brown and a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 155 degrees. Remove the celery root from the oven and keep warm. Keep the duck warm while you finish the vegetables.

In a large sauté pan, add the reserved duck fat, Swiss chard and the chile flakes, season with salt and toss to combine. Set the pan over medium heat and sauté for 10 to 15 minutes, until tender. Remove the celery root from the foil and slice it into wedges.

Make a bed of the Swiss chard on a large serving platter and place the duck in the middle. Arrange the wedges of celery root around the duck and garnish with fresh herbs, if desired. Serves 4 to 6.

From Jamie’s Kitchen by Jamie Oliver

1 small handful fresh thyme, leaves picked
5 dried juniper berries
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
extra-virgin olive oil
1 ½ to 1 ¾ lb. venison loin, trimmed of all silver skin
4 shallots, peeled and finely sliced
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely sliced
1 glass of red wine
8 oz. blueberries
2 large knobs of butter

METHOD: Bash up the thyme and juniper berries in a pestle and mortar with a really good pinch of salt and pepper. (Note: You can also use the beaker/container cup of an immersible blender.) Loosen with 2 good lugs of olive oil. Pat the venison dry with paper towel and rub the oil mixture all over it.

Sear the meat in a hot pan on all sides, roughly 6 minutes for medium rare, 7 to 8 minutes for medium. Depending on the thickness of the meat and the heat of the pan, it may need a little less or more time to cook. Use your judgement. Remove the meat from the pan when it’s cooked to your liking and allow it to rest on a plate, covered with aluminum foil.

Reduce the heat under the pan and add a good lug of oil. Add the shallots and the garlic and fry gently for around 3 minutes, until translucent and tender. Turn up the heat again, add the wine and let it reduce by half. Add the blueberries and simmer slowly for 4 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat, add the butter and jiggle and shake the pan around so the sauce goes slightly opaque and shiny. Season to taste.

Slice the venison into ¾-inch slices and served with broccoli or other good greens. Add the meat’s resting juices to the sauce and then spoon over the venison. Serves 4 to 6.