Last year I traveled to Oklahoma to hunt the magnificent sandhill crane. These audibly majestic creatures are known as “ribeye in the sky”. After hearing the reports of how wonderful the table fare is, nothing was going to stop me from harvesting this bird and trying the delicacy for myself. The hunt was very familiar to me…set up in a flyway, put out a large decoy spread, and call accordingly. It was just like any of the dozens of past goose hunts that I have participated in. Same blinds, same shotgun, and same shells. The only real difference between the hunts are the protective goggles that the dogs wear so that their eyes aren’t impaled by the 5 inch dagger known as a crane beak. After harvesting several (you are allowed 3 per day in Oklahoma), I went home with a cooler of fine meat and plenty of great memories.
Coq au Vin is a rustic French dish that translates into “cock with wine.” It was served to Julius Caesar and is rumored to be one of his favorite meals. For this recipe, I used sandhill crane legs and thighs (I wouldn’t dare use the breast in a braising recipe) but it would be good for any large birds to include geese and turkey. When choosing a wine to cook with, a restaurant friend once told me “if you don’t want to drink it, don’t cook with it.” I have headed his advice throughout the years and have yet to be disappointed.
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 3 hours
Special Equipment: Dutch oven
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4 legs and 4 thighs (sandhill crane or turkey)
1 onion chopped
1 bell pepper chopped
4 slices of bacon chopped
½ cup sliced button mushrooms
1 tbsp thyme
1 cup chicken stock
3 cups quality red wine
½ cup brandy
1 tbsp flour mixed into warm water
Seasoning of your choice
Onion tops or parsley for garnish
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
- In a Dutch oven, cook bacon over medium heat until browned. Remove bacon pieces and set aside. Retain the bacon drippings in the Dutch oven.
- Season legs and thighs liberally with a seasoning of your choice. Brown legs and thighs on both sides. Cook these pieces in batches to avoid crowding the Dutch oven. Remove and set aside.
- Add chopped onions and bell pepper and cook until tender.
- Add back the legs and thighs and whatever juices that have accumulated on the platter back to the Dutch oven.
- Cover with wine, brandy, and chicken stock. Add thyme, cooked bacon from earlier, and mushrooms. Cover and bring to a gentle boil.
- Place the pot into the oven and cook for 2 hours.
- Remove from oven and add flour slurry, stir constantly to thicken.
Serve over mashed potatoes and garnish with onion tops.