The term game covers a variety of wild animals, both feathered and furred, ranging from the humble quail to venison and even caribou. In all cases, the novelty value of the meat and the intense flavors need to remain the focus of a recipe. Choose vegetables that complement the game without overshadowing it.
As much as possible, try to match game with vegetables in season. In most U.S. states, the hunting season runs from fall to spring, with a drop off in the summer. Pair animals such as deer, typically hunted in fall and winter, with winter root vegetables that evoke the tradition of laying down stores for the winter months ahead. For birds such as wild turkey, with a fall and spring hunting season, look for spring vegetables to herald new growth.
When slow-roasting game to break down the tougher textures, the opportunity presents itself to load up a roasting tray with sturdy root vegetables such as rutabagas, parsnips, turnips, carrots and potatoes. Baste the vegetables occasionally with any juices running off the meat or bird to echo the flavors, or roast them in a separate tray with plenty of olive oil; herbs such as thyme and rosemary; and even a dash of wine in order to slowly caramelize the vegetables and bring out their latent sweetness. For smaller game, such as pigeon, which requires a short session in a frying pan, thinner-cut vegetables are more aesthetically pleasing, such as julienned carrots and baby parsnips.
Juicy, sweet spring vegetables are a tasty foil for rich, sanguine game. Wild turkey or birds such as partridge and pheasant set on a bed of peas are a lighter spring alternative to winter-warmer stews, while asparagus or artichokes bring sharper aromas to a dish. Endive can be quartered and served as a raw salad or braised to add a slightly bitter edge to a full-flavored serving of game. Fennel, too, tempers meat with a flourish of aniseed, which can be accentuated with a splash of anise-flavored liqueur and slow-roasting in the oven. Finally, baby potatoes stand out as a go-to side dish for any game for their neutral flavor.
Because of the enhanced level of skill required to prepare game compared to commercially reared meats, notable chefs provide useful pointers for inspiration. French Nouvelle cuisine godfather Paul Bocuse serves pigeon on a simple bed of young cabbage at the L’Auberge du Pont de Collonges restaurant in Lyon, while Michelin-starred Andy McLeish, formerly of The Ritz, poaches his pheasant with Savoy cabbage and a parsnip puree. Gordon Ramsay’s recipe for venison calls for a sweet and sour pepper compote and potato puree, a combination that showcases the meat without eclipsing its importance.
- Encyclopedia Britannica: Game
- Chest of Books: The Pattern Cook Book: Proper Vegetables to Serve with Meats
- BBC Food: Game
- The Guardian: Food in Season, Winter Comfort Food
- The Field: Top 10 Pheasant Recipes
- Game to Eat: Saute of Pigeon Breast with Root Vegetables
- Maryland Hunting Seasons Calendar
- Petersen's Hunting: 6 Fun Summer Hunts
- Great British Chefs: Poached and Roasted Pheasant with Savoy Cabbage, Roast Parsnips and Sherry Vinegar Pearls
- Edible Network: What’s in Season? Root Vegetables
- Photo Credit blackboard1965/iStock/Getty Images