Pheasant burgers? You betchya. When you have a great trip and bring home lots of pheasants, or if you have a few birds that have been a bit mauled by the dog – or you’ve hit them a little too squarely – this is a great recipe for less-than-perfect roosters.
You can grind the meat in advance and freeze, or grind that day. Either works. If you use bacon, (see below) it’s better to grind and serve, rather than grinding and freezing later; the salt in the bacon changes the texture of the burger, making it more like sausage than a traditional burger.
Of course you can top your pheasant burgers any way you want, but I like this Asian take on the American classic. It just works really well.
If you can’t find fatty pork shoulder, substitute bacon. It’s a bit different, but still good.
Serves 4, and can be scaled up.
- 1 ¼ pounds skinless pheasant meat
- ¼ pound fatty pork shoulder
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- ¼ cup Sriracha (or more to taste)
- A bunch of fresh cilantro
- ½ cup lime juice or rice vinegar
- 1 medium red onion, sliced root to tip
- Burger buns
Submerge the red onion slices in the lime juice or vinegar and set aside for at least 30 minutes, and up to several days ahead of time. This takes the sulfur sting out of raw onions.
Grind the pheasant meat with the fatty pork shoulder through a medium die. If you don’t have a meat grinder, get one. But in the meantime, you can chop the pheasant and pork and pulse it in the food processor. This isn’t nearly as good, but it’ll get you close. Shape into 4 patties and set aside.
Mix the Sriracha and the mayo in a small bowl. Start with a couple tablespoons of the hot sauce at first, and add to taste.
Salt the burgers well on both sides; if you use bacon you don’t need to do this. Set the burgers in a room temperature frying pan and turn the heat to high. As soon as the burgers start to sizzle, drop the heat to medium and cook until the interior hits about 155°F, normally about 8 minutes total. Flip the burgers after 4 minutes.
Set the burgers on a cutting board to rest and set the burger buns, cut side down onto the frying pan to brown for a minute or three. If there isn’t enough fat in the pan, add some butter.
Spread the Sriracha mayo on the buns, add the patties and top with pickled onions and cilantro. Serve with beer.
A member of both Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, Hank Shaw is a hunter, cookbook author and award-winning writer. His website is Hunter Angler Gardener Cook (www.honest-food.net). He lives near Sacramento, CA.
Photo by Holly A. Heyser