Recipe: Rockin’ Rooster Sandwich

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If I had a “claim to fame” among my friends, this dish would be it. While in college, I created a play on the standard buffalo chicken sandwich. The secrets of the recipe include homemade buffalo sauce, a dollop of ranch, and thick slices of Texas Toast. Chicken was my go-to source of protein back then, so I figured why not mix things up and give pheasant a try today? That’s exactly what I did and low and behold it turned out fantastic! The heat from the homemade buffalo sauce counterbalances perfectly with the cool, refreshing ranch – and did I mention the pheasant is fried in lard? Pour a drink and turn on your favorite playlist, we are about to bring these roosters from the forest to fork.    
 
Ingredients 
 
  • 6-8 de-boned pheasant breasts pounded until even
  • 4 cups of cultured buttermilk (enough to cover the pheasants)
  • 12 oz. bottle of your favorite hot sauce (Louisiana is my preference)
  • 2 cups of lard or enough to fill a 12” cast iron by half an inch
  • 4 cups of whole milk
  • 2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons of garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon of onion powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of paprika
  • 2 teaspoons of kosher salt, plus more for seasoning to finish
  • 2 teaspoons of fresh cracked black pepper
  • 3 eggs, whisked to combine the whites and yolk
  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter, plus more for buttering bread
  • 12-16 slices of Texas Toast (NO EXCEPTIONS)
  • 12-16 slices of quality provolone cheese
  • 1 tablespoon of cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon of cold water
Directions
 
Place the pheasant breasts in a large, non-reactive container. Whisk a few dashes of hot sauce and fresh cracked pepper with the buttermilk and add to the container with pheasant. Refrigerate for about 4 hours and no longer than 12 as the texture of the meat will become unpleasantly grainy.
 
Remove the birds from the marinade and place on paper towels to dry. Discard the buttermilk. Next, fill a 4-quart saucepan with the whole milk, add the pheasants, and turn the heat to high. Leave the pan uncovered and allow the milk to come to a near boil. IMPORTANT: unless you want to re-decorate, do NOT fill the saucepan more than two-thirds full. Once the milk has reached a near boiling point, reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 20 minutes. 
 
Place the birds on a wire rack to dry and discard the milk. To make the buffalo sauce, place a medium sauce pan on medium heat and add a stick of butter. As it melts, add the remainder of the hot sauce plus 1 teaspoon of the garlic powder. Allow the liquid to come to a simmer. If this much hot sauce is too spicy for your preferred taste, add another half stick of butter. While the sauce is simmering, in a small bowl thoroughly combine the cornstarch and the tablespoon of cold water. Add it to the simmering buffalo sauce and constantly whisk. The sauce should become thick and glossy. Reduce heat to keep warm.  
 
Meanwhile heat a 12” cast iron skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high and add the lard. It should be roughly a half inch deep. Meanwhile, set up the batter station by cracking three eggs in a bowl and whisking to combine. Next, in a shallow pan, add the 2 cups flour and season with the remaining garlic powder, onion powder, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, and the black pepper. 
 
Heat a large skillet or flat top over medium heat and butter both sides of the Texas Toast. Once heated, place the bread in the skillet and allow to toast until golden brown, approximately two minutes per side. Remove from the heat and wrap in foil to keep warm. 
 
Preheat the oven broiler. 
 
Once the lard reaches 375 degrees (get a thermometer), place the pheasant pieces in the flour, followed by the egg wash, and back in the flour. Shake off the excess and add the breasts two or three at a time to the lard to prevent the temperature from dropping too low. They should be a deep golden brown after 60-90 seconds. Flip and finish the other side. Remove the roosters and let them rest on a paper towel. Hit them with the remaining salt. 
 
Slather a spoonful of the buffalo sauce on the bottom of half the toast slices, followed by a piece of breast and slice of cheese. Place them on a sheet pan and stick it under the broiler until the cheese is fully melted (roughly 30 seconds). To plate, top the cheesy birds with a dollop of ranch, perhaps more buffalo, and the other slice of bread. Have a pressure washer ready; it’s about to get messy!! Dig in and remember to hunt, cook, share, enjoy! 
 
An Ohio native and contestant on Fox' MasterChef, Tyler Viars prides himself as a “rooter to the tooter,” waste-nothing cook. Follow and interact with Viars and his Cookin’ in Camo brand on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.