Grab Your Axe: Let’s Make a Grouse Sandwich
To make the best Italian-style grouse sandwich, you have to pay attention to a couple of details in the field to ensure the best end result.
For ruffed grouse and spruce grouse, home is the boreal forest where we hunt bear, deer and elk. During a day of hunting there, it seems the time rarely passes without spotting at least a grouse or two. Often, we see more.
I keep a 12-gauge handy in my truck just for grouse, but I’ve learned how to harvest them with my rifle without doing damage to the good bits. (Be sure to check your area hunting regulations about the legality of this.)
There is nothing like an old-school Coleman stove and Lodge cast iron skillet as platforms for making a hot lunch on the tailgate. So, grab your axe––and let’s make a sandwich. (I bet you’ve never heard that statement before!)
Here are directions to make a mind-blowing, hot, Italian-style grouse sandwich. A hot sandwich is even better when there is a bit of chill in the air. Here, it is worth noting that in a pinch, you don’t have to go through a lot of work; you can just season and sear the grouse breasts and sandwich them between two slices of bread. I make these early in the fall, and the folks around the tailgate or table will tell you it is worth the effort. (P.S.: You don’t need an axe, but it makes such a great story!)
Tools and Equipment
- An axe (or a cleaver, meat mallet or heavy-bladed French knife)
- Cutting board
- Plastic wrap
- Cast-iron frying pan (big enough to hold four grouse cutlets)
- Saucepan (for sauce)
- Three deep plates for breading and egg wash
- Coleman stove or another suitable heat source
Grouse Sandwich Ingredients
- 4 boneless, skinless grouse half breasts
- 4 torpedo-style bread rolls, or sliced baguette
- 8 slices provolone cheese
- 2 cups of all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons dry Italian herb blend seasoning
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup milk
- 2 cups of fine breadcrumbs
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Sweet or hot paprika
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup shredded fresh parmesan cheese
- 1 26-ounce can of diced Italian tomatoes (or substitute Italian tomato sauce)
Start the Sauce
- First, get the tomato sauce going by opening the can of tomatoes into a medium-sized saucepan and bringing the sauce to a As soon as the tomatoes begin a rolling boil, turn heat back to a simmer and add 1 tablespoon of the Italian herb blend. Stir every few minutes. (As an alternate, buy ready- made Italian-herbed tomato sauce and heat it in a saucepan.)
- Simmer the homemade sauce until you need it to top the sandwiches.
- For the grouse breading, you need three plates, one for each step:
Plate 1: Season 2 cups of flour to taste with Italian herbs and black pepper. Start with 1 tablespoon of herbs and 1 teaspoon of black pepper.
Plate 2: Crack an egg into a shallow bowl, beat with a fork until the egg and white are blended, add milk, and beat with a few quick strokes.
Plate 3: Combine 2 cups of fine breadcrumbs with Italian herb blend and paprika. Start with 1 tablespoon of each. (Use hot paprika if you like a little kick in your sandwich.) Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and black pepper to taste.
- To prepare the cutlets for your grouse sandwich, wash your axe (or another tool) well with soap and water, then
- Place a cutting board on a solid Put a boned half grouse breast between sheets of plastic wrap on the cutting board and gently pound the breast into a thin even cutlet about 1/4 inch thick. Repeat for each of the grouse breast pieces.
- Dredge breast pieces in flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs, making sure the grouse is well coated at each step.
- Heat the cast-iron pan over medium heat, add butter and olive oil and slide the breaded cutlet into the pan. Cook until golden, about six minutes on side one, and four minutes on side two.
- When grouse cutlets are done, place two slices of provolone on each cutlet, sprinkle with parmesan cheese, and cover with a lid for two minutes to melt the cheese.
- Meanwhile, cut the torpedo rolls, slide a cooked cutlet onto the bottom half of the bun, and top with tomato sauce and the top half of the bread (If you can toast the buns, do so.)
- Arrange for a good supply of paper towels—this will get messy.
That’s it! Now you can assemble your sandwich with any extra fixings you like.
Note: it’s well worth keeping the grouse legs. Hunters often focus on the breast meat of upland birds and sometimes the legs get tossed with the wings and feathers. I can tell you that braised grouse legs in a bit of cream and brandy make a tremendous appetizer. (Hearts and gizzards make a great addition to dirty rice, too.) The crew I hunt with keeps a few days’ worth of grouse legs, gizzards and hearts, and we braise these up one evening prior to dinner for a great appetizer.
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