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Friday, April 10, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Cooking your game: Pheasant fajita tacos, a southwestern take on an Inland Northwest delicacy

Pheasant thigh meat makes for a juicier, more tender fajita taco. Still, the toppings are just as important as the protein. (JOHN HENNESSY)
Pheasant thigh meat makes for a juicier, more tender fajita taco. Still, the toppings are just as important as the protein. (JOHN HENNESSY)
By John Hennessy The Spokesman-Review

When it comes to table fare, a lot of hunters would rank the taste of pheasant within their top three, perhaps behind chukar and grouse. The hunt itself – a stroll through tall grass and brush enjoyed by young and old – creates its own unique memories for family and friends. A good meal afterward adds to the experience.

Last year, during a pre-Thanksgiving hunting trip, I was fortunate enough to limit out on our last day and came home with three roosters. After my wife and I enjoyed our Thanksgiving feast, and then our Thanksgiving leftovers, it was time to cook up some pheasant.

When it comes to preparing my game birds, I like to assign different meals for different sections of meat. In my opinion, thigh meat was made for tacos.

I spread a thin layer of pheasant spice rub over the thighs and chargrilled them. I like most of my poultry to have a bit of charcoal flavor when grilling, so I never use lighter fluid. Instead I use a chimney starter, like my dad always did, which allows the coals to emit a bit of flavor while they continue to gray, after I’ve thrown them from the chimney into the grill.

With lighter fluid, you have to wait until the coals are mostly gray before ever placing the grill mesh over the coals (otherwise your food will taste like lighter fluid).

After the thighs had finished cooking, I brought them inside, asked my wife kindly to pick the meat from the bones, then heated up a thin layer of canola oil in a sauté pan. I sliced one red bell pepper, one green bell pepper and one onion julienne-style.

Once the oil was fairly hot, probably 350 degrees, I dropped in my vegetables for a 5-minute searing. I enjoy my fajita vegetables to have a nice brown, but also a somewhat crunchy texture.

Lastly, because I’ve been on a corn tortilla kick lately, I took a flat skillet pan and spread a thin layer of canola oil over the pan to cook my corn tortillas. I cooked each side until the white (or yellow) corn color turned a tint of brown. Alongside the tortillas, I ladled out the mix of sautéed vegetables and cooked thigh meat to heat together and meld flavors.

When serving, I dolloped some corn salsa and sour cream atop the tacos, sprinkled some cilantro and pepper jack cheese and squeezed a lime wedge overtop. A simple, tasty meal and a great epilogue to a great hunting trip.

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