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31 responses to “Roast Woodcock: A Dream Fulfilled”

  1. J

    Nice post – is it the same species as British woodcock?

    The reason you leave the head on traditionally is beacuse you supposed to eat the brains. The British traditional method is to roast it whole with the viscera still inside, then scoop the innards out and smear them on toast. The bird’s then jointed and piled on top. The head is split in two so you can pick each half up by the beak, like a spoon, and slurp the brains out…

  2. Joshua

    How interesting! I’d like to hunt and eat one one day.

    As for game birds, do you have mountain quail under your belt yet?

  3. Hank bags himself a Woodcock | Nose To Tail At Home

    […] one.  To say I’m jealous would be underscoring my true feelings.  At the very least you can read about his thoughts on the ever so elusive […]

  4. Tovar

    A pair of woodcocks can usually be found hanging out in the woods along our 1/4-mile-long driveway in summer. Others come through from Canada in autumn. I love the curious way they fly, beak down, whistling.

    Because they wait until you’re really close before leaving the ground and also fly relatively slowly, an avid bird-hunter friend tells me that the most common mistake is to shoot at them too soon. You’re apt to miss, since your shot pattern hasn’t spread yet. And if you hit, there won’t be much left of the bird.

  5. Rick

    Good to eat like a robber baron once in a while! Hope to get my skills up to whee, if I got a chance at them, I’d have a chance @ them. As for the grouse/woodcock comparison, there are times that I, too, prefer the more hearty, though less ‘refined’ option. Maple syrup/oolong come to mind.

    Congrats on the season closer, too!

  6. Cork @ Cork's Outdoors

    Hank, you must have been reading my mind this weekend with all the cookbooks I’ve been focused on by authors from France and the UK that highlight the timberdoodle and bécasse! They do go crazy about these little but tasty upland offerings, most especially some interesting recipes by Dickson Wright in her “Game Cookbook”, though your Cumberland sauce seems much more in tune with the woodcock…don’t know if I’d be that into a French snipe recipe I’ve read, with its entrail contents soaking into toast…then again we never bat an eye on whole sardines and anchovies. 😉

    …A friend invited me to hunt whitetails on his farms in northwestern MInnesota, and your recipe make me want to get there a bit earlier for the woodcock and ruffed grouse…would love to see how Ziggy does on them!

  7. Sean

    Alas, for me woodcock is a dream yet unfulfilled.

  8. Bumbling Bushman

    I’ve been anticipating this post. It doesn’t disappoint.
    I hunted woodcock (w/ Brian D) in 2009, when coastal North Carolina had an influx of migrants thanks to severe weather to the north (repeated again this year). They are, as you say, amazing, mysterious, delightful creatures and we cherished the handful that made it into our gamebags like little gold nuggets. They make you want to carry an old side-by-side in 28-gauge, or something like that. They make you want to own a well-bred dog. They make you want to read a real book. Wood elf – that’s a good name for them.

  9. Carolina Rig

    I’m extremely fortunate to have had the past two epic woodcock seasons I’ve had. Glad you enjoyed them Hank. I’ve got three more in the freezer…what to do with them???
    Even with the bounty of Oregon white truffles you sent, my wife still gave me the evil-eye as I packed away the 3 birds I sent you. She loves those legs!


  10. Jesse Ellis

    Hey hank-

    Great article, as usual. You mentioned wanting to not only hunt but eat every game bird in North America… I strongly advise against Spruce Grouse. At least once it’s gotten cold. My dad once got a Spruce Grouse while hunting Ruffed. This was fairly late in the season, and the thing had been eating… wait for it… spruce needles. The crop had a good cup or more, if I remember right. And the bird tasted like spruce needles.

    Put it this way – when you get one, I’ll be very very curious to see how you’ll prepare it.


  11. Mari

    Oh my gosh dude. I love your blog… apparently in the Spring, Summer, and Fall. Your foraging entries are looked forward to year round but several weeks of straight fowl entries are getting to this 20+ year vegetarian. Have mercy on my poor soul, you must have frozen elderberry around somewhere?

  12. deana@lostpastremembered

    That is so thrilling. It is on my list and I fear I will never try them.. good to have the experience vicariously through you. I wonder if they are like other birds in that the meat goes liverish if cooked too long?? Like with those fabled ortolons, I think I could never do the guts and brains part either!!! They are lovely little birds, aren’t they?

    Thanks for sharing your triumph!

    And I love the idea of the spruce grouse tasting like spruce… I used pine as part of my stove-top smoke mix for quails… really delicious (with jasmine flowers and tea- a chinese recipe)

  13. Mari

    Thank you Hank!

  14. Becky Lerner

    Timberdoodle? That’s quite the name! And those are some outstanding feathers. So ornate!

  15. Katrina@TheGastronomicalMe

    ‘roofed goose’??’timgerdood’e??are they known by other names in Britain?

    and I thought I was an adventurous eater. must hunt in Selfridges.

  16. Darya Pino

    Best post title ever.

  17. Noel Rodriguez

    Central Texas has Woodcock or Snipe, after limiting out on doves there are always these long beaked birds too. I throw them into my “Paloma Cioppino” every year and no one notices, but me. They are small, but tasty. No, I don’t bother with the brains either. As for Collared Eurasian Doves, I don’t know what you have where you hunt, but the ones here in Central Texas are bigger than White WIng Doves. woodcock are about the size of a young Mourning Dove.

  18. Jen

    Love your site!

    I came across it looking for rabbit recipes. My husband and I have started a tiny farm and are raising various animals for meat (rabbit, quail, duck etc). Hopefully he’ll be doing some hunting in the fall as well. I’m be coming back for more recipes!

  19. RaiderAL

    There are Snipe in California, havent hunted any but my friend got two a while ago, he forgot to tell me if they were any good. Have you had any yet?

  20. Andrew

    Here in Vermont, Woodcock/Timberdoodle/bogsocker/worm-bird is a common occurrence come October. Unfortunately the season is a rather short one, but I’ve found they are infinitely easier to hunt than the ruffed grouse. This being my first hunting season (I’m not a very good shot), flushes to birds-in-bag ratio for grouse was 54/1, but woodcock was 23/8. As a result, I had some nice opportunities to experiment with a few amateur recipes. My favorite by far was a bourbon or brandy flambee with the woodcock cooked rare in sections in a stovetop pan with butter. Melts in the mouth! Great appetizer or maybe even a bizarre desert if paired right. The meat is just so sweet and juicy.

    You may already know this, but the reason behind the white meat legs is because woodcock are flight/migratory birds that need the extra capillaries in their breasts for flight. Hence why the rarely in-flight grouse or chicken has white meat breast and dark meat legs.

    Love the website! Looking forward to the book!

  21. Ken McGraw

    I’m so delighted you offered such lovely pictures of this little bird – you’ve inspired me to try plucking some and serving them trussed. Like Andrew, I find myself with a lot more woodcock in the bag than grouse – they hold so much better for a pointing dog than those flighty grouse. Plus I live in Michigan, the American capital of woodcock hunting. I’ve been eating them breasted and cooked very quickly in bourbon and butter, two to three minutes a side so they come out medium rare. I found this recipe rifling through hunting books, when I noticed that the late Ralf Coykendall, who wrote about hunting duck as well as woodcock, cooked all his birds in panfulls of butter and bourbon, with a little worchestershire and red currant jelly. Really simple but the best way I have found to prepare these little guys. I plan to combine this recipe with your method for toast. Looking forward to the book.

  22. Paul Beuselinck

    Your fine article has me avowed to bag a couple of these in my Missouri woodland this fall and seek to enjoy what you describe. Cheers.

  23. Bill

    I personally think woodcock is more gamey than grouse, which is much like chicken. Woodcock is more like duck and should be cooked rare to medium rare.

  24. Justin Witt

    This is a great recipe, and just in time. It’s the end of the bird season down here in Argentina, and I’ve been basically ignoring the snipe we have for months as I crossed creeks and bogs in hot pursuit of quail. Yesterday, it occurred to me – “I’ve flushed dozens of snipe today and only five quail, hmmm…” and I began to stick to the marshes. It is amazing how much fat is on these birds. And your recipe was absolutely right – simplicity and truth to flavor at its finest. Thanks!

  25. Jackal

    I shot two woodcock with the last two shots of my shooting season in North Yorkshire, England, on 28 January (using a 20-bore side-by-side, Bumbling Bushman, and a labrador retriever). They are now hanging in a cool shed, to be eaten on 1st February with fine claret. There is a good demonstration video of how to prepare and cook them on the ‘Shooting Times’ website. A friend enjoyed woodcock roast and filleted at The Star Inn in Harome a few weeks ago: much better, I suspect, than the traditional rare and bloody roast bird, served on fried bread with its head on and its beak threaded through its thighs.

  26. Patrick B.

    When plucking woodcock the British & Irish first take the ‘pin feather’ off each wing to put in a hatband as a discreet but prestigious shooting symbol. Do you do that in North America? The pin-feather can be found by stretching the wing out, looking on the leading edge on the downwards side of the ‘elbow’ and finding a small prominent diamond-shaped feather. It can usually be plucked by hand, if not use small pliers.The pin-feather was used by artists in the Middle Ages for painting minatures and is still referred to in the phrase ‘to get a feather in your cap’ i.e. do something praiseworthy

  27. Patrick B.

    Sorry, I should have said that the pin-feather can be found on the ‘outside’ slope of the wing after the elbow i.e. the slope further from the body of the bird, not the ‘downwards’ side

  28. chip laughton

    While on a grouse and woodcock hunting trip to MIchigan, I met another hunter at the hotel that was a woodcock specialist (he had a handwritten notebook that covered 20 years of woodcock hunting and coverts) ,he actually did not care at all about shooting grouse. Anyway we had nice conversation about cooking them and he turned me on to woodcock legs, just sautéed. That is the sweetest tasting meat on any gamebird and one of my favorites. Recently someone told me to try it with dove legs as well. It is awesome.

  29. Jesse Martus

    Hello Hank,

    This recipe worked great for me. I plucked all my grouse and woodcock this year and that has made the difference in keeping the meat moist. I followed this recipe for a mixed plate of roast woodcock and grouse, pan seared in a little miropoix, then roasted for 20 min at 450, nothing but a little salt and fresh thyme on top. The final platter was capped off with a smothering of sauteed Chantrelles that had been dry sauteed in the summer and frozen, finishing salt and pepper. The mushrooms reconstituted perfectly. I put the pepper on after roasting because Thomas Keller said pepper is best when not cooked.

  30. Slay to Gourmet: Fried Woodcock | Growler Magazine

    […] has been heralded by great chefs and eaters such as Paul Bocuse and Jim Harrison. Notable game chef Hank Shaw even suggests that, “the earth moves when you bite into one.” That might be a bit of a stretch, […]

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