One of my great crusades in wild game cookery is to convince people to keep more of the animals they bring home. In the case of bird hunting, this often means the wings.
Wings are a staple at sports bars (and really any casual restaurant), but they are always from chickens — and usually crappy, factory-farmed chickens. But try to make wings with wild birds and you end up chewing on leather.
There’s a work-around, however. Braise the wings first, then coat them with sauce and roast them.
This method works great with all kinds of wings, from giant turkey wings down to grouse wings. But it’s best with the wing sections of ducks and pheasants.
You should know that braising the wings of wild birds is something of a roulette: Really old birds can often take a full hour longer to get tender, compared to young-of-the-year. I generally overcook the young bird wings to ensure that the old ones’ are edible.
My original recipe for this was the classic Buffalo wings, but now you see all sorts of different flavors on a wing. Honey mustard is my favorite of these alternates, although I love a spicy-sticky Asian style wing, too.
I adapted a recipe for honey mustard chicken wings from my friends over at White on Rice Couple, who are equally wing-obsessed. Mustardy and reasonably sweet — I prefer my mustard to have honey in it, not my honey to have mustard in it — Holly and I annihilated the plate in about 3 minutes.
Wanna make this recipe? Save up the drumettes from all your birds, and the second digit (the “forearm”) of larger birds like pheasants and big ducks like mallards, pintails, canvasbacks, redheads and gadwall.
As you collect them, vac-seal in packages or just wrap in plastic wrap until you get at least 20 wing pieces.
Then make this for Football Day or whenever. You won’t be sorry.
- 3 to 4 pounds duck or pheasant wings
- 1 quart duck stock or chicken broth
- 1/2 cup yellow mustard
- 2 tablespoons water
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
- Splash of Worcestershire sauce
- Cayenne and black pepper to taste
- Put the wings and the broth in a heavy, lidded pot. If they are not totally covered by the broth, add water until the wings are just barely covered. If you need to add water, sprinkle a little salt in there, too. Bring to a bare simmer and cook gently, with the lid on, until all the wings are tender. You want the meat to be thinking about falling off the bone. Normally this takes 2 hours, but 3 hours isn't unreasonable.
- Meanwhile, make the sauce by mixing all the other ingredients to a small pot and bringing it to a simmer. Turn off the heat and tinker with the flavors by adding more salt, honey, cayenne or black pepper.
- When the wings are ready, put them in a bowl and add the sauce. Toss to coat. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Set the wings on a baking sheet (save the excess sauce) so they don't touch each other and bake until they begin to brown on top, about 15 minutes or so. Turn and repeat. Toss with the remaining sauce and eat.