A Fourth of July classic from the Elk Public House kitchen ready for your Independence Day festivities
Every summer around Independence Day in Spokane, Washington, one of our weekly specials at The Elk Public House often involved a salad called “Firecracker Chicken.” The idea was simple: balancing heat with a strong dose of huckleberry sweetness, which at the time was only available from Montana during summer months. With chukar being a popular game bird in this region, and with the Fourth of July this weekend, it made perfect sense to take this classic seasonal menu item and put a wild-game spin on it.
For smaller birds like chukar and quail, when planning to grill I prefer to spatchcock these birds. For complete details on how to so, check out this article. Spatchcocking does two key things: reduces cooking time and helps the bird cook more evenly.
For this buffalo sauce, it’s not overly spicy, but does have some kick. If you don’t like extra kick, feel free to exclude the chipotle puree. On that note, in regard to chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, it’s been my experience that flavor does vary a bit by brand. I recently used La Costena (7-ounce can) and was quite happy with the results. But don’t stress trying to find this exact brand. While flavors may vary by brand, the end result will be the same: extra spice for your buffalo sauce. Please also feel welcome to taste test the buffalo sauce after mixing in butter and garlic. If it’s not spicy enough for your liking, add another 1/4 cup of the chipotle puree.
This salad is all about balance and one flavor complimenting one another, as is the case with bleu cheese crumbles and crushed pistachios (I used a shell-less, roasted and salted variety). As always though, if you have an aversion to any specific ingredient, always feel welcome to exclude it. Below in the recipe I include a link to the huckleberry syrup I used, which you can find on Amazon. Complete with freshly minced basil, this is a very aromatic dressing that pairs perfectly with summer, as well as a spicy-hot dish.
Firecracker Chukar SaladJack Hennessy
- 2 chukars plucked, preferably skin-on, and spatchcocked
- salt and pepper
- 1 cup Frank’s Red Hot
- ¼ cup Pureed chipotle (in adobo sauce)
- 4 tbsp salted butter
- 1 tbsp garlic freshly minced
- ⅔ cup Montana Wild Huckleberry Syrup
- 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
- ½ oz basil freshly minced
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- Spring mix
- ¼ red onion finely minced
- Bleu cheese crumbles
- Crushed pistachios for garnish
- Spatchcock chukars (remove spine and open like a book) and dust front with kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper. Allow to sit and dry in fridge for couple hours prior to grilling.
- Puree chipotle peppers in adobo sauce and add ¼ cup of puree to 1 cup Frank’s Red Hot sauce. To make buffalo sauce, heat this mixture on medium-low and slowly add 4 tablespoons of salted butter 1 tablespoon at a time, then 1 tablespoon freshly minced garlic. Stir often and do not burn.
- Grill chukar evenly for crispy exterior and 160-degree Fahrenheit internal temp. When done, remove and let chukars rest a few minutes.
- Gently mix together dressing ingredients. TIP: it may help to microwave syrup bottle, cap off, for 10-20 seconds to make it easier to pour.
- In a large mixing bowl, add buffalo sauce and gently toss chukars in bowl to fully cover in sauce.
- Assemble salad with a spring mix and finely diced red onions. Spring bleu cheese crumbles over the top and add chukar covered in buffalo sauce.
- Add a little bit of dressing and garnish with crushed pistachios.
Jack Hennessy grew up in the South Suburbs of Chicago and didn't start hunting until he attended graduate school in Spokane, Washington, at the age of 26. Hennessy began work in professional kitchens in high school but didn't start writing wild game recipes until he joined the Spokesman-Review in 2014. Since then, his recipes have appeared with Petersen's Hunting, Backcountry Journal, Gun Dog Magazine, among many others. He now lives with his wife, daughter, and Wirehaired Vizsla, Dudley, in Wichita, Kansas.