Stuffing seems to be the most loved ingredient many people enjoy on Thanksgiving and Christmas menus. This year, I had rave reviews on my stuffing, possibly due to the secret, field-to-fork ingredient. Dare I tell the story of how I made the “best stuffing ever?”Jump to Recipe
Let me start at the beginning. I have these wonderful four-legged friends who live for the hunt. I’ve hunted behind bird dogs for pheasant, ducks, grouse, and the like. While in Russia pursuing moose with my friends from Sako Firearms, I hunted behind a Swedish Hunting dog. It’s a sight to behold when a dog knows it’s time to hunt. Their demeanor changes, and they get a smile on their faces.
My hounds are trained to hunt mountain lions. Well, except for one. She also knows how to track bears, but that’s not legal in Colorado so cougars it is.
A lot of time goes into training a good hunting dog. The task is a challenging and rewarding experience. The greatest reward is when the dog attains its quarry, which also means a reward for us. We’ll have fantastic, healthy meals on our table.
I’ve had friends say, “Why do you hunt mountain lions? You can’t eat them.” Au contraire, my friends. The meat acquired from the cougar is delectable. I use it in many recipes, but first, let me address another fallacy about those wonderful hunting dogs.
The thought that because you’re hunting with dogs, the animals have no chance or it’s easy. — This couldn’t be further from the truth.
As an American, I’d never hunted big game with a dog. When I headed to Russia to pursue a moose, I knew I’d have to open my mind to the fact that I’d be behind a dog during the quest. It wasn’t until after I arrived, that the sun rose, and I saw the terrain that I realized why, in that part of the world, they utilize the help of K-9s.
We jumped in a skiff and headed across one of the many lakes. Upon disembarking, we saw a huge moose track in the moss. I’ve been on moose hunts before, in the U.S., and I became excited at this fresh track. As we maneuvered across the land, we watched our step to not fall into any marshy spots or sink to our knees.
We hunted for a while, not covering much ground. The terrain made it difficult to hike, and we couldn’t see very far in the thick timber and scrub. As our guide spotted the moose track heading to the lake’s edge, he directed us to turn back. The moose had taken to the water and made a swim for it.
When we returned to our boat location, I looked around in awe. I wanted to capture a picture of my foot beside the huge moose track, except it had vanished. We’d been gone no more than 30 minutes. The moss had regained its composure, and you’d never have known a moose had been there.
Spot-and-stalk hunting would be a challenge in this topography. To spot-and-stalk, you must first be able to spot them, then follow the animal at a good pace. That wasn’t possible due to the logs, holes, swamps, limited visibility, and disappearing tracks. The reasons for dogs finally rang true in my mind.
We hunted for moose, using the dog, for two days. We never caught up to a bull; no one filled their tag. The moral of that story? Hunting with dogs doesn’t make the pursuit easy and does not guarantee you will bag your quarry.
Now, back to that stuffing and the secret ingredient.
One of the most arduous hunts I’ve been on is that of mountain lions in the Rocky Mountains. This type of hunting with hounds is done during freezing winter months. It helps to have at least an inch of fresh snow to locate a fresh track. Some hunts begin at 7,000 and end at 11,000-foot elevation. You see, the animals go where they want when they want, and the hunter must simply follow. It’s not easy.
Last year, I tagged a large tom after two days of pursuit in frigid temperatures. It wasn’t until the last minutes of the second day that I managed to “swim” my way through waist-deep snow, with the help of my friend, and make it to the tree. We were able to determine the sex of the animal and its maturity and then decide whether to take him or let him go.
Have you guessed it yet? The secret ingredient in my stuffing is delectable, ground, seasoned mountain lion; to this day, all my guests continue to rave about the stuffing.
Cougar Stuffing (Dressing)
- 1 lb cougar chorizo (see recipe at MiaAnstine.com)
- 2 tbsp butter substitute your oil of choice
- 1 cup celery chopped
- 1 small onion diced
- 3/4 cup carrot grated
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 bag (14 oz) cubed herb seasoned stuffing mix
- 2 cups chicken broth
- Preheat oven to 325°F.Add the cougar sausage to the skillet, cover, and heat it to medium. Use a spoon or spatula to break up the meat, turning it to brown and cook through on all sides.
- Melt the butter in a separate stock pot over medium-high heat, then add the celery, onion, carrots, garlic and rosemary, sauteing them until the onions are translucent.
- Remove the vegetables from the heat, and add the meat and stuffing mix to the pot, mixing them well to combine.
- Stir the chicken broth into the mixture.
- Lightly grease a 2-quart casserole or soufflé dish, add the mix, and cover with a lid or foil.
- Place in the oven and bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour or until cooked thoroughly. (160°F).