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Chukar Curry with Rice Recipe

A classic Indian dish to spice up your hard-earned mountain bird.

Chukar Curry with Rice Recipe

This chukar recipe is great for two things: a long slow simmer to tenderize wild birds and a sauce that will take your tastebuds on a rapid transit of flavor. (Photo By: Jack Hennessy)

To get there and make this dish, time is required, along with the initial spice investment. Yes, there are several spices, some pricier than others, but they’ll last for many meals and after you try this recipe, you’ll be thankful you made the investment.

While other Indian dishes may call for a yogurt marinade, I opted for a fairly simple brine here. A good brine works in two ways: it will imbue the meat with flavor, similar to a marinade, but, most importantly, the salt in the brine will bind to muscle fibers and help retain moisture when cooking. The end result: Your bird meat tastes more flavorful and is more tender and juicier.

Though the title says chukar, this dish will work with any upland bird, and that includes your red-meat birds like prairie chicken or sharp-tailed grouse. It’s also potentially one of the best solutions if you find freezer-burnt birds in your stash. Debone or breast those out, try to take a fillet knife and carve off slivers of dull, freezer-burnt meat (this is easier when birds are still slightly frozen), then follow these instructions just as you would if the bird was fresh from the field.

Deboning may take practice but with this recipe there is no wrong way to do it (as long as you aren’t adding bones to the sauce). Use a fillet or deboning knife and carefully free the meat from the bones. Tendons are fine to keep with thigh and leg meat. After brining you’ll want to chop your chukar (or other upland bird) meat into bite-size pieces. For example, after brining, I cut chukar breasts in half. I do remove the tenderloins and also cut them in half. You don’t want any pieces wider than 1 inch by 1 inch when adding to your skillet.

Be certain to not crowd the pan when searing chukar. A crowded pan will release more steam and soften the exterior of all meat, eliminating the chance for a proper browning, which helps add that distinctive flavor to any grilled meat. Additionally, when cooking with diced onions afterward, you will deglaze the pan and pick up those brown bits from the skillet, further building upon the flavor of this dish.

Serves: 2-3 portions
Prep Time: 4-6 hours
Cook Time: 2 hours

Main Ingredients:

  • 16 ounces deboned chukar brined, then chopped and seared
  • 14 ounces crushed tomatoes
  • 1 ½ cups chicken stock, mixed use
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • ½ medium yellow onion, diced
  • Sunflower oil (or similar smoking-point cooking oil)
  • 1 tablespoon salted butter
  • 1 ½ tablespoon freshly minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon freshly minced ginger
  • Freshly minced cilantro for garnish
  • 2 cups basmati rice
  • 2 ¾ cups cold water
  • Naan bread
Chukar curry with rice recipe
Not just for chukar, this recipe makes the most of any shot-through or freezer burnt upland birds. (Photo By: Jack Hennessy)

Brine Ingredients:

  • 1 gallon cold water
  • ½ cup kosher salt
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup black peppercorns
  • 6 ounces freshly smashed ginger
  • 1 garlic bulb, freshly smashed


  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon ground mustard
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon pureed chipotles (in adobo sauce)
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar

Directions for Brine:

  1. Add ½ gallon cold water to large pot along with other ingredients.
  2. Lightly simmer until salt and sugar are dissolved.
  3. Remove from heat and add other ½ gallon cold water.
  4. Place in fridge and allow to cool before adding chukar.
  5. Debone chukar for 16 ounces worth (or slightly more). This took me two average-sized chukars and one small.
  6. Once brine is cool, brine chukar for 4-6 hours.
  7. Remove after brining and thoroughly rinse under cold water prior to cooking. Ideally, you want to dry chukar after brine and rinse by pat drying and then allowing to cool in the fridge with ample air flow.

Directions for Cooking:

  1. Chop into bite-sized pieces before cooking.
  2. In a large (preferably cast iron) skillet, add a thin layer of sunflower oil and heat on medium-high to 450 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. Being careful not to crowd the pan (ideally your skillet is only half full), add pieces of chukar and sear all sides. Immediately remove and set aside once fully seared and continue to sear all 16 ounces. (You don’t need to cook fully here, only brown).
  4. Set aside.
  5. Using that same skillet, turn heat to medium-low.
  6. Add diced onion along with 1 tablespoon salted butter.
  7. Lightly salt and pepper.
  8. Stir often and brown onions thoroughly, picking up brown bits from seared chukar.
  9. Add 1½ tablespoons garlic and 1 tablespoon ginger, both freshly minced, and stir for a couple minutes.
  10. Add crushed tomatoes and chicken stock along with spice list
  11. Stir thoroughly and allow to simmer for 10 minutes.
  12. Add contents of skillet to a food processor and blend thoroughly.
  13. Add contents of food processor back to skillet, continuing to heat on medium-low.
  14. Add seared chukar pieces along with another ½ cup chicken stock.
  15. Stir often and allow to simmer for half hour.
  16. Add heavy whipping cream and allow to reduce for another 45 minutes, stirring often.
Chukar curry with rice recipe
This spice-rich curry recipe is sure to send your taste buds on a mouth-watering journey. (Photo By: Jack Hennessy)

Directions for Rice:

  1. In a medium to large saucepan, add basmati rice along with 2¾ cups cold water.
  2. Cover and bring to a boil.
  3. Turn to low and turn off heat after water is absorbed. This entire process will likely take between 10 to 15 minutes.
  4. Once rice is done cooking, salt the sauce to taste. At this point residual salt from the brine will have secreted from the chukar. Salt to taste means it should not taste bland. If bland, add a little bit more kosher salt, but not to the point that sauce tastes salty. (Add a small pinch at time, taste test, reassess).
  5. To serve, add rice to a plate with chukar and sauce and garnish with freshly minced cilantro and warm naan bread. If store bought, you may wish to heat up naan bread in oven prior to serving.
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