Every year near the end of August folks in my circle start talking about September 1 -- better known as dove season! They are always shocked when I tell them I won’t be out there on opening day. They are even more shocked when I tell them why. Dove hunters at the trailhead scratch their heads and look at me like I am trying to pull one over on them when I tell them, “No go ahead and hunt over there, I am hunting the marsh for sora rail!”
This little-known bird is not only fun to hunt; it is a joy to cook as well! Just as the hunt is extremely physically exerting and not for the faint of heart, the flavor of the sora rail is also on the wild side, with a deep richness and unique earth tones that the well-developed palate of the modern wild game connoisseur craves.
I have cooked them so many ways over the years, but I find they pair best with a simple seasonal salad. When the rail season is in full swing, my garden is typically putting out the first few acorn squash of the season, so I grab a few cloves of garlic put up in the pantry, pull a few onions and get to work.
3 cloves minced garlic.
1 tsp chili flakes.
1 tbs Cloves.
1/3 cup Tequila.
1 tbs agave syrup (or honey).
2 acorn squash cut into ½ inch slices tossed in olive oil.
1 tsp Cinnamon
1/3 cup Brown Sugar
½ tsp Cayenne Pepper
1 tsp Ground Ginger
Salad green mix:
Toasted pumpkin/squash seeds
- Either pluck and halve the birds with skin on or quarter up breast/legs if they are too banged up to pluck.
- Marinade the Rail for at least 30 minutes.
- Sear halved Rail skin side down in cast iron skillet for about 2-3 minutes per side, even less for skinless cuts, looking for medium doneness.
- Bake squash at 375 degrees for 20 minutes, flip squash and add 1 roughly chopped purple onion (any kind of onion will do) and continue baking for an additional 10-15 minutes.
- Mix in a chopped green salad (kale, spinach and chard are all great choices), some toasted squash/pumpkin seeds or pine nuts, dried fruit(dried figs if you can get them), drizzle with a little balsamic and you are ready to feast.