At the 10th annual Wild About Game Cook-Off last month, chef Gabe Rucker of Le Pigeon, Portland, Ore., took top honors with his butter-poached quail with foie gras gnocchi, chanterelles, leeks and pickled peaches (recipe below). The annual festival and Iron Chef-style competition, sponsored by Nicky USA, promotes the use of sustainable, free-range game birds and meat.

(l to r) Wild About Game Cook-Off winner chef Gabe Rucker of Le Pigeon and chef Eric Moore of Victory, Portland, who was Rucker's sous chef during the competition

The nine competing chefs had two hours to prepare an original dish using game meat or birds. The second place winner was Naomi Pomeroy, chef of Beast in Portland, who prepared a pheasant and chanterelle pot pie with sherry cream and foie gras fennel and wild flower salad. Third place went to Chris Carriker, chef of the Gilt Club in Portland, who made roasted venison rack with huckleberry mazzafegati and hunter's pie.

The festival took place Sept. 18 at The Resort at the Mountain, Mt. Hood, Ore., and also included cooking demonstrations and a pig butchering seminar. For more information, visit

Butter Poached Quail with Foie Gras Gnocchi, Chanterelles, Leeks and Pickled Peaches
Gabe Rucker, chef, Le Pigeon, Portland; wine pairing by Marlene Rossman

Yield: 4 servings

1 lb. unsalted butter, softened
1 lb. foie gras, cubed
4 semi boneless quail
Salt, to taste
4 c. all-purpose flour, divided
1/4 t. nutmeg
1/2 t. cinnamon, divided
Rice oil, as needed for frying
1 1/2 c. water
6 whole eggs
1/2 c. leeks, sautéed
1/2 c. chanterelles, sautéed
Foie Gras Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
Pickled Peaches (recipe follows)
Fresh parsley leaves, whole
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 lemon, to squeeze
Fleur de sel, for garnish

Method (1) In a bowl, combine softened butter and foie gras cubes. Mix until thoroughly blended. (2) Season quail with salt, and place in shallow baking dish. Melt 1 lb. foie gras butter, and pour over quail--it should almost cover them. Cover dish with foil, and bake at 350°F for 25 minutes. (3) In a shallow dish, combine 2 c. flour, nutmeg and 1/4 t. cinnamon. Remove quail from foie gras butter; reserve butter. Dredge quail in seasoned flour, and fry in rice oil at 350°F for 4 minutes until golden brown. (4) Bring water, 6 oz. foie gras butter and 1 T. salt to a boil. Add remaining 2 c. flour and 1/4 t. cinnamon; stir vigorously with a wooden spoon. Cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes, until dough forms a ball. (5) Transfer to a standing mixer with a paddle attachment. Add eggs one at a time. (6) Transfer dough to a piping bag fitted with a medium tip. Pipe gnocchi in small batches into a pot of boiling water using a paring knife to cut dough as it comes out of bag. When gnocchi float, remove from water, transfer to an oiled cookie sheet and reserve. (7) Shortly before service, fry gnocchi in reserved quail butter at 350°F. Drain on paper towel-lined sheet tray. Toss gnocchi with leeks and chanterelles. Season with salt, and squeeze juice of 1/2 lemon over. Toss with 1 T. of Foie Gras Vinaigrette, and spoon gnocchi onto center of plate. Top with 1 quail each. (8) Toss Pickled Peaches, parsley and red onion in a bowl. Top quail with peach salad. Spoon reserved Foie Gras Vinaigrette around plate. Finish with fleur de sel.

Foie Gras Vinaigrette
4 oz. foie gras butter (from preceding recipe)
1 shallot, minced
1/2 c. aged balsamic
1/2 t. thyme, chopped
Salt, to taste

Method (1) Melt butter, and combine with remaining ingredients. (2) Season with salt, and set aside in a warm spot.

Pickled Peaches
1 peach, stone removed
1/2 c. Moscatel vinegar
1/4 c. brown sugar
2 T. salt
2 T. water
1 T. Wild Turkey bourbon

Method (1)
Cut peach into matchstick shapes. (2) Combine all other ingredients, and bring to a boil. Cool, and pour over peaches. Leave peaches in pickling liquid for 40 minutes at room temperature. Hold until needed for service.

Wine pairing: Bonaccorsi Wine Co. Pinot Noir "Fiddlestix" 2007 (California)