There is a tale that during World War II, when Colonel Frederick Wildman, aide to General "Hap" Arnold, flew around the world with his chief, a second plane loaded with fine wines trailed their aircraft. To the friends responsible for this legend it is as difficult to think of Wildman roughing it without a fine Moselle for his fish and a choice of clarets and Burgundies for meat and game as it is to imagine Pancho Gonzales without a tennis racket or Van Cliburn without a piano.
Anyway, as president of Bellows & Co. from 1933 till its dissolution in 1952 and since then a senior partner of Frederick Wildman & Sons, fine wine importers, the Colonel, as he is still affectionately called, has had ample opportunity both in public and in private to exercise his notable nose, his discriminating palate and his exceptional stirring elbow.
This last is especially evident in his own dining room, for both at his New York town house and at a country house in Colebrook, Conn, he masterminds all the food served. (Mrs. Wildman is a patient as well as a lucky woman.) What's more, although both these households are adequately staffed, the Colonel will rarely tolerate the cooking of principal dishes by anyone else—particularly if the choice is game.
Though he has traveled and has found excellent sport in many countries of the world, the Colonel is an old-fashioned New Englander at heart who really most enjoys shooting over his own dogs (Brittany spaniels), on his own native heath (the country around Colebrook). The ruffed grouse—"pahtridge" in New England—woodcock, duck and pheasant that he bags are hung in a most modern walk-in refrigerator at his country place for two to three weeks. Here there is a magnificent kitchen, complete with built-in charcoal broilers and rotisseries; in town the Colonel has the choice of two kitchens. The picture opposite shows him carving grouse in his office luncheon room in New York—birds that were prepared for table by the method described below.
WILDMAN ON WILD BIRDS
He roasts them on a spit
I first stuff the properly hung birds with a little celery, celery leaves, parsley, tarragon, etc., largely to keep them moist. I like to do game birds at medium heat on the electric spit of a rotisserie, cooking them 30 to 40 minutes, depending on the size of the birds, and basting them with the following:
Basting sauce for birds
Sauté one or two chopped shallots lightly in butter, bind with a little flour, add stock made from the extras of the birds (wingtips, feet, lower legs, neck, gizzards, etc.) with chicken or smoked turkey broth. Add a fair amount of dry red wine and port wine, twice as much dry wine as port. If port wine is not available a combination of currant jelly, Dijon mustard and a little chutney juice may be substituted—the idea is to give a sweet-sour effect. I sometimes also add a little glacé de viande, or meat essence. The stock must then be thickened to a glazing consistency with either potato flour or cornstarch. Baste the birds with some of this sauce three or four times during the cooking; to what is left of the sauce add a little more stock and red wine, heat, and pour over the finished birds on a serving platter garnished with watercress.
Special pointers from an expert
To prevent scorching, tie the breasts of delicate birds like chukar partridge with strips of bacon or salt pork before roasting; remove same when birds are half cooked, to permit browning.
Cut larger birds in half with game shears after cooking; serve a half to each person on a round of toast spread with foie gras or pheasant liver p√¢té.
For wild duck: add grated orange peel to the basic sauce given above and pour a teaspoon of cura√ßao over each duck before carving.
COLONEL WILDMAN (front, right) and guests pose with day's bag of pheasant at Hollenbeck Club near Falls Village, Conn.