Flaps down, the mallards coast in to their faultless landings on the Milwaukee River just beyond the back lawn of John E. Schroeder's charming house in the River Hills section of Milwaukee. You can see the river from the sun porch, where rows of cookbooks vie for attention with a mounted 109-pound tarpon, the trophy of an expedition off the Florida Keys in 1955. In one corner is a built-in grill for the succulent game dishes which Schroeder enjoys cooking for the guests he and his wife Trude often entertain in this room.
Recently retired from the lumber business in Milwaukee, John Schroeder is tall, fit, and looks just the way you'd expect a man to look who once stroked the University of Wisconsin crew. He fell in love with the outdoors at the age of 16, when he traveled with timber crews and surveyors through the wild country of northern Wisconsin, Ontario and British Columbia. Over the years he has hunted a great variety of game in many parts of the continent, often accompanied by Trude and their children, John Jr. and Nancy, now married to another ardent Milwaukee sportsman, Robert Coburn.
Schroeder's favorite quarry is upland game birds, and for him the most sporting of these is the ruffed grouse—known in his section of the country as partridge—with its quick take-off and swift, evasive flight. This bird also suits him in the culinary sense, the meat being white and extremely delicate. His recipe for charcoal-broiled ruffed grouse features an unusual stuffing which combines the flavors of orange zest and brandy with sage and onion. To have this delicious dish out of season, he offers the following advice on freezing: "In order to avoid 'locker burn' (a drying out and yellowing of the skin) it is best to leave the feathers on and simply draw the birds before they go into the freezer. They can be plucked or skinned after they thaw out and just before being cooked."
RUFFED GROUSE WITH BRANDIED ORANGE STUFFING (for six)
3 ruffed grouse, ready for cooking
Livers from the grouse, chopped
2¼ cups prepared sage-and-onion stuffing
¼ pound butter
6 tablespoons brandy
1½ tablespoons grated orange rind
½ cup orange pulp
1 cup diced celery
1 egg, beaten
Pinches of rosemary, marjoram, chervil
Pepper and salt
French dressing (made with 3 parts oil to 1 part wine vinegar or lemon juice)
Sauté-the sage-and-onion stuffing with the chopped livers in 2 tablespoons of butter for a few minutes. Mix in the brandy, orange rind and pulp, and set this aside. Sauté the diced celery briefly in 2 tablespoons of butter and add the remaining butter, melted, the beaten egg, the herbs, and salt and pepper to taste. Blend thoroughly with the stuffing mixture and stuff the grouse.
Truss the birds and place on rotisserie. Brush with French dressing at the start of cooking and every 15 minutes until done. Use a moderate fire of charcoal briquettes—one layer, scattered—and keep the birds about 3 inches from the charcoal. Under these conditions good-size birds should take about 70 minutes to broil. Do not overcook or they will lose flavor. After removing from fire, dash a small amount of brandy over the birds and cut them in half with game shears.