Inspired by the grill-loving state of Texas, these three game bird recipes challenge the notion that summer is the best season for roasting meat over a flame.

Game birds and grills are a perfect match in winter. Whether you’re on a weight-watching New Year’s resolution and looking for a light entrée to help you recover from holiday overindulgence (without sacrificing flavor, of course) or someone looking to warm up with a velvety treat, there’s a lot you can do with the “other” poultry of the culinary world.

Here are three of our favorite game bird recipes for winter, from duck fat to quail to pheasant, straight out of the cookbooks of Valencia Group chefs in Austin, San Antonio, and Houston.

Duck Fat Hollandaise

This rich, creamy sauce from College Station’s Cavalry Court is the perfect topper for a grilled steak. The sauce, prepared with a nitrogen-charged whipped cream dispenser, is a fluffier consistency than regular hollandaise and can also double as a savory dip for chicken wings, crackers, and crudité.

  • 16 ounces clarified duck fat
  • 4 ounces egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon tobacco sauce
  • salt to taste
  • white pepper to taste
  • water
  • whipped cream dispenser
  • 3 nitrogen cartridges
  • thermometer
  • mixing bowl
  1. Heat duck fat to 170 degrees.
  2. Whip yolks to a creamy consistency, and slowly add heated duck fat. If too thick, like mayonnaise, add some water.
  3. Add lemon juice, salt, and white pepper.
  4. Pour into whipped cream dispenser. When ready to serve, charge dispenser three times using nitrogen chargers.
  5. Shake dispenser well before serving, hold dispenser upside down, and pull trigger to dispense hollandaise.

Citrus Grilled Quail

A marinade of Hotel Valencia Riverwalk’s signature blood orange-infused olive oil with some hints of fresh citrus and cinnamon adds a bright and mildly spicy pop to a grilled quail recipe aimed at countering the winter blues.

  • 8 semi-boneless whole quails
  • 2 cups fresh-squeezed orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh orange zest
  • 2 cups Hotel Valencia Riverwalk Blood Orange Olive Oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, broken
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh sage, chopped
  1. Take all dry ingredients, finely chop, and place in a bowl.
  2. Add orange juice, olive oil, and broken cinnamon sticks, and mix well.
  3. Place quail in marinade, and refrigerate for 8 to 12 hours.
  4. Drain and pat quail dry. Sear quail for five minutes on each side, or cook to an internal temperature of 150 degrees.

Roasted Pheasant with Vegetables

True to Texas form, the stuffed pheasants at Hotel Sorella CITYCENTRE in Houston are a mouthwatering combination of smoky and sweet thanks to the bacon, shallots, pear, and orange that lend a flavor as colorful as this game bird’s famous plumage.

  • 4 airline pheasant breasts
  • 8 slices bacon
  • 2 oranges, juiced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons orange peel, finely grated
  • 1 tangerine, halved
  • 1/2 pear, cubed
  • 2 shallots, peeled and halved
  • 2 carrots, halved lengthwise and cut into 2-inch lengths
  • 1/2 pound white new potatoes, scrubbed and quartered
  • 4 large ripe roma tomatoes, halved lengthwise and seeded
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried tarragon
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • 2 sprigs fresh tarragon or flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 to 4 sprigs fresh sage, plus extra for garnish
  • 1/8 cup defatted vegetable broth
  • coarse salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Mince garlic with the salt, and place in a bowl. Add orange juice and peels, one tablespoon olive oil, dried tarragon, and pepper. Set aside.
  2. Cook carrots and potatoes for five minutes in boiling water. Drain and place in a bowl with the tomatoes. Set aside.
  3. Carefully loosen pheasants’ breast skin, and place a sprig of tarragon or parley under each side. Replace the skin neatly. Squeeze the halved tangerine into the cavity, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stuff pheasants with pear, shallots, thyme, and sage.
  4. Place the set-aside vegetables in a small roasting pan. Toss with garlic-orange mixture. Place pheasants breast side up atop the vegetables. Brush pheasants with remaining olive oil. Lay bacon slices over the breast. Pour broth in the bottom of the pan.
  5. Roast in the center of the oven for 10 minutes, basting two times. Remove bacon, and continue to roast until the breast skin is brown (about five to seven minutes). Let pheasants rest five minutes before serving on a plate surrounded with vegetables.
  6. Spoon some of the juices over top of pheasants. Serve extra juices on the side. Garnish with fresh sage.