Cooking with Spirits-Felix
Photography Hillary Maybery
Among locals, the name Felix is synonymous with excellent food.
In 1961, Felix Gonzalez found himself washing dishes in Union Pacific’s Sun Valley Resort. But, luckily for anyone who eats, he found his way to the cooking side of the kitchen in only three months. Over the intervening 43 years, Felix has fed the Wood River masses, from laborers to glitterati. His resumé includes stints at some of the Valley’s most memorable restaurants, including The Ram, 319, The Christiania, and 111. In addition to spending years as sous chef to Sun Valley culinary legend Peter Schott, Felix has run his own catering business and his former namesake restaurant at Knob Hill Inn, and has put his personal brand on lunches and take-out at Atkinsons’ markets. Like his restaurant on 1st Avenue and Fourth Street in Ketchum, Felix is known by only his first name for some of the best food in the Valley.
Cooking by instinct, with decades of experience behind him, Felix whipped up this heavenly blue grouse dish in response to this issue’s challenge. He talked as he cooked, lacing his recipe with his own perspective on techniques and ingredients.
Idaho Blue Grouse with Forest Mushrooms and Apples in Huckleberry-Marsala Sauce
4 boneless breasts of blue grouse,
lightly pounded and cooked until golden brown in a very hot pan with olive oil, butter, salt and pepper.
“Most people overcook wild game.
All things should be cooked to taste, of course, but wild game should almost always be cooked rare to medium rare.”
In a clean frying pan, combine and sauté briefly:
4 T. butter
1/2 cup crumbled bacon
1 tsp. shallots
1 “demitasse spoon” minced garlic
Add to the pan:
1 apple, peeled and coarsely
1 cup mushrooms (Felix chose a
blend of morels, black trumpets, and button mushrooms)
1 tsp. each, minced thyme and
1/2 cup huckleberries (fresh or
dried cranberries, cherries, or red or black currants can be substituted)
Cook over medium-high heat until apples are tender, about 3 minutes, then add:
1/3 cup Marsala or Madeira
1 slight T. balsamic vinegar “for the tartness.”
1 1/2 cup veal stock “. . . enough to cover the birds, and if this is hard to find, please call me at the restaurant. I can sell a few cups of my own stock.”
Add the birds to the sauce and bring
to a boil, reducing “just until the sauce is the consistency of heavy cream.” Serve.
“This is very, very good with polenta, mashed potatoes, or wild rice. For color, add braised red cabbage, Brussels sprouts, or a beautiful puree of yams. Garnish with a sprig of red currant and serve with a nice hearty red wine, a pinot noir or a merlot.”