Ben Pike’s partridge, Maine style

Posted Nov. 19, 2010, at 8:16 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 12:37 p.m.

Editor’s Note: The Best of Bud is a compilation of some of the advice and recipes gathered by the late Ralph W. “Bud” Leavitt who retired as the Bangor Daily News executive sports editor and outdoor editor in the fall of 1988. He continued to write a weekly column for the paper until his death on Dec. 20, 1994. During his nearly half-century as the BDN’s outdoor columnist he penned more than 13,000 columns and one book, “Twelve Months in Maine.” He starred in his own TV program, “The Bud Leavitt Show,” which aired on the Hildreth Network for 20 years, and the nationally acclaimed “Woods and Waters” outdoor program on the Public Broadcasting System. While some of the folks Bud interviewed have died, their contributions and memories remain with us.

Ben Pike is a public relations executive for International Paper Co., with offices in Jay.

Pike is one of those all-purpose, all-weather state o’ Mainers. He is at home wearing a natty Brooks Bros. business suit or comfortably clad in a rumpled guide’s hat and worn-down Bean hunting boots.

Among his official duties, all too infrequently, Pike gets burdened with shepherding a few favored people onto the wilderness landholdings of the International Paper Co. On at least a half-dozen instances, I have been included when Ben was entrusted with the company of such worthies as the New York Times’ Nelson Bryant, Jim Bashline of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Arthur Francis Willoughby Sullivan of the Boston Herald-American and others.

The Farmington native, when in camp, needs a bit of prodding to get him into the scullery. Ben does not relish being among the pots and pans, but if one exerts enough verbal slack, he will, though only on certain occasions — such as when no one else has started the evening supper.

I recall one particular feast after a long day of hunting. It left Ben’s name immortalized and all but etched in the stones surrounding Musquacook Lake.
One of the hunters had taken a handsome brace of grouse. They were large, fat grouse, stuffed from a bountiful fall acorn crop.

Pike trussed two partridges, which I guessed would weigh 1 pound each, and briskly rubbed the inside and out with salt and pepper.

He then lay thin slices of salt pork over the breasts and roasted in a wood-fired oven preheated to a guessed 400-degree a solid 40 minutes.

Ten minutes before the end of cooking time, Pike removed the pork slices and basted once five minutes later.

He then removed the birds from the oven, poured 1 ounce of brandy over each bird, and lit immediately.

He placed the birds in a hot platter, skimming off all surplus fat from the pan and added one-third of a cup of dry sherry and brought to a boil on the top of the stove, stirring until smooth.

Pike poured the liquid over the birds and served with baked yellow-eye beans, mustard pickles, and hot yeast rolls.

Four hungry hunters sat for supper. As a rule, two full-grown grouse should satisfy the appetites of four normal mortals, but this mid-November evening we sat for Pike’s Partridge, Maine Style, the appetites were not normal ones.

Yours won’t be either if you stick to the cooking rules put down by dapper Ben Pike.

Millinocket Lake eggs
Fry up scraps of smoked meat until crisp. Push to one side and drop in eggs to fry. Or scramble eggs and meat together into a well-seasoned mixture.
Hard cheese cut into quarter-inch chunks and added when eggs are almost done will melt and flavor the concoction.
I did the honors at John Boradko’s fishing and hunting camp one morning for guests James Goodman, John Largay Jr. and Carroll Moir.
Never lost a man and each cleaned his breakfast plate.

Belgrade togue special
1 can refrigerator biscuits
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
½ cup diced celery
¼ cup chopped onion
½ cup sharp cheese, diced
1 2½-pound togue or lake trout

Pat each biscuit into a thin oval and place half of them on a greased cookie sheet.

Place togue or lake trout in broiler and steam for 20 minutes. Remove fish from broiler. Trim skin, fins, remove backbone. Mix all other ingredients with lake trout meat except melted butter. Spread on the biscuits. Top off with the remaining half of the biscuits, and press edges together. Brush tops with melted butter, and bake in preheated 425 degree oven for 15-20 minutes until brown.

Even if togue never was your favorite dish, you’ll likely enjoy this noble creature prepared Belgrade Lake style.

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