Monday, March 19, 2007

Pheasant, Pheasant, Who's Got a Pheasant?

A few of you have asked for news of the pheasant dinner and you shall receive! The pheasants turned out very well! It is, as one chef told me today, the hardest meat to cook, so I wasn't disappointed that ours was a tiny bit dry. Otherwise, it was tasty -- a bit gamey -- and only one dinner guest found shot. He is a dentist, natch.

How did we cook them? First, I cleaned the two birds up. They had been cleaned and the feathers taken off, but pheasants apparently have these odd little tufts of feather under the skin. Additionally, it was a bit disconcerting, but not unnatural, that they'd have a lot of bruising right around their bullet wounds. Once they were clean, I pulled their little spines out (squealing the entire time, deboning grosses me out!), then pulled off their legs and wings. They're pretty small and also need moisture, so I left the breasts on the bone. Once they were separated, I seared them in an pan on the stove just for a few minutes.

Once they cooled, I unrolled puff pastry for wrapping. (I always forget to defrost it and have to nuke it for 30 seconds.) In the pastry, I put a breast, topped with stuffing, then wrapped in bacon. (The host is watching his cholesterol and we could have skipped the bacon since it contained no actual fat. I laugh when I see that "turkey bacon" actually has the little fat pattern stamped into it in lighter color turkey!) The stuffing? Brie, mushrooms, sage, and sauteed shallots and garlic. So good!

Once everything was in the pastry, I wrapped it up, sealed it, topped it with butter (egg would have been better), then baked it all in a roasting pan. It took about 30 minutes. We also roasted the legs and wings in a roasting bag for the same time. Very juicy! In the meantime, I deglazed the searing pan with sherry and white wine, cooked the remaining mushrooms, and shallots, then added cream and diced tomato.

Served with fresh crispy asparagus and a lovely California Black Japonica rice, it was a terrific meal. Wine was consumed! I could have timed it a bit better, but all in all the pheasant was pretty good in it's little bundle. I like the en croute concept and might try it next time with half chicken breasts or even turkey cutlets. That said, my friend has a chance to trade the remaining pheasants with a fishing buddy who is swimming in wild salmon. I vote for the salmon trade. I see cedar planks on the grill in my future!


Anonymous said...

Try and brine them in a bit of salt and sugar 1 cup each per gallon of ice water.
Leave them in there for 5 hours or so.

It will kill the game and produce some of the most moist birds available. Just don't leave foul of that size in a brine for more than 1 hour per pound.


braingirl said...

Yes, brining was my first instinct and would have helped. However, it would have been difficult to pull off (no stock pot, extra time, etc.) If we were going to roast them, yes, I'd brine for sure.

OTOH, as someone I talked to mentioned, when you're having a dinner party and it's to showcase game bird that the host actually shot, it's not such a big think to get rid of all the gaminess. That said, I'm an advocate of making sure there's lots of other stuff to eat.