2.02.2019

I Am Not a Pheasant Plucker...

“I’m a pheasant plucker’s son.” I won’t finish this off-color tongue twister, as you can imagine where it is going...

Yes, I am the son of a pheasant plucker, but I don’t know which parent plucked! Dad hunted the pheasant, and Mom roasted it for our table.

But who did the plucking? Dad? Mom? The latter seems the more likely scenario, as I know she (reluctantly) gutted all the fish we boys caught.

Either way, the pheasant we had as kids wasn’t farm-raised and it wasn’t my favorite. It was always dry, definitely gamey, and full of buckshot. Not to mention lots of tendons.

When I was at the farmers market a couple of Sundays ago, Top Knot Farms - my go-to source for chicken and duck - was offering beautiful, fresh, farm-raised pheasant. Yes, please! I had two beautiful Syrahs to serve with it - head over to the Provence WineZine to read about the pairing!

While my mother was a great cook, pheasant wasn’t her strong suit. Maybe it was the material she had to work with. Here was my chance to make a moist, succulent bird that would not break my teeth on buckshot.

I perused and adapted multiple sources, and came up with this wonderful preparation and method for cooking a 2-pound bird, perfect for two people. The carcass and any leftover parts (the legs and wings) made a delicate broth that will, this evening, be the basis for a lovely risotto.

Here’s to pleasant pheasant plucking!

~ David

Roast Pheasant with Marsala Pan Sauce

1 (2 pound) farm-raised pheasant
salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 shallot peeled and halved
1 small carrot, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 sprig bay
2 sprigs rosemary
8 slices pancetta
juice of 1 orange
1/4 cup Marsala
1 cup prepared demiglace (or rich stock)
2 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 500°F and position the oven rack in the bottom third of the oven.

Wash and pat the bird dry. Season the cavity and the outside of the pheasant liberally with salt and pepper. Stuff the cavity with the halved shallot and carrot along with the bay, rosemary, and thyme.

Squeeze the juice from orange and set aside.

Arrange the pheasant in an ovenproof skillet (cast iron is a good choice), breast side up. Cover the pheasant with the pancetta slices, including the legs. Roast for 15 minutes at 500°F, then reduce oven to 400°F. Remove pancetta from the pheasant and let it fall into the pan. It will crisp as it roasts. Roast for another23 minutes, or until the juices run clear. Remove from the oven and transfer the bird and pancetta from the pan to a carving board. Let the bird rest, tented loosely with foil to keep it warm. Set the crispy pancetta aside.

Place the skillet with the drippings over high heat and, when hot, deglaze with the reserved orange juice and Marsala, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. When the liquid has reduced by half, add the demiglace and continue to cook until sauce has reduced enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 3 to 4 minutes. Whisk in the butter and remove from the heat. Using a fine-mesh sieve, strain the sauce into a clean bowl.

Carve the pheasant, serving a breast and a thigh-leg to each guest, with the crisp pancetta as a garnish.

Serves 2, can be doubled.

My father, pheasant hunting in the 1950s.

40 comments:

  1. This recipe looks a lot better than the one where you ate buckshot! I imagine that covering the bird with pancetta would give the bird and sauce lots of flavor. Looks like you could use this recipe also for baking an 'ordinary' chicken. Marsala, orange juice and smoky pancetta- what a combo for the sauce!

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    1. Fran - I think the pancetta kept it most even more than adding flavor. And, yes, this works fro chicken, and Cornish game hens.

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  2. A great recipe, now all have to find is a wild pheasant. Have a great weekend.

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    1. Well, maybe there is some farm raised pheasant near you, Gerlinde!

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  3. Pancetta, orange and marsala: three of the secrets along the way to what looks like a succulent offering . . . but now curious me has to go talk to Me Google about that 'naughty' twister . . .

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  4. Savoury delight! Love the perfect wine pairing too!

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  5. David, such a flavorful sauce and brilliant cooking technique. I've never had pheasant and am wondering, does the farm raised pheasant have any less of a gamey taste than the wild one?

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    1. Kelly - from my memory... (we are talking more than 50 years here...), my sense is that farm raised is much less gamey although it still has a unique flavor.

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  6. A brilliant cook David, one I'm sure any of your family would enjoy or would have enjoyed. I've had my share of lead buckshot in a bird, but when they switched to steel shot I started looking closely for the little round tooth chippers. We have an abundance of wild (and farmed) pheasant, so this recipe is destined to be saved to my "Must Make" board for when a bird is available. As to the plucking, I'm with you, best left to others.

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    1. Thanks, Ron - glad to know you have pheasant easily available there in Sweden! And let's just be grateful for the pluckers do their plucking!

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  7. Looks delightful and very elegant. With so much tasteless chicken around these days, we should all be branching out to more "unusual" poultry.

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    1. Oh, you have said it, Frank! Most chicken is just not "chickeny" (to use a Julia Child quote). I like to get mine from the same source because it has such great flavor.

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  8. How funny! Love this post, David (and the photo of your dad)! I think I had pheasant once as a child in Scotland, but don't remember it making a strong impression on me, one way or another. Yours looks wonderful, though!

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    1. Thanks, Christina - just a great coincidence that I was going through family photos and found that one just when I was about to post!

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  9. Dear David, what a beautifully written post - loved reading about your mum's cooking...This is a fabulous recipe - the last time I ate pheasant must have been ages ago but I remember that I really enjoyed how it tasted. Your version with this lovely sauce sounds absolutely delicious! Liebe Gruesse, Andrea - the photo of your dad is wonderful too

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    1. Thanks, Andrea! I think pheasant is much more common in Europe than in the States. But, as I said to Fran above, it is great for chicken or game hens! I bet your kids would love it!

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  10. Do you know I've never cooked pheasant myself! This looks so good and perfect winter food.

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    1. Thanks, Caroline! Are pheasant readily available to you? You should definitely try one.

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  11. Pheasant prepared this way, bathed in wine and potatoes or pasta as a side was our autumn combination during hunting season at my grandmother's . It is absolutely delicious dish and I am happy you presented it with an excellent orange "twist". Thank you David !

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    1. What wonderful memories, D! I never realized until I did this post that pheasant was so prevalent in Europe!

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  12. What a delicious recipe, with such dreamy flavors. I love the cooking technique. I had pheasant years ago, and have never imagined plucking one. That job wouldn't go to me. ;-) I love the photo of your father!

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    1. Yes, I generally like all my poultry pre-plucked, as well! I am going to try this with other birds - the use of pancetta was quite wonderful!

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  13. This is really nice. I love the bacon. The meal itself is exquisite.

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    1. Thanks, Mimi - the nice thing about pancetta is that it doesn't bring any smoke flavor into the equation, allowing the subtle flavor of the pheasant to come through.

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  14. Wow, I'm not sure I've ever even seen pheasant in a meat market around here! Again I learn about an intriguing new-to-me ingredient from your blog! Your roasted pheasant looks wonderful and comforting. I just read about a farm in Wisconsin that will deliver frozen pheasant meat, David. I'm going to look into this! :)

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    1. Wow - that is cool, Marcelle! Let me know how the delivery works!

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  15. I've only had farm-raised pheasant, never wild. It's good! But the star of this dish, for me, would be the Marsala pan sauce. LOVE Marsala, and it's wonderful in cooking. Thanks!

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    1. The Marsala pan sauce was pretty good, John... I think you would really like it!

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  16. Oh the good old days of chomping into pheasant and also finding buckshot in there. I, too, share this memory from my childhood. Dad often went out pheasant hunting, though I don't remember if it was Mum or Dad that did the cooking. It was always in a stew of some sort, not like this glistening (and buckshot-free) beauty you've presented us!

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    1. I am glad I am not the only one who had to negotiate bites around the buckshot, John! Our Italian friends say that they used to have pheasant in a salad (which we just made with them) and in a cream sauce. Another friend said it was alla cacciatore. What do I say? Bring it on!

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  17. David, what a beautiful plate of food! I've never cooked pheasant, but I'll be looking for a source now because I can't see myself plucking pheasants!

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    1. Yeah, Jean - no plucking for me, either! I hope you can find some!

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  18. Oooh this looks delicious! My dad had all sorts of poultry from guinea fowls to turkeys and ducks plus pigs and cattle but I don't think pheasants are good in our area (otherwise he would have had them too)

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    1. How lucky you were! It would have been great to grow up with all those farm raised meals! We are actually having guinea fowl tonight! Where were you raised?

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  19. You have my mouth watering David! In your Mom's defense, a friend's husband hunts wild turkey and she says she hasn't found any way, despite years of trying to turn them into something tender and delicious. So yes, farm-raised all the way!

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    1. Thanks, Inger! The wild birds are just too lean... they dry out in a flash. That is why so many people stew them instead of roasting. I wonder if stewed wild turkey would be viable?

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  20. I have family coming to visit soon and they would love a roast like this given to them. They always fear they will be given vegetarian food...lol I will surprise them with this beautiful looking roast instead.

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    1. I think that, beyond surprised, your family would be truly touched if you made this for them!

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