Here is the ‘improvised’ recipe I promised earlier this week, for the tail end of the hunting season. The recipe uses a fair amount of added fat, because game birds tend to be quite lean, and I have chosen to not bard the pheasant. The first portion of fat is used partly to brown the bird and partly to season the mushrooms. The second portion is required for the self-forming gravy. Feel free to adjust the suggested amounts to suit your needs.
Pheasants available in the market this year were much bigger than in recent years, weighing nearly 2 pounds, with much of that being edible meat, so there were plenty of leftovers in our small household. If you also expect leftovers, don’t forget to plan how to use them. Do note that there’s virtually no wing meat (if wings are there!) and the drumsticks are full of pin bones, so they are best used by carefully cleaning the meat off the bones for leftovers. And please, please be careful with the birdshot, which is not edible, and might just break a tooth.
Serves 4, plus leftovers
|Generous dollop: up to 1/4 cup||Fat: butter, bacon grease, etc|
|1 tablespoon||Dark orange marmalade|
|6-8||Largish ordinary mushrooms, sliced thickly|
|1 large or 2 small||Leek(s), cleaned and sliced in thick rings|
|Smaller dollop: not more than a tablespoon or two||Fat: butter, bacon grease, etc|
|1 or 2 tablespoons: at least as much as the fat||Plain flour|
|dash||Salt and pepper|
|1/4 to 1/3 cup||Dry sherry|
- Preheat oven to 400F/200C/gas mark 6.
- Melt fat in a generous-sized non-stick pan.
- While the fat is heating, make sure there are no foreign objects in the bird cavity, then smear the marmalade all over the inside. This adds flavour and the citric acid contributes to tenderizing the meat. You can wipe excess marmalade from the spoon on the outside of the bird if you wish. Tuck the feet (if present) back in, or tie the legs together for easy handling.
- Brown the bird on all sides over medium high heat.
- Transfer the pheasant only to a large lidded casserole, leaving the fat in the pan. Put the lid on the casserole and set aside, but keep it handy.
- Toss the mushroom slices in the hot fat. They will absorb all of it, quickly. Add them to the casserole, replacing the lid, and return the frying pan to the heat.
- Melt the second lot of fat over medium heat.
- Add the leeks. When well coated and starting to cook, add the flour, salt and pepper.
- When the dry ingredients are well distributed, add the sherry.
- When well mixed, add to the casserole. Replace lid.
- Place in oven and reduce heat immediately to 350F/180C/gas mark 4.
- Allow to cook undisturbed for 45 minutes. Juices will run clear when meat is cooked, although the flesh may remain pink, especially near bones.
- Allow to rest in the covered casserole for at least 5 minutes before removing to carve.
- Upon removal of the bird, a gravy-like sauce magically appears. Stir gently before serving.
- Serve with a simple starch such as boiled potatoes or steamed rice, allowing the seasonal flavours of the main dish to shine.