Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Pheasant Braised with Apples & Bacon

Sitting on my deck soaking in autumn’s last rays of sun, I hear the shots of hunters seeking game and wonder how many of them actually know how to cook and enjoy eating the meat. As a cook who has cleaned, prepped, cooked and eaten many a game, I can tell you that I am thrilled when my husband brings home duck, woodcock, partridge, or other small birds – but pheasant was always a challenge for me. As much as he hates it when I say it - I always preferred a good chicken to a pheasant which is usually drier and often too subtle in flavor. Until my French mother-in-law showed me her favorite recipe for pheasant, and now I make it happily.
Last week, Gerard went hunting with Michel Jean (of Stissing House) and his brother Alain. They brought home a few pheasants (the prized hens which are far more tender than the cock) and I was charged with cooking them. (Alain plucked and cleaned then for me – thank you Alain!). And I followed Lou Lou’s recipe. Patricia Jean joined us for dinner and we all loved it - so I thought I would share it with you today.
Braised Pheasant
for 4-5 people
2 Pheasant Hens
12 slices of bacon (Preferably Apple Smoked)
1 cup of Calvados (Apple Brandy)
1 cup of Chicken Stock
5 Golden Delicious Apples
½ cup of Crème Fraiche (or Heavy Cream)
2 Tablespoon of Unsalted Butter
Salt & Pepper
Preheat oven to 350F.
Peel and core the apples. Slice each into 4-5 thick round slices.
Salt and pepper the interiors of the pheasants. Wrap them in the bacon and tie each of them with string so the bacon stays in place. Melt the butter in a Dutch oven and brown all sides of the pheasants in the butter. Take them out and add the Calvados, scraping the bottom of the pan as the brandy reduces. Add the chicken stock and place the apples in the liquid with the pheasants on top of the apples. Cover and place in the oven for about one hour.
After they are cooked, turn off the oven and leave the pheasants in the casserole with the lid on until you are ready to serve.
When ready, check that the pheasants are still warm (if not reheat on top of the stove for a few minutes). Remove the pheasants and have someone cut them up and/or carve them while you work on the sauce.(If you have to do double duty it is possible but a bit hectic).  Reserve the bacon.  Place the pheasants on a preheated serving dish. Remove the apples with a slotted spoon so that the liquid drains back into the pot (squeeze it so all of the liquid comes out). Remove half of the juices and reduce the remaining juices on a high flame. It should thicken, but if it does not add a teaspoon of arrowroot mixed with a tablespoon of the juices to the boiling juice and it will thicken. Then slowly add back the juices you removed a bit at a time. Meanwhile, chop up the bacon and mix with the apples sauce and serve as an accompaniment.(This is delicious!!! Imagine apple sauce made with pheasant and apply brandy and bacon bits- what could be bad?) When sauce in the pot is sufficiently thick , add the cream and spoon some over the pheasant serving the rest in a gravy boat on the side.
New Potatoes
With this dish I prepared 3-4 small white new potatoes per person. In the afternoon I rinsed and boiled them until they were cooked. I let them cool off and easily removed their skins. I then browned them slowly in butter on a low flame with salt and pepper and sprinkled them with parsley just before serving. They were delicious - especially when dipped in the sauce.

The Wines We Drank
Definetly my recommendation with this dish is to choose a Rhone Valley wine – 100% syrah. For our dinner with the Jeans I opened a 2009 Crozes Hermitage Les Fees Brunes and a Cornas Terre Brulées from Jean Luc Colombo. Le Cornas, superbly rich and spicy was a bit too strong while the Crozes Hermitage enhanced the delicate savours of the pheasant. So I served the Crozes Hermitage first and saved the La Cornas for the cheese course. If your favorite wine shop does not have JL Colombo Crozes Hermitage (around $30)  select another Rhone Valley or Languedoc Syrah. Do  not take an Australian Shiraz which is usually much too bold and spicy with jammy fruit flavors that are too strong for this dish. Save them for venison or wild boar.

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