Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Pot-roast Pheasant

This is my basic recipe for pot-roasting pheasants; as the hunting season is out at the moment, I used a guinea fowl instead. A crown of duck would also work, or several quail, or of course a small chicken. The method is most useful for small or gamy birds without a thick layer of fat; if roasted, the little birds tend to become dry and tough, while in a pot-roast all the delicious juices are locked in.

I say this is my basic recipe because it is warming and comforting but not especially challenging, either in difficulty or in flavour. I have run excellent experiments with stronger flavours, such as blood orange and anise, or soy and pomegranate molasses, but this recipe is more of a gentle English pot-roast, to be served with a big pile of fluffy mashed potatoes, perhaps adulterated with a little celeriac or parsnip and a dollop of crème fraîche.

  • A brace of (i.e. two) pheasants
  • a white onion or leek
  • 4 long, fat stems of celery
  • a good glass of white wine
  • 100g puy or lentilles vertes
  • a handful of parsley
  • 3 bay leaves

Remove any stray feathers or string from your pheasants and check the giblets have been removed. Heat a scant tbsp of oil in a deep oven-proof casserole and fry the birds on each side over a moderate heat, until the skin turns golden and the meat sears. Remove to a plate. Turn the heat down, roughly chop the onion or leek and add to the pan, with a little more oil if needed. Chop the celery into short lengths and add these to the pan once the onions are soft.

After the vegetables have cooked a little in their own juices, throw in the parsley and bay leaves, then deglaze the pan with the glass of wine. When all the alcohol has evaporated, add in the lentils. Place the pheasants back in the pan, breast-side down, and tip in any escaping juices. Pour over a litre of hot stock or boiling water, or enough to cover the vegetables generously and come up at least halfway on the birds.

Cover with a tight-fitting lid and either simmer on the hob or cook in a 170 C oven for 35 minutes. Uncover, turn over the birds so the breasts are up, and return for 20 further minutes uncovered, or until the legs pull easily away from the birds. Remove the birds and rest a few minutes before jointing into pieces to serve. If you have too much liquid in the pan then it can bubble uncovered on the hob to reduce. Taste and season; it will probably require salt, which cannot be added earlier as it would prevent the lentils from cooking properly. Enjoy the pheasant in deep bowls with mash and the accompanying vegetables and gravy.

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