Many people would say that pheasant is just like chicken. After all, once the bird is cleaned and ready for cooking they look quite similar in shape and size. However, nothing could be further from the truth. As a chef, I am constantly looking for new flavor combinations, and pheasant is a perfect example of a stand in protein for that far too often seen chicken.
Now, pheasant is similar in texture to chicken but prepare to be “pheasantly” surprised by its full flavor and sweet notes.
Did I mention it is also healthier, offering 20% less fat content. Furthermore, dissimilar to chicken, there is no need for marinades or use flavor enhancers. The bird can do the work for you. For this reason you will notice, in the recipe below, that all I used is olive oil, salt, pepper and a nice hearty cast iron skillet (which creates the best crust on the skin).
For this recipe, the folks at MacFarlane Pheasants offered to provide one of their fabulous birds for me to experiment with. MacFarlane has been in the game bird business since 1929, so needless to say, I was excited to work with their products. The following is the result, enjoy!
Seared Airline Pheasant, Anson Mill grits, Spring Onion and Pea Medley, Natural Jus
1 Pheasant – remove both breasts and both thighs; leave skin on
- I cup grits (Anson Mills)
- 4 cups water
- 1 Sweet spring onion, divided
- 4 oz. organic pea shoots
- 1/2 cup haricot verts (cleaned and trimmed)
- 1/2 cup English peas
- salt/pepper/olive oil
- I bag of giblets (comes with bird)
- 1/2 sweet spring onion
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 3 cups water
- 2 cloves of garlic
- salt/pepper/olive oil
I love this recipe because it is living proof that when presented with great ingredients little preparation needs to be done in order to receive an outstanding outcome.
Preheat oven at 300 degrees.
1) First start the grits since they take the longest. Simply add the 1 cup grits to 4 cups of cold water. Slowly bring to a boil, then immediately reduce to low, stir, cover and let simmer on lowest setting. This usually takes 45 mins to 1 hr. Stir occasional and season at the end. You want the grits to be loose and coat the back of the spoon but not be so stiff that the spoon will stand tall when left in it.
2) Second is the Jus. Using a small pot, add 1 tbsp. oil and brown giblets, garlic and onion until well caramelized. Deglaze the pan with the 1/4 cup balsamic. Cook for 20 seconds and then add your water. Cook on low to med and reduce by 1/2 to 2/3’s. Taste and season to your liking!
3) Now the pheasant. I enjoy the elegance of the airline cut, which is removing the breast and top part of wing , however, the breast alone is fine. I also remove the thighs, and always leave the skin on as it makes for outstanding taste and texture when cooked. Grab your cast iron pan and preheat on high. Add 1 tbsp. oil and wait for it to tremor (this is an indication that the oil is hot enough). Season the skin generously with salt and pepper and sear the meat, skin side down, until you achieve a golden brown skin. Remove from heat, flip all meat so they are skin side up and finish in oven at 300 degrees for 6 to 8 mins. ( Due to the lower fat content the lower heat is important so that you do not dry out the meat)
4) Once everything is working you can sauté the veg as it only takes a few moments. Grab the onions and cook until tender. Then add peas and haricot verts. Cook for additional 3 to 4 minutes. When finished, remove from heat, toss in pea shoots and season to taste. (Again all of these fresh ingredients require so little altering to achieve a great finished product .
At this point everything should be coming together. Grab your plates, maybe a glass of wine, and have fun with the presentation as their is no wrong way to plate this meal. Ring the cow bell and enjoy!
Life is short, Eat Well!