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Braised Wild Pheasant

My neighbor was invited to a upland game club shoot in California last month followed two weeks later by a big UPS box filled with dry ice and six dressed and frozen pheasants. "But we don't really care for game. Would you like to have the pheasants?" " . . .but of course, if you insist," said I.

These pheasants are smaller than farm raised birds--coming in at under two pounds each. For fun, I looked at about 20 pheasant recipes in my library. No surprise: most called for roasting or braising pheasant. Most all favored breast meat. Some cooked the legs and thighs separately and longer. One reserved the pheasant legs for stock! Some cooked the birds whole, others cut 'em up into as many as six pieces. From the outset, I planed to braise the pheasants and use my bomb-proof Game Hens Mediterranean recipe. That recipe calls for using a heavy cleaver to split a bird through the breast and then removing the back bone--leaving two halves. OK, but the next time I do these I will split the bird as before and then separate the thigh and leg from the breast. This will make it easier to eat the leg and thigh portion, which remains more dense (tougher) than the breast portion, no matter how long it's braised. (Pheasants run a lot.)

The pheasants were brined over night and then dried and split in the morning. The braising method calls for browning the birds in oil and then cooking them tightly covered with some liquid but not a lot. The Dutch oven was invented for this. Fire it on the stove top or in an oven (oven preferred). In the photo, six pheasant halves are in a heavy paella pan which, while in the oven, was tightly covered with aluminum. This did the work of a huge (18qt) Dutch oven, which I don't have or want. The pheasant was accompanied by a wild rice/basmati rice salad, in the manner of the couscous salad below.

So here we have:

Braised Wild Pheasant
Yield:  4 servings
See Abbreviations, if needed

 • 2 pheasants, brined, split with backbone removed, leg and thigh cut free of the breast
• 4 oz EVOO
• 3 cloves garlic, minced
• 1.5 T herbes de Provence or Italian seasoning
• 1/3 C dried prunes, pitted and diced
• 1/3 C dried apricots pitted and diced
• 1/3 C dried cherries pitted and diced
• 1/3 C pitted and sliced black olives
• ¼ C capers, drained
• 6 pickled lemons, quartered (optional) Middle East/ Mediterranean food markets
• 6 bay leaves
• 1/3 C brown sugar
• 1/3 C red wine vinegar
• 1/3 C white wine
• S/P
• 2 T chopped fresh Italian parsley (garnish)

1. Brine the whole pheasants overnight (cup of sugar, cup of salt and water to cover)
2. In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients 
    except the pheasants and white wine.  Mix well
3. Cover and refrigerate the mixture overnight
4. In the morning, dry the pheasants and cleaver-split them through the breasts and remove the backbones
5. Rub each half with S/P, and brown them in a hot skillet in EVOO and set aside
6. When ready, preheat oven to 350F
7. Remove the marinade from the fridge and add the white wine
8. Arrange the pheasant halves in a Dutch oven or roaster pan and spoon over the marinade
9. Braise, covered, for 50 to 65 minutes until leg joints move and the breasts
have an internal temperature of 145F
10. When done, remove the braising pan from the oven, carefully tilt it and skim the fat (if any)
off the braising mixture
11. Transfer the hens to a heated serving platter (or serve all from the pot onto heated plates)
12. Spoon the braising mixture over each serving
13. Top the pheasant with a little parsley before serving


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