Pheasant, upclose and delicious
The other day the door knocked. Outside was a neighbour, he said they are off on a surprise trip, would I like a couple of pheasants? He was worried they might go off and didn’t want them to go to waste. I was delighted and a bit apprehensive at the same time as I was presented with two whole birds. They had been hung already for four days and could hang for up to another three days but he wasn’t sure they would be back by then.
The pheasants were beautiful and I couldn’t resist saying yes and I do love game. My apprehension came from the fact that I have never plucked and gutted a bird before. I accepted the birds, it was a very thoughtful gift and the greenhouse had a different addition overnight as I didn’t have time to do anything with them on the day.
I thought about the birds and mentally postponed taking care of them. I even stood in the window looking in to the greenhouse thinking about it before, in the end,
I decided to actually give it a go. I like to cook and eat game and this was an opportunity to “get real” with the food and the origin. I did what I believe any sensible person would do and looked up three online videos, two of them skinned the bird and only one plucked it. The thought of crispy skin is always alluring so I thought I would give it a go and pluck the feathers.
The whole work bench was covered in newspapers, I had two bags on standby for feathers and guts. I won’t go in to details how it is done, just search and you will get some excellent tutorials, written as well a video.
When I started to pluck the first pheasant I realised how soft the feathers are, it is just amazing.
The whole process was less gruesome than I thought but there is no denying no matter how careful I was I ripped the skin in places and feathers, light as air, flew around the kitchen. I have to say that there were no feathers floating in the air on the video or perhaps I just didn’t see it, it looked amazingly neat.
In the end I stopped worrying about the feathers and decided to vacuum clean afterwards, most of the feathers did end up in the bag. I did save some feathers with the most beautiful patterns for a neighbour, who is an artist.
After quite some time the birds were finally plucked and gutted, it wasn’t a quick thing, I think it took me about two hours. I cut off the legs and placed them in a cure, more about them in an upcoming blog. I kept the breast meat on the crown and pan fried them before placing them in the oven at 190C or 375F for what I meant to be 15 minutes.
Towards the end I put my head down and 18 minutes passed so the birds were ever so slightly overcooked. They were still just pink and very moist so I was lucky. I rested the meat for 10 minutes before taking the breast off the bone and slicing them.
There are a lot of recipes with pheasant and whilst the birds were cooking I did a very quick sauce to go with the meat. You can reduce it further and cook it for longer but it had a lot of flavour and was delicious. I used both butter and cream, the pheasant meat is quite lean and with such great produce I had to make something a little bit more luxurious.
Thyme and raspberry vinegar sauce
preparation time 5 minutes
cooking time 13 minutes
- 3 shallot onions
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 4 dl chicken gravy
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp raspberry vinegar
- 1 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
- 2 tbsp cream
- a pinch of dried thyme
- 1 knob of butter
- salt and pepper to taste
Chop the shallot and peeled garlic cloves fine. Melt butter in a pan and gently fry the onions soft.
Add the soy sauce, the Shaoxing rice wine and the raspberry vinegar, thyme and bring to a boil and add the chicken stock. Bring to a boil and reduce by an approx. a third. Taste the sauce and add salt and pepper if needed and last add the cream. The cream thickened the sauce slightly and I didn’t add any more thickening agent.
I sliced the meat and served it with a crunchy salad with a dressing with raspberry vinegar and the sauce. I wanted this to be a light meal so I skipped the starch but a rice salad would have been great to make a more filling meal.
Plucking and gutting the pheasants did make me feel that I had actually got closer to the food and if anything it gave me a greater appreciation for the animal and the work that goes in to preparing them.