Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Roast Pheasant, Not Entirely Successful

We've been trying to eat some space into our freezer as we expect to get our fall lamb soon... not exactly promptly but a little earlier than last year. One of the things I found in the freezer was this pheasant, purchased a while back on sale, and then left because I had never cooked a pheasant before. I'm not really sure I can say I've cooked a pheasant now, either, although it was edible, in the end. I'll have a better idea what to do (and not do) next time.

I followed the recipe I found here, at Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, and in retrospect, even though he talks about farmed pheasant, it's pretty clear that he intends it for hunted pheasant, which are presumably a fair bit smaller. I followed his instructions and the pheasant, when I went to carve it after taking the photo below, was nowhere near cooked. I stuck it back in the oven for another 15 minutes, and then another, and another. By that time we were famished, and had said to hell with it and had eaten something else. That meant the pheasant got re-heated for the next meal and by that time it was tough and dry. *sigh* The flavour was nice though; a lot like chicken but with a slightly gamey quality to it, about similar in intensity to turkey, but not quite a turkey flavour either. I'll have to try it again.

I also put bacon over it rather than rubbing it in butter, but I think the butter was probably a better idea, at least if you have bacon as lean as mine. It really didn't do much to keep the breast moist.

2 to 4 servings

Roast Pheasant
1 1kg (2 1/4 pound) pheasant
4 cups water
1 teaspoon juniper berries, lightly crushed or bruised
3 tablespoons salt
4 to 5 bay leaves
1 tablespoon sugar

an apple
2 tablespoons butter
the juice of 1 lemon
2 or 3 tablespoons crabapple jelly
1/4 cup water

Make a brine of the water, juniper berries, salt, bay leaves and sugar in a large pot. Bring to a boil, then cool. Cover the pheasant in the brine and marinate overnight in the refrigerator, if meant for a mid-day meal, or all day if meant for an evening meal. About 8 hours, as described.

The next day, when ready to cook the bird, remove it from the brine and drain it well for about half an hour, and pat it dry. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Cut the apple into quarters and put one quarter inside the bird, and the other 3 pieces sliced underneath it. Rub the bird with the butter (or cover with several slices fatty bacon if you prefer) and mix the lemon juice, jelly and water and spoon it over and around it.

Roast the pheasant for 20 minutes at 450°F. Reduce the heat to 325°F and continue cooking until the pheasant is done - for a 1 kilo bird I would expect another hour to hour and a quarter to be required. Remove the pheasant from the oven and cover it loosely with foil. Rest for 15 minutes before carving and serving.

Mash the apple pieces into the gravy and add a teaspoon of cornstarch dissolved in a little cold water. Heat and whisk well until thickened and serve over the pheasant.

Last year at this time I made Four Onion Soup.


Little Black Car said...

I've never cooked a pheasant, either, but might it help to cook it breast-down so that the juices run into the breast meat and keep it moist? My mother has always done this for Thanksgiving turkey and hers never comes out dry.

Hunter Angler Gardener Cook said...

Sorry the recipe did not work for you, but 90 minutes is an awful long time to roast a pheasant. Is it possible that your bird was not at room temperature before you put it in the oven?

Ferdzy said...


Well it should have been at room temperature; it was out of the fridge for about 40 minutes before I put it in the oven. It felt cool, but not cold, to the touch. I think part of the problem was I put ALL the apple pieces into the pheasant, and it ended up overstuffed. Perhaps it was also larger than average, and probably all these things joined together to mess with the cooking time.

Thanks for commenting; and even though it didn't totally work out I thought your instructions were the clearest I found out there, which is why I tried them. I will give it another go.

The other thing is I should probably have given it only another half hour and let it rest for a second 15 minutes, but by that time I was cross, hungry and flustered.

Yes, LBC, it probably would help to roast breast-down. I'll try that next time too.

Thanks for your comments, guys!

Ferdzy said...

Oh, and as a p.s. the pheasant also had a remarkably FIRM texture that I associate with having been frozen while in rigor mortis... so that may have been a factor too?

Tillsonburgarian said...

What I understand is that you roasted the bird in open roasting pan? Back in Europe we cooked pheasants quite a bit but it was always cooked with breast side down on a bed of roughly chopped onion, carrots and potatoes with cup of white wine on bottom covered at 350 °F for 1 hour so the bird steamed and then turned over, uncovered at 450 °F till golden.Also, since pheasant is extremely dry meat, my mother separated skin from breast meat and rubbed the breast with butter and then placed fat bacon in between skin and breast.