How To Cook Pheasant

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by nicko, Nov 29, 2010.

  1. nicko

    nicko Founder of Cheftalk.com Staff Member

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    Last week I was able to get into the field with my brother, cousin and another friend for some pheasant hunting. The club put out 12 birds and we came back with 12 so it was a great hunt. Each of us were able to take three home and I was looking forward to cooking the birds. As a kid I grew up hunting with my Dad and brother and we would always bring pheasants home. My poor Mother tried over and over to cook the extremely lean gamy tasting birds and never had any success. So here I was with three birds from the field that I shot and killed and wanted to do them justice.

    I would imagine for many it sound horrible to shoot an innocent bird. For me I feel like it helps me to have a deeper respect for my food and where it comes from. That this was a living thing and not some processed piece of meat. In short it deserves respect.

    I have to admit I was a complete loss on how to cook the birds. There were a couple of notions of how to go about it but I really wasn't sure. I miss the intuition I once had when I was cooking professional now I feel like I second guess myself a lot. Still I decided to go with my gut and my gut said to marinate them and the slow cook them and that is what I did. I marinated the birds over night in some olive oil, fresh garlic, Dijon mustard, a little soy sauce and some worsteshire sauce. The next day I broke the birds down, seasons them just a little and then floured them and browned them in my le cruset dutch oven. After browning I deglazed the pot with a generous portion of white wine and reduced it down. Then I added in carrots, celery, onion, potatoes, fresh thyme, bay leaf. I put the birds back in with some homemade chicken stock and simmered them slowly for a couple of hours. After this I let them cool and put the whole thing in the fridge over night. Then next day I removed any fat that had come to the surface and then removed all of the meat from the bone and cut it up. This was a good move I realized later because there were a number of small splintery bones that had I not done this would of made the meat difficult to eat. Removing the meat also allowed me to make sure there was no buck shot (I missed one or two).

    In the end I re-heated everything, re-seasoned and ended up with a surprisingly tasty pheasant stew. I took the stew to Thanksgiving and it was one of the highlights of the meal. Everyone kept asking who made it and what was it. I was pretty happy with that.

    In the past when I have cooked pheasant at a restaurant it was always the breast meat and you had to be so so careful not to overcook it or it would be so tough. In fact I think it is a rare bird to find on most menus because of this fact. Initially I had hoped to come to the community and get some ideas but the holidays as they always do came upon us so quick and I never found the time. Now I am curious to hear from everyone how do you cook pheasant? I would love to get some tips and ideas. One thought I had about my stew was that had I more time I could of made some dough and covered the stew with pastry and ended up with a really nice pheasant pot pie.

    Below are some photos.


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  2. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    Lots of ways of cooking it, Nicko. Depends a lot on whether they've been plucked or skinned, just breast filets, etc. And keep in mind that game preserve birds are not quite as lean as wild birds. Nor do they taste exactly the same. I wouldn't use the word gamey, though, cuz I don't think even an old, wild cockbird tastes gamey. A stronger taste than chicken, to be sure. But strong in the sense than turkey is stronger.

    The trick, as you know, is to not over cook them---which is easy to do. If cooking with dry heat it's always a good idea to add fat, in the form of bacon or salt pork, for that reason.

    If you plan on another hunt let me know, and I'll give you some great recipes.
     
  3. phatch

    phatch Moderator Staff Member

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    I was reading that the turkey is a kind of pheasant. I don't consider the source particularly authoritative however.
     
  4. chefedb

    chefedb

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    Beware of Buckshot pellets.. I have floured and deep fried,  finished in oven with a currant sauce.they don't dry out this way. A wild Hen Turkey may well be classified as form of pheasant
     
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2010
  5. nicko

    nicko Founder of Cheftalk.com Staff Member

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    Well at least two of us thought the stew tasted gamey. As for the type of bird they were whole skinned pheasants. The only decent pheasant i have had cooked with dry heat was breast meat cooked medium rare. It was tender, juicy and moist but of for many it is tough to get past eating a medium rare bird.
     
  6. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    A wild Hen Turkey may well be classified as form of pheasant

    I wonder how these things get started? This is the second time, recently, when totally unrelated critters have been reported as being the same. And this one takes it a step further, implying that, by some genetic ledgerdomain, a hen and a tom would be different species.

     



    If we go back to Orders, then, yes, turkey and pheasant are “the same bird.” They both belong to the Order Galliformes---which means chicken-like birds. But that’s quite a few steps back on the taxonomic ladder. Where it counts, on a meaningful level, is genus and species. And on that level, they’re not even close cousins.

     

    Turkey, both wild and domestic, are Meleagris gallopa var. Each of the five wild turkey of North America, and their domestic offspring, has a variety name as well, with some pretty fair jawcrackers in those names

    .

    Ring-neck pheasant, are Phasianus colchicus, with their name reflecting the fact they belong to the group of long-tailed birds.

    The real key to determining sameness in animals (plants too, for that matter) is found at the species level. That's the point were the major difference is the ability to breed. Those in the same species can breed. Those in different species cannot. 

    If they can't breed, then they are, obviously, not the same animal. So if the species are different (as they obviously are with turkey and pheasant) there is no way they can be the same bird.
     
  7. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    Well at least two of us thought the stew tasted gamey

    Just showing, once again, that "gamey" is a percieved taste rather than an objectively identifyable one.

    F'rinstance, I've never eaten venison that I would call gamey. To me, gamey is personified by older lamb and, for sure, mutton. Yet, more people than not would probably call venison gamey.

    Just out of curiousity, Nicko, do you think of turkey as being gamey?
     
  8. tylerm713

    tylerm713

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    My favorite way to cook nearly all game birds (including pheasant, chukar, dove, quail, etc) is to fill the back cavity with oysters, cheese, jalepenos, or some combination thereof, wrap the whole thing in bacon, and grill until the bacon crisps up. The added fat helps prevent drying out, and the filling adds a little flavor.

    Over the Thanksgiving holiday, my father and I killed 10 ducks (almost 2 limits) on Catahoula Lake. Mainly blackjacks and gadwalls, with a couple of woodducks, mallards, a redhead, and a canvasback thrown in for good measure. I breasted them out, seared them in my french oven (actually a bouillabaisse pot) then braised them for about an hour with beef stock, lobster stock, red wine, celery, parsnips, and carrots. I made a reduction using the braising liquid, some mushrooms, shallots, and finished with port and butter. Absolutely fantastic. The same might work for the pheasants, but since you have essentially pen raised birds, white wine and chicken stock might be the best route if you wanted to braise.
     
  9. nicko

    nicko Founder of Cheftalk.com Staff Member

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    No I did not think the turkey tasted gamey. I would classify vennison I have had along with the pheasants as having a distinctively gamey flavor. The same way I would classify mushrooms as having an "earthy" flavor. My point of the topic though really isn't to discuss the use of gamey it is very subjective I believe. In the same way someone can taste currants in a wine and another can't.

    Thanks,
     
  10. bazza

    bazza

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    Well I never knew that pheasant and turkey were related, that is a real surprise as they are totally different.

    Nicko I have been cooking lots of pheasant over the last six weeks and I love it. I had heard that it can be dry and tough so I started roasting it on the bone (25 mins), it took too long for service but it was a fantastic flavour and moist too. I was not going to risk cooking and reheating so, I now break the birds down and debone the thigh meat, the drumstick goes in with the carcass to make a stock as those splintery bones are not worth messing with. The thighs are gently sealed in a pan with no fat and then braised with a mirepoix in the stock for an hour and then reserved for service, and the breasts are cooked to order, gently sealed and then 8-10 mins in the oven, they vary a lot in size.

    The sauce is made from the stock and juniper berries and it is served with diced roots, brussels sprout, celeriac mash and of course the thigh meat.

    Final tip, do not add red wine to the thigh meat whilst it is braising, I made this error and the wine turned the meat black. Tasted great but looked terrible lol.
     
  11. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    Well I never knew that pheasant and turkey were related,......

    You still don't know that, Bazza, because they're not. Or at least not closely. They bear the same relationship to each other as do domestic chickens and jungle fowl.

    I wonder if part of the problem isn't that we are so far removed from our food in its natural state that we don't recognize it. Anybody who's ever actually seen a pheasant and a turkey walking around can see that there's no relationship; just as they can see the similarities between turkey and a pea fowl. 

    This is, of course, predicated on being familiar with the actual birds, as opposed to just seeing their naked carcasses when the supplier brings them around.
     
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2010
  12. chefross

    chefross

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    Here at the farm in years past I have processed many a wild pheasant. We have a electric feather plucking machine that connects to a dry-vac. It works great, but you must be gentle otherwise the machine can tear the meat right off the bones.

    Since there is so little fat on them I usually wrap the whole bird in bacon and slather softened butter on them. I get a roasting pan very hot in a preheated oven, then place the birds in the pan. Every 15 minutes I give the bird a 1/4 turn. It takes 45 minutes ++ to cook them.

    The breasts are tricky as they can overcook easily, but basting them adds moisture and keeps them from doing so while the dark meat cooks.
     
  13. chefedb

    chefedb

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    Well they are all Poultry so maybe cousins in genetics?   I have had the displeasure of eating a wild duck once. and I wont partake again. It was killed and consumed two days later. It tasted like old  fish. I found out it was shot  ""down by the pond"" I felt they should have left it swimming.
     
  14. koukouvagia

    koukouvagia

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    Your pictures are great Nicko.  I still don't have the guts to cook a lonely pheasant that has been sitting in my freezer for almost a year.  Maybe this thread will help push me a bit.  So you served pheasant to a bunch of greeks?  And they ate it?  Impressive.
     
  15. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    ChefRoss: Using your same basic approach, try forcing softened butter under the skin of the breasts. Then continue as you outlined, with the bacon and basting. I've never understood why it makes a difference, but it does. Much less danger of the breasts drying out.

    Well they are all Poultry so maybe cousins in genetics?

    You know, Ed, if we use Adam & Eve as the benchmark then we're all brothers and sisters.

    Sounds silly, right? But taxonomically it's the same thing. If you go back far enough on the taxonomic ladder than every living creature is directly related to every other one. You could say, for instance, that turkey and deer are both part of the Animal Kingdom, and, therefore, that turkey and venison are the same. Or, to put a point on it, robins and chickens are both birds. Does that mean you're ready to bread and fry a mess of robins?

    The way it works is basically simple. You start by looking at all the similarities. That lets you assign a living thing to it's Kingdom. To move down a step, you isolate those things one group of animals or plants have in common with each other, but which they don't share with others. You keep doing that until, eventually, you reach the variety (subspecies, cultivar, etc.)---which simply means you have a plant or animal with characteristics it shares with no others. For instance, a ring-neck and a Lady Amhurst are both pheasants, both the same species, which can interbreed. But their plumage is so radically different you could mistake them for different birds.

    Now reverse that, to specifically talk about turkey and pheasant. Obviously, they are not the same variety. So we go up one step, to species. Turns out they are not the same species. Which, basically, stops any comparison right there, because if they can't interbreed they are not, by definition, closely related. But for the sake of discussion, let's go up another step, which would be the genus. Lo and behold, they're not even in the same genus. Next step up is family, and they aren't in that, either.

    It's not until we get to the step called Order that they at all come together. Both turkey and pheasant belong to the rather large order Galliformes (chicken-like birds).

    Now, to show how broadly individual types can fit in those higher categories, pheasant belong to the Family Phasianidae, which includes 16 genera, 49 species, and 122 identifyable subspecies---none of which are turkey.

    So, yeah, you could say that turkey and pheasant are genetically cousins. But rather distant cousins, from opposite sides of the track. In practical terms, they're not even swimming in the same gene pool.

    I have had the displeasure of eating a wild duck once......

    I know this is a common happenstance. But it's something I've never understood.

    Were you ever served a bad steak? Maybe overcooked? Or seasoned badly? Did you conclude, from that, that steak is an over-rated foodstuff, and never eat another?

    One try at anything is, IMO, a meaningless test. That "duck" may have been the wrong species for your palette. Or the field care might have been slopppy. Or a dozen other possibilities why it tasted bad to you. To write-off an entire class of food based on one bad experience just makes no sense to me at all. Especially when it's a class of food epicures have cherished for centuries.
     
  16. tylerm713

    tylerm713

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    It probably tasted like fish because it lived on a pond. Flight ducks are a completely different ball of wax. When cleaning our ducks the other day, I opened a few of the stomachs to see what they had been eating. All grains and grass. As a result, the ducks were very mild and tasty. No fish taste at all.
     
  17. nicko

    nicko Founder of Cheftalk.com Staff Member

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    HAHAHAHAHAH That made me laugh. But how is knowing this KYH supposed to help me cook a better tasting pheasant? ha ha
     
  18. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    It’s not, Nicko. It’s supposed to help you not confuse pheasants and turkeys, something several of our members seem intent on doing.

     

    But, just to bring it home a bit:

     

    Pheasant Normandie


     

     2 pheasants, split

    Salt & pepper to taste

    Butter

    Paprika

    4 cups beef or dark chicken stock

    1 tsp tomato paste

    2 apples, skin on, cored and cut into 1-inch cubes

    ½ cup dry white wine

    2 oz Calvados

    3 green onions, chopped

    Cornstarch slurry (optional)

     

    Sprinkle the birds with salt and pepper, then dust with paprika. Brown the birds in butter. Drain any excess butter and add the rest of the ingredients. Cook, covered, over medium heat, about 45 minutes.

     

    If desired, thicken the sauce with cornstarch slurry.

     

    Grilled Pheasant with White Wine Sauce


     

    1 pheasant

    2 cups chicken stock

    1 small onion

    1 bay leaf

    Parsley

    Fresh thyme

    ¼ lb unsalted butter

    ½ cup chardonnay or other dry white wine

    1 shallot, minced

    Salt & pepper

     

    Split pheasant. Bone out the breast and thigh meat.

     

    Simmer the bones in stock to which you’ve added the onion, bay leaf, parsley and thyme, until reduced by 2/3. Strain stock and reduce again to about ¼ cup. Remove from heat. Beat in butter, one lump at a time, until sauce is smooth.

     

    Simmer shallot in wine over high heat until almost all the wine evaporates. Beat in the butter sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep warm in a water bath.

    Sprinkle pheasant with salt & pepper. Grill over hot coals, six to eight minutes per side, being careful not to overcook. Serve with the sauce.

     

    Pheasant Croquettes with Paprika-Mushroom Sauce


     

    2-3 cups coarsely ground pheasant meat

    ½ small onion, minced

    3 garlic cloves, minced

    ½ stalk celery, minced

    1 tsp rosemary, crushed

    1 tbls fresh minced ginger

    1 egg

    Salt & pepper to taste

    Breadcrumbs

    Chili sauce

    Butter

    Six strips bacon

     

    Saute garlic, onion, celery and ginger in butter until almost soft. Stir-in salt, pepper, rosemary and chili sauce. Let cool. Incorporate about ¼ cup breadcrumbs so mixture forms a coarse meal. Combine the veggie mix with the pheasant meat. Form the mixture into patties, about one-inch thick. Coat well with breadcrumbs. Chill.

     

    Fry bacon until browned. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels. Saute croquettes in hot bacon grease until browned, about five minutes per side.

     

    Spoon sauce over each croquette. Garnish with bacon.

     

    Paprika Mushroom Sauce


     

    2 tbls onion, finely diced

    2 tbls butter

    2 tbls flour

    1 cup milk, heated

    1 tbls paprika

    Salt to taste

    Pinch cayenne

    ½ lb mushrooms, quartered

    2 tbls butter

    1 cup sour cream

     

    In a skillet sauté the onion in butter until tender. Add the flour and cook the roux another minute or so to remove the raw flour taste. Gradually stir in the milk, and cook, stirring, until it thickens. Stir in the paprika, salt, and cayenne, and simmer five minutes.

     

    In another skillet sauté the mushrooms in butter until they give up their liquid and the liquid evaporates. Add the mushrooms to the sauce, remove the pan from the heat, and stir in the sour cream.
     
  19. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    It probably tasted like fish because it lived on a pond.

    That's certainly one possibility, Tyler. But it could also be that it wasn't really a duck. Down in Florida I've often heard coots and gallinules referred to as ducks. Mergansers and grebes are common down there as well, and it could have been one of them.
     
  20. tylerm713

    tylerm713

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    KY, good point I didn't think about. If someone brought in a coot (or poule d'eau as it's often called in Louisiana) and claimed it was a duck, I could understand not wanting to eat duck again. However, I have had poule d'eau that was actually quite tasty.