Pheasant is destined to grace the table this Thanksgiving, but for something so special, how should I present it? Plain, roasted with a little butter? Or something fancier, with an exciting combination of flavors – citrus and sage, juniper and cracked black pepper, with a sauce?
Whom else to consult but the revered L.L. Bean Game & Fish Cookbook by Angus Cameron and Judith Jones? There are a whopping eighteen pheasant recipes included in the book, plus one for making stock from game birds in general. With that many to choose from, how could I pick the one? Since I’ve decided that I’d like to present the bird whole since it’s the star of the show, half of the recipes are automatically eliminated because they call for the bird to be cut into pieces. Sadly, this elimination includes Pheasant Coq au Vin, which would likely taste amazing. That one will have to wait for another time and place.
Narrowing down the contenders is tricky because they all sound so delicious. The simplest preparation is the Roast Pheasant with Herbs Under the Skin – basil, tarragon, parsley, shallots and even mushrooms are pureed with a little brandy which is then layered under the skin before roasting. Pheasant Flamed with Apples sounds good though too – the pheasant is surrounded by gooseberry-filled apple toasts and the whole thing is flambéed in Calvados.
There are also several recipes for stuffed pheasant – sorrel, wild rice and mushrooms, Gruyere and noodles, and liver and mushroom. Braised Pheasant Marsala sounds pretty good, including mushrooms, Marsala wine and juniper berries in the dish. And then there’s Pheasant Cock-a-Leekie, a recipe chock full of aromatics – leeks, parsley, and bay.
And aside from the wonders in the L.L. Bean Game & Fish Cookbook, using the grill has been on my mind lately as well. Last weekend we made hickory smoked chicken on the grill and the honey-brown color of the crispy skin was stunning, not to mention the delicious flavor of hickory permeating the meat. Why not pheasant? And maybe I can riff off of the Pheasant Flamed with Apples – maybe we’ll hickory smoke the bird, stuffed with calvados-soaked diced apples, caramelized red onions and thyme…
So many choices – how will I ever decide? Stay tuned for the final decision!