This weekend we had our hearts set on Rabbit Ragu. So early Saturday afternoon we strolled over to the bustling Union Square Greenmarket to buy a rabbit from Quattro’s. Well, lesson learned - if you want rabbit with all your heart, you better pounce early. There we stood, rabbit-less, in the sunny-weather craze of the Saturday market. We felt too flustered to come up with another solid game plan then and there, so we just picked the next thing we laid eyes on - a pheasant! Now, neither of us were at all familiar with pheasant - Silka had never tasted it and Jake had never cooked it. But we knew we'd be watching Downton Abbey on Sunday night (duh!), and it seemed in keeping with a theme, so we thought we may as well. Luckily Quattro’s handed us a recipe sheet, and we went home to study up.
After looking at our pantry's contents, we decided to do a take on Quattro’s recipe for Braised Pheasant Marsala. Since we didn't have any Marsala - mostly because we don't really like it - we used Dr. Frank’s Semi-Dry Riesling. With some nice white "Special" mushrooms from Bulich, we were all set. As a base, we went with some lightly cheesy polenta, thinking it would go perfectly with a nice drizzle of braising juices. And of course, we made a simple green salad to round out the meal.
While we're not sure Downton Abbey would have gone the polenta route, the nature of the warming and earthy pheasant dish seemed fitting for an English manor house. Their pheasant would have been hunted wild and had a much gamier flavor, but our 21st-century feast stood up just fine. Wild or not, our bird was gamier than chicken but not nearly as gamy as duck ... and super moist! We're looking forward to exploring this bird more - and in a couple more years, who knows, we might be out there just like Hank Shaw or the Crawley's, hunting our own game birds.
Braised Pheasant in White Wine
+ 1 2.5 lb Pheasant, cut into 6 pieces
+ 5 shallots, finally chopped
+ 1 lb of White Mushrooms, sliced
+ 2 cloves of garlic
+ 1 tsp fresh herbs - we used rosemary and thyme, but tarragon or sage would work well
+ ½ cup chicken or pheasant stock - we boiled some chicken stock with the giblets and the backbone of the pheasant
+ ¼ cup semi-dry or dry Riesling
+ 1 tbsp flour
+ salt and pepper
+ olive oil or lard
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a heavy frying pan or cast iron skillet heat up 2 tablespoons of lard or olive oil over high heat. Pat the pheasant pieces dry and salt and brown in batches. Place the browned pheasant in a deep baking dish.
3. In the same pan, saute the mushrooms for about 5 minutes, adding more lard or olive oil if needed. Pour the mushrooms over the pheasant.
4. Saute the shallots and garlic in the same pan, adding more fat if needed, for another five minutes.
5. Slowly whisk in flour until fully integrated, and cook for another 3 minutes. Add wine, stock, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Simmer, stirring, for 5 minutes.
6. Pour mixture over pheasant and mushrooms, and put in oven for about 2 hours - or until the meat easily falls off the bone.
Serves 2 people with leftovers