November 14th, 2010
Pheasant were probably introduced to Britain by the Romans and were definitely well established by the time of the Normans. The season for shooting pheasants runs from October 1st to February 1st, so by now they are in plentiful supply at your local butcher. Prices should have come down a bit and the birds should be a decent size. My favourite butcher currently has pheasants at £7 a brace – they are half the price and double the size that you’ll find in supermarkets.
Simple Roast Pheasant recipe (a medium sized bird feeds 2 – I’d describe supermarket size as small):
a whole pheasant, plucked and drawn
a few sprigs of thyme
6 pieces of garlic (peeled)
a knob of butter
4 slices of streaky bacon
salt and pepper
a glass of red wine or port
Preheat your oven to 250º C. Grease a roasting tray with whatever you have to hand, e.g. butter, lard, goose fat, etc. Place your bird in the tray, breast upwards.
Put the thyme, garlic, butter plus a little salt and pepper inside the pheasant. I had some fat leftover from some foie gras, so I used that instead of butter, goose fat would also be good. Wrap the bacon around the pheasant’s breast (see my picture) – game birds are quite lean, so the fat in the bacon adds flavour and keeps the bird moist. You don’t need to tie or skewer the bacon, it should stay on without assistance.
When the bird goes into the oven, turn the heat down to 200ºC. Roast your pheasant for 30 minutes to an hour, depending on size – this one was quite large at 2 1/2 lbs. I normally add the wine to the tray after about 15 minutes of cooking – this adds to the juices’ flavour when you baste the bird a couple of times during the roasting. I have a very savoury tooth, as opposed to a sweet one, so if you like a sweet flavour, add some port instead of wine.
When the bacon looks crispy, your bird should be done. There’s no need to over cook game, it’s not dangerous to eat it slightly pink (unlike chicken or turkey) and you don’t want to dry it out. If you want to make the skin a little crispy, you can remove the bacon at this stage, baste the bird and give it 10 minutes more – don’t overdo it or the pheasant will be too dry.
Do save the bacon, you can chop it up and mix it with your seasonal vegetables (Brussels sprouts are good at this time of year). Rest you pheasant for up to 30 minutes in foil, so that the meat relaxes and reabsorbs some moisture (it will taste better for it). You can use the pheasant juices to make home made gravy in the meantime – see my recipe, here.