Pheasant with Stilton Sauce



January 19th, 2013

Pheasant were probably introduced to Britain by the Romans and were definitely well established by the time of the Normans. It should be relatively easy to buy pheasant from a decent butcher during the shooting season, October 1st to February 1st and from December onwards they should be the size of a small chicken. I recommend hanging pheasant (intact), in a cool dry place, for at least 3 days and up to 10 days to improve the flavour. Once plucked and gutted a pheasant should be refrigerated and eaten within a couple of days. A good sized pheasant will feed 2 people (even greedy ones like me).

I’ve eaten quite a few pheasant this season and fancied a change in preparation. Having the end of some Cropwell Bishop stilton in the fridge (leftover from Christmas), I thought roast pheasant in stilton sauce would make a nice change.

infused milk

infused milk

Stilton Sauce:

1/2 pint of milk
20g plain flour
20g butter
100 – 150g chopped Cropwell Bishop (or other stilton)
6 black peppercorns
a sprinkle of mace (or a blade of mace)
1 bay leaf
a slice of onion
a piece of garlic (peeled)
a carrot peeling

Before doing anything else, put the milk in a saucepan with the peppercorns, mace, bay leaf, slice of onion, garlic and a carrot peeling. gently heat the saucepan until you see the milk start to bubble, then switch it off and leave it for an hour to infuse. Do not let it boil! This enthuses or imparts flavour and makes for a better cheese sauce.

Later while the pheasant is cooking, strain the milk and remove the flavourings.

stir flour into melted butter

stir flour into melted butter

Heat the butter gently in a saucepan and when it’s melted, stir in the flour. It’s very important when making a roux to keep stirring all the time or the ingredients will burn and the sauce will be ruined.

make a roux

make a roux

When the flour has been mixed well and there are no lumps, slowly stir in the milk, a little at a time.

cropwell bishop

cropwell bishop

When you have a smooth and slightly thick white sauce, add the lumps of stilton a little at a time, until they have completely dissolved. I had intended to add a little mustard powder to the sauce, but it tasted so good I didn’t bother.

wrapped in bacon

wrapped in bacon

Roast Pheasant:

a whole pheasant, plucked and drawn
a few sprigs of thyme
6 pieces of garlic (peeled)
a knob of butter (or goose fat)
4 slices of streaky bacon
salt and pepper
a glass of red wine
a splash of red wine vinegar

pheasant and crispy bacon

pheasant and crispy bacon

Heat the oven to 200º C. Oil or grease a baking dish, put the thyme, garlic, butter and seasoning inside the pheasant, sprinkle salt and pepper on top and wrap the breast and legs with the bacon. Put the wine and vinegar into the tray. Cook for about an hour, basting occasionally – the pheasant is done when the bacon looks crispy. Pheasant does not need to be well done and can be served pink. Wrap the pheasant in foil and allow to rest for up to 30 minutes before serving.

N.B. pheasant are lean birds so the bacon provides fat to keep the bird moist while cooking and adds some extra flavour. Do deglaze the baking dish and save the juices for another dish or sauce.

Serve the pheasant with seasonal vegetables – boiled potatoes, carrots, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, etc. Chop the bacon and stir it into the vegetables. The cheese sauce can be made ahead of serving the pheasant and can be warmed when the vegetables are nearly ready. Pour a generous helping of sauce over the pheasant and vegetables.

It has occurred to me, while writing this, that an alternative and more sophisticated dish could be made with the same ingredients – remove and chop the cooked pheasant meat and bacon. Put the meat into a casserole and cover with stilton sauce (and optionally breadcrumbs). Grill until the cheese bubbles and browns slightly. Double the quantity of stilton sauce would probably be required. This could be made in advance for a dinner party and grilled when necessary.

I enjoyed the pheasant and stilton sauce with a glass or two of Blason de Bourgogne Mâcon-Villages.

Other pheasant posts

About Mad Dog
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39 Responses to Pheasant with Stilton Sauce

  1. Tessa says:

    Your pheasant looks fabulous! I really like the bacon wrap on the bird. You are so right… It adds flavor and keeps the bird from drying out. Delicious :)!

  2. This looks awesome mate, love game and blue cheese, go great together.

  3. Eha says:

    Oh my how I would love to try that combination: such great balance twixt the fabulous blue cheese sauce and the slight gameyness of the pheasant! Don’t think I can find the latter – other feathered friends? I know: have just shocked all and sundry on another blog by admitting I love kangaroo, that sauce will be tried with guess what 😀 !

  4. Eha says:

    Just looked up ‘Borough Market’: shucks, am bookmarking it just to go and have an occasional look!

  5. ChgoJohn says:

    This looks so very good, MD. Wrapping it in bacon is a great idea and those pan juices are definitely worth saving. Your Stilton sauce has inspired me. I’m anxious to use your method to create a sauce for a different dish altogether. I’ll definitely let you know how it goes.

  6. I very much like your alternative method of putting the cooked pheasant with sauce in a casserole. I’m mad for game, but Jenny isn’t, so as there’s just the two of us it’s game over:)

  7. Fabulous – and I have a beautiful piece of stilton (from Christmas too!) waiting to be used so may just have to make the sauce and have it with something else – pork fillet, chicken, pasta?!

  8. Oh, my that sauce has me drooling this morning!! I love stilton and think this could be poured over quite a few dishes as well.. even a stilton mac and cheese:D xx

  9. Conor Bofin says:

    Epic stuff MD. That pheasant looks awesome. The blue cheese sauce is an inspiration with it.

  10. peasepudding says:

    If our Pea Hen had been pheasant we would have been in business!

    • Mad Dog says:

      Definitely – that’s funny with your fantastic fritters juxtaposed against the peahen, I did almost make a comment about eating it!
      I can’t help thinking it’s present colouring resembles a female pheasant…
      Don’t tell the peahen, but Larousse mentions that peafowl are prepared and cooked in the same manner as pheasant 😉

  11. Karen says:

    No pheasants at my market but I can certainly make the stilton sauce to enjoy on another meal.

  12. expatchef says:

    That looks divine Craig, and bacon and Stilton? You really can’t go wrong!

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  21. Mandy says:

    Hi, I’ve bought pheasants for the first time and got some Stilton in the fridge so gonna try this out later today, not sure if I’ve got Red Wine or Red Wine Vinegar is there an alterative I can use?


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