Bird course, please.
December 23, 2007 12:47 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking at a frozen pheasant. Assuming I want it for Christmas dinner, what do I do?

I've looked online and I'm getting wildly inconsistent advice: brine, don't brine, roast with wild rice, don't roast and braise with fruit, &c. I suspect some of the advice pertains specifically to wild game, some to farm-raised, but it's hard to tell. A further complication: this bird claims to be from a "game farm" in Wisconsin, whatever that is. Does that mean it counts as wild, farm-raised, or somewhere in between?

It's about a three-pound bird, frozen solid. I'd be most grateful for any advice.
posted by tangerine to Food & Drink (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You have to thaw it before you can do anything else, so get started on that with a sink full of cold water and the bird still in its plastic (assuming it is wrapped). It will take a few hours so others will have time to provide you with the recipes you desire.
posted by acorncup at 1:14 PM on December 23, 2007

I have a bunch of frozen pheasant breasts, and DH is going hunting again this week... He is planning to try this recipe. I'll be watching this thread with interest.

I suspect that the bird was raised from an egg by the game farm owners, kept in a large pen and then released for hunting.
posted by MonkeyToes at 1:18 PM on December 23, 2007

- Thaw your pheasant thoroughly. This is easily accomplished by placing it in a water bath in your refrigerator inside the packaging. For faster thawing, put it in an aluminum pot, cover with water, and place in your fridge. Above all, keep it refrigerated before you're ready to season it and roast it.

- I wouldn't brine it. Farm-raised pheasant is delicious - that's what you've got - and it has a delicious, very chicken-y, pleasantly gamey flavor.

- The breast is the best part. The legs will be a tad sinewy, but the flavor is still quite good. The bird is lean, so I would lay a few slices of bacon over the breast to act as a baster during roasting.

- Remove your bird from it's packaging, give it a rinse and pat it dry with paper towels to enable the skin to crisp nicely. Salt and pepper your bird inside and out. Reserve the liver and throw the other organs away. Garlic, onion, mushrooms, sage, tarragon and thyme all go really nicely with pheasant - you can throw a head of garlic and a half an onion inside the bird, along with a bunch thyme or sage, if you have them. Place your bird in a roasting pan with a rack with a cup of water or stock in the bottom of the pan to keep it juicy while roasting. Roast at 350 for about an hour or so, depending on it's size (3 pounds is about average for an adult male) until it reaches an internal temperature of 170 degrees, or until the thigh juices run clear when pricked gently with a fork. Salt and pepper the liver and add it to your roasting pan about five minutes before the bird is to come out of the often and eat it along side your slices of pheasant.

- Serve with wild rice mixed with a bit of diced shallots and wild mushroom sauteed in butter with a bit of fresh chopped parsley and a squeeze of fresh orange juice and some orange zest added at the last. You could also add to your wild rice mixture some toasted walnut pieces and dried fruit such as cherries, cranberries, currants or apricots, or any combination thereof.

- A nice bitter green salad - endive, arugula, raddichio - topped with apples and toasted pecans with a tangy buttermilk vinaigrette would be lovely. As would a side of roasted sweet potatoes, butternut squash or hubbard squash.


Best of luck.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 1:26 PM on December 23, 2007

Oh, and be sure to let it rest, covered with a foil tent, for about fifteen minutes before serving.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 1:27 PM on December 23, 2007

Cook it like a chicken. Make your stuffing as fragrant as you can.

It's not much of a meat on its own. I like it with fruits and chutney, and a nice gravy; it makes a hearty roast.
posted by popcassady at 1:53 PM on December 23, 2007

Yeah, roast like a chicken. Lemon and rosemary work well in the stuffing. Over here we'd serve with bread source, roast potatoes, brussel sprouts (Which I loath... but it's traditional in England)
(Not too long ago my ancestors basically lived on illegally poached ones...)
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:05 PM on December 23, 2007

I did one of these (quite possibly from exactly the same farm) for thanksgiving. I roasted it stuffed with wild rice and mushrooms, based on a combination of this recipe and what joy of cooking (not the current edition) said. (If you use whole foods' recipe for the stuffing, use far less apricots if any, or they will overpower the stuffing.) My understanding is that unless you killed it yourself, you should ignore the instructions for actual wild pheasant. The farm has taken care of the hanging and so on. I served it with some daughter sauce of veloute (I don't remember what, and joy of cooking now says something different anyways, so I think a wide range of sauces would work). It came out pretty tasty, the major problem you could run into is that it dries out easily if overcooked. This is why recipes often recommend barding it with bacon; I don't eat bacon so I basted it with butter instead, which worked. The real problem I had was that it was taking forever to thaw in the fridge, and I had to do the cold water thing at the last moment. I think this may be a combination of the fact that it has more meat than other birds of the same size, and my fridge is colder than normal, but based on my experience, you may want to allow about 1.5x-2x the amount of time a chicken/hen of the same size would take to thaw, if you are thawing it in the fridge.

Overall it was pretty easy to cook and pair with other food, except for the thawing issue, so I wouldn't stress too much.
posted by advil at 2:23 PM on December 23, 2007

Many thanks, everyone! I barded it with bacon, put an onion and fruit and herbs in the cavity, and prepared some nutty fragrant wild rice and a cranberry-walnut salad to serve with it. Everything came together wonderfully and there's now a delicious stock too.
posted by tangerine at 10:11 AM on December 26, 2007

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