Nothing as Pleasant as Pheasant

This afternoon my counterpart asked me why I was fascinated with small game birds. He then proceeded to answer this question by preparing roast pheasant for our annual pre-Christmas dinner. This has become a tradition of ours over the years. The day or two before Christmas are hectic and harried, filled with forgotten tasks and last-minute cleaning. You need more than cookies to get through. How much better we are at these preparations when we feel well loved and appreciated. And nothing does this quite as well as a special quiet dinner between me and my spouse.

The pheasant was part of the Wild Game Bird Funpack I ordered from D'Artagnan a few months back and needed time to defrost. A quick method of defrosting small game is to place it in a Pyrex baking dish and set it in a warm oven set at about 170. This allows the birth to thaw without cooking it like what happens in the microwave.

Once defrosted, we prepped the bird. Because our pheasant was allowed to have an active and happy bird life, this was a bit more complex than performing the same action on your typical domestic chicken from the grocery store. One of the things I've noticed with the small game birds we have been preparing is that oftentimes there is some quill removal required. Once that is done, remove the giblets as per usual and either toss them in the stock pot or wrap them up and freeze them for some future use.

A little quill to remind us of the life force in our meal

We then cut up the bird into smaller pieces. This is also similar to the technique you would use with a chicken, cracking the joints before cutting through them with a sharp chef's knife.

Pheasant, sectioned

Once cut down, we proceeded to debone our pheseant. It is important to note that the pheasant is a bird of flight. Once the flesh is removed from the bones, there will be tiny tendons that also need to be removed. These can be pulled out of the flesh and added to the stock pot, along with those bones.

Pheasant, deboned

The ubiquitous stock pot

At this point, we were faced with a choice - dredge the pieces in flour and cook on the stovetop or bind them up with a filling and roast the whole thing. We opted for the latter, and prepared a filling of onions, leeks, garlic, basil, parsley, thyme, and a little honey. We used a little cooked potato as a binding agent.

A little herb and potato filling

One very chefy technique to help with the whole meat-binding process is to use a plain cotton cloth to help you shape your meat before you tie it up. Place the cloth over your board and proceed to layer your meat and filling, using the largest pieces of flesh for the outside.

Assembling our meat and filling on a Russian flour sack towel

Then, carefully and gently roll it up in the cotton cloth, using it to slightly shape things, similar to how you would use waxed paper to shape a log of refrigerator cookies. Slowly unwrap the meat and tie it up with your kitchen twine.

Binding the bird with kitchen twine

Bound and ready for the oven

Once our little pheasant package was tied up, we roasted it at 350 for about 40 minutes.

Out of the oven and ready for the table

While it was in the oven, Gareth prepared a mushroom sauce with wine and a little basalmic vinegar. We had some cooked potatoes that he reheated on the stovetop with butter, cream, and leek, creating a coarse mash.

A little coarse mash

A little mushroom sauce

I truly feel well-loved and appreciated. As I drift off to sleep with the flavors of mushrooms, leek, and a little wild game bird still fresh on my palate, I feel I will be prepared for the next two days.

On the plate