I’m having my usual lazy Christmas day–just me and Frankie (the cat). After having brunch of scrambled eggs with truffle butter, I turned my attention to fixing supper.

It seems that I’ve inadvertently created another Christmas tradition (aside from the oysters): chicken (or at least fowl) in a pot. I guess it has something to do with it being an easy and tasty dish that I really like. This year, though, there was a variation–it’s pheasant in a pot. It’s been awhile since I’ve had pheasant so that’s what came to mind for this Christmas supper. After-holiday sales, and sometimes specials in between, are great for eating higher-on-the-hog with lower prices–so there was a plump McFarlane pheasant, just a bit shy of 2.5 pounds, lurking in the freezer.

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…giblets removed

I toyed with cooking the pheasant with milk as I had done before with cornish game hen, but somehow I just couldn’t picture the pheasant-milk combination. So, just plain pheasant in a pot.

I couldn’t think of any reason that pheasant wouldn’t work just as well as chicken for this treatment–but since a pheasant isn’t a chicken, I thought there would have to be a little adjustment.I little skulking about (via Google) suggested that my pheasant should cook in less time than the bigger chicken (duh! About an hour or a little more). Cook’s Illustrated has a basic recipe for chicken in a pot; that seemed a good place to start since there’s always a rationale included that should make the recipe easy to modify as needed though it seems that none of that series (Cook’s Illustrated, Cook’s Country, or America’s Test Kitchen) addresses pheasant.

So, next, seasonings for the bird. Pheasant may be considered one of the “other white meats”, but it’s still more like the dark meat of the chicken: bay leaves (certainly), onion (can you cook without onion?), garlic (often used with pheasant), thyme, sage, and juniper berries (good with game) were the final seasonings that went into the pot. I also added some sliced button mushrooms with the onions while they were sautéing. These are eye-ball measurements:

  • one large onion, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • one basket sliced mushrooms
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • large pinch rubbed sage
  • 1-1/2 tablespoon minced garlic

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After browning the pheasant breast-side with the onions and mushrooms, the pheasant was flipped, seasonings added, and the pot  covered with foil and the tight-fitting lid, and it went into a 250ºF oven. Time to consider what I wanted for sides to this lovely bird.

My peasant side is showing–well, right along with bird-in-a-pot which isn’t exactly haute cuisine unless you are eating in in a US restaurant–I  rummaged through the vegetable bin and decided that something with cabbage and rutabagas would fit with the dark meat.

After some more Google use and letting my imagination run wild for a bit, it seemed something quick and easy would be a sautéed combination of those two vegetables, spruced up with a bit of a sauce of some sort. Something sweet-tart–maybe some dark buckwheat honey and lime juice and zest of one lime). I did a little shredding, julienne work (mandoline), and zesting  I left those veggies sitting in water to await cooking time; the buckwheat honey and lime zest melding; then I was off for some more quality time with the cat for an hour (until time to check the temperature of the meat (one of J.J. Salkeld’s  Lakeland mysteries).

While the bird rested (about 15 minutes or a bit more), I put the drained cabbage and rutabaga in a sauté pan with a dollop of butter (salted) and covered them–sort of a steam-sauté–until almost tender then removed the lid to let moisture evaporate while I tossed this mixture around a bit with my sauce (about 10 or 12 minutes altogether).

After scraping up all the good brown stuff from the pot, the juices from the roasting pot were strained, and enriched with a blob of truffle butter. End of cooking–time to eat!

Just a word about en coquette cooking: the meat is absolutely luscious, but don’t expect the same kind of browning that you’d get with dry-heat roasting. I can attest that it works very well–as well as braising–with farm-raised pheasant. I’ll most likely do it again with the next pheasant I decide to eat.

The cabbage/rutabaga combination turned out to be even better than I had expected–always a pleasant surprise–even before the sauce went on. Just with the butter it would have been an admirable side to the pheasant. The mandolin made short work of both the shredding and the julienne work and the cooking time was only about about 10 or 12 minutes. I have to admit that there are leftovers from the 1/2 rutabaga and 1/4 head of cabbage. (I’m thinking that they could be turned into rösti or fritters for a main course since I didn’t add the sauce to the entire batch of cabbage and rutabaga.)

Wine? Of course, but since I had some of the Les Hérétiques left from last night, I decided I’d just go with that–it’s a good all purpose wine–maybe not what I’d have chosen were I giving it a lot of thought, but sometimes it’s a needs-must situation–I love my wine vinegar but there’s a limit to how much good wine I’m going to pour into that jar. So–I finished that bottle this evening. The “leftover” wine was quite good with this combination of food–the blackberry was a nice contrast to the other flavors here.

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If I want to sound really fancy, I guess I just ate pheasant en coquette with truffle  au jus–whatever you call it it was a fine meal, even if I can’t get the cat to say so though I’m not that modest. I’m still listening to Christmas music and enjoying a another glass of wine. The other half pheasant has been boned and stashed, and the carcass is in the slow-cooker making pheasant broth. I’m not sure what is going to evolve out of the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day leftovers, but I would guess that there is going to be some pheasant soup, among other things.

The kitchen is tidy–only the roasting pot left to soak with baking soda overnight–and only clean things to put away from the drainer in the morning. Altogether a most pleasant day with the cat, low-intensity, undemanding cooking, music, and reading.

I was contemplating starting to filter my chocolate/cardamom/ancho/golden rod-aster honey liqueur this evening, but I’m just too full and lazy. I decided it would be better to start that in the morning since it is a long process–so now to quality time with the cat and Kindle since I’m happily fed and still enjoying wine.

I hope all of you had as pleasant a day as I did. A final happy holidays to you if you happen to be celebrating something just now.

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6 thoughts on “Christmas dinner

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