Christmas dinner

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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Pheasant with Green Chiles

I’ve done my usual scrounge through the post-holiday leftover at the grocery store, as usual, come home with some goodies. My local Harris Teeter had pheasants on sale so I’m looking for inspiration.

Admittedly, I’m starting with farm-raised pheasant rather than wild. The flavor is different–milder–and as the wild are not so fat and sassy as farm-raised, the wild can be trickier to cook.  I have farm-raised (still good eating) so I have a bit more freedom in how to cook them.  If you’re fortunate enough to have wild pheasant, here’s some information on cooking those. (If you have wild ones, I’d love to help you eat those–and perhaps pick a wine to go with them.)

The post that I’ve reblogged below provided some inspirations for a starting place.

the chef mimi blog

In my post entitled Pheasant, I talked about how for years I’d disregarded the lovely pheasant as a gourmet protein, and decided it was finally time to give it the respect it deserves. I’ve had so many pheasants in my freezer over the years, but to me they were just fiddly, bony little birds to which I had no time to dedicate.

Pheasants not only require some butchering and de-boning skills, one must also be careful cooking them. Pheasant breasts, which I’m cooking today, are darker than chicken breasts, but not moist like chicken thighs or dark turkey meat. So I knew I had to be patient and attentive, which are not my strong suits.

The recipe that I immediately thought of using with the pheasant breasts is one from the Africa cookbook of the Foods of the World cookbook series. The recipe is from South Africa, and the…

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Roast pheasant for dinner

Two Whole Pheasants- Pheasant MeatOn a recent troll of the after-holiday, year-end goodies at my local Harris Teeter, which includes the free-standing freezer in the meat department (as well as the carts at the front of the store), I found pheasants on sale so I decided we (neighbors and friends) needed to have pheasant–especially since at least one had not tasted pheasant.

This is a first for me–I’ve never cooked farm-raised pheasant before; I’ve always cooked the wild birds that we got by hunting. Those we always braised since they could be old and tough.  I went to the McFarlane website Pheasant for Dinner to see what information I could find. I guess these are not likely to be either old  or tough, so I thought about roasting–then I decided that cooked in my Romertopf might be best since pheasants–even farm raised don’t have a lot of fat on them.  I decided that brown basmati rice would cook at the same time under the cut up birds; kind of self-seasoning with the pheasant juices–and whatever else I decided on.

Pheasant dinnerSince this was my first crack at farm-raised birds, I decided to seek expert consultation–from Mike Thomas in the meat department at Harris Teeter, thinking it likely that he’d be able to tell me more about the birds and how they would cook.  He agreed that the Romertopf should be a good way–so that decision was made.

As for seasoning, I was still debating. I wanted tangerines, but couldn’t find them. Tangelos? Well, maybe.  The meat of the tangelos was not very tasty, so I  got Mandarin oranges as well, but use only the tangelos as the mandarin oranges were too sweet.

I originally planned to do fingerling potatoes in the Romertopf with the birds, but I couldn’t get my head around orange and potato together, so I changed to brown basmati rice instead since it could also cook right with the birds in the Romertopf.

My next decision was whole or cut up. I finally decided that cut up would be best–so that I could use the carcasses to make some stock for cooking the rice. So get out the knives! I found a good demonstration on cutting up a pheasant at the McFarlane website–as I thought it’s like disjointing a chicken.  Since it’s not something I do all that often when doing single-serving cooking, it did take a bit, but I got them cut up.  I left bones in–even in the breasts since I think there is a lot of flavor in meat on the bone.

Pheasant dinner-2

into the oven

The backs, wings, necks, and other miscellaneous pieces, with carrot, onion, and bay leaves went into the stockpot (after browning). Simmered and skimmed I had a good start on the rice.

I minced two medium onions, four large cloves of garlic, and sautéed these with the rice before adding it to the soaked Romertopf with the rinsed basmati rice (two cups) with stock.  I added the zest of two tangelos to the rice. I pulled the meat from the stock bones and the giblets, chopped them finely, and added those to the rice–kind of a “dirty” rice here. That plus the 4 cups of stock went into the soaked Romertopf with the pheasant pieces on top, and into a cold oven, as usual with the Romertopf.

For a sauce, I modeled it after the one used for duck with fresh figs; I reduced the remaining pheasant stock and the juice of one tangelo slowly to about 1-1/2 cups–it’s not intended to be thick–more “au jus”. It needed a bit of sweetness despite the tangelo juice. After tasting both thyme honey and leatherwood honey, I opted for the leatherwood, since there was thyme with the bird and the leatherwood added a “dark” contrast to the tangelo and the meatiness of the stock.

(It looked great when I opened the Romertopf, but I was too intent on eating to stop and take pictures.)

My friends brought some awesome roasted Brussels sprouts (with bacon and garlic) to accompany the pheasant–a good meal, with good company!

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I used the ratio suggested for the brown basmati rice, but it was just a bit soupy. Next time I’ll use 1 part rice to 1.5 water. Otherwise I was pretty happy with the results–we certainly made a dent it the rice and the pheasant.

The farm-raised pheasants are more chicken-like than wild-pheasant-like–a little disappointing if you are used to the wild ones. I’d cook them again–if I find them on sale, but I’d really rather have the wild ones, though I certainly wouldn’t have been roasting them.

Not knowing the flavor of the farm-raised birds made choosing a wine a bit difficult. We drank a 2012 Ravenswood “Besieged” with it, and it worked well. This limited release is a blend containing 35% Carignane, 20% Petite Sirah, 18% Zinfandel, 13% Mourvedre, 9% Alicante Bouschet, and 5% Barbera. (This was a wine that I stumbled upon while doing my shopping one Saturday at the local Harris Teeter. I’m a definite Alicante Bouschet fan and this blend was very mellow, and fruity so I did something that I don’t do often–I bought a half case of it–and I think I’m going to wish I had more of it.

After-holiday sales…love ’em!

My favorite most-frequented supermarket is my local Harris Teeter, though I do occasionally wander into the Kroger. I’m a pretty frequent shopper since I don’t do well at meal planning.

Right after the holidays I always seem to find  some goodies in those end-of-holiday-season, reduced-price carts that I wouldn’t purchase otherwise.  Last year it was black truffle oil which has been put to good use this past year, and even recently when I was trying to do some wine-food pairing. (It’s been drizzled on baked potatoes too–my serious, decadent comfort food.)

A couple years ago, I was planning to do a roast goose (obviously requires friends in attendance).  When I got to the checkout, the price of the goose was SO low that I got a second one.  Good thing because we had snow and ice on the day I’d  planned the dinner.  You really can’t undo the thawed goose, so I toured the neighborhood within walking distance with impromptu invitations to eat goose–and found willing neighbors.  (These who missed that got to help eat the second goose when the weather permitted.) So the freezer case has become a place that I also skulk through at this time of the year as well as those “manager’s special” carts.

Two Whole Pheasants- Pheasant Meat

Dinner!

This year so far my “find” is pheasants on sale. I’m planning a pheasant dinner with friends shortly.

I get the pleasure of planning the meal, picking a wine, and then eating and drinking with good company. It’s in the planning stages now–braise or roast? Maybe the Romertopf since I do have a very large one?

Perusing recipes and thinking about wine is pleasurable activity. I’m leaning toward a bottle of the Ravenswood “Besieged”, but I might have to check with my favorite wine store before I make a final decision, and after I’ve decided what seasoning these birds will get.