I've come full circle with pheasant from my first encounter as a kid living in Oakmont, Pennsylvania until just recently with my seven-year-old grandson.
Reflective glass windows are confusing to birds. Either they see the window as transparent and nonexistent and fly straight ahead towards it. Occasionally we find sparrows and robins and other birds on the ground just outside the giant picture window in our living room. Oftentimes when I pick them up, I find they are simply stunned and manage to awaken on their own and fly away. Sometimes they don't survive the impact. Depending on the time of day and the light, windows show up as a reflection of outdoor scenery so birds might see the window as a tree, or some other scene that's reflected in the window.
Back when I was around the same age as my seven year old grandson I headed down to breakfast one morning to come upon a startling sight in our dining room. A huge pheasant had flown into our dining room window and broken through the glass. The pheasant was entangled in a mass of glass and hanging draped inside our dining room curtain. It was no small pheasant; it was large and gorgeous with exquisite plumage. I don't remember my parents removing the pheasant from the mass of glass and curtain; my only recollection of the experience was the first impact of seeing this gorgeous pheasant hanging from the curtain.
Back then in Oakmont, Pennsylvania the idea that pheasant could make nothing less than a delicious roast was far from my mind. It simply wasn't on the culinary radar of the locals.
Decades later, when I found myself living in Italy and part of the fabric of Italian culinary culture, we often had the good fortune to dine on pheasant, usually in Tuscany.
About a month ago one of our gardeners, Rinaldo (also a passionate hunter), appeared one Sunday afternoon bearing the gift of a plump and gorgeous pheasant. Rinaldo always brings us enough wild boar to last us most of the winter but this pheasant was a first.
Our grandson Riccardo was with us that afternoon and he was fascinated by the pheasant and its remarkable and beautiful plumage.
Rinaldo understood that I wasn't up to the task of turning this beautiful pheasant into a bird ready to roast so he took it home, cleaned it, and returned with it the next day.
There are lots of delicious ways to prepare roast pheasant and it makes for a scrumptious and unique holiday meal. If you're planning on roast turkey for your holiday meal (yet again!), why not swap it out and prepare a roast pheasant this year?
Pheasant has a delicious and delicate flavor, but you'll probably need to order it in advance from your butcher. You can also buy pheasant online from MacFarlane Pheasants. This online shop sells whole pheasant, marinated pheasant breasts, smoked pheasant, summer pheasant sausage, pheasant pie, ground pheasant. In other words, just about every pheasant product you can imagine! Also, check out their online recipes and download the MacFarlane Pheasants cookbook featuring their favorite pheasant recipes.
Once you have your pheasant, how do you roast it?
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Chestnut, Pancetta, and Sage Stuffed Pheasant with Roast Vegetables
For the pheasant
- 1 ½ kilogram pheasant
- 15 Sage leaves, fresh
- 100 grams butter
- 6 carrots, medium, peeled and quartered
- 4 potatoes, medium, peeled and quartered
- 2 onions, medium, peeled and quartered
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 slices bacon
For the stuffing
- 80 grams day-old country bread, cubed (about 3 slices)
- ⅓ cup milk, to soak the bread
- 70 grams cubed pancetta, cooked until crisp and fat discarded
- 100 grams chestnuts, peeled and cooked, and crumbled
- 5 Sage leaves, fresh, minced
- Preheat your oven to 350°F and place the pheasant breast side up in a roasting pan, large enough to surround the pheasant with potatoes and vegetables.
- Combine all the stuffing ingredients together in a bowl, then lightly stuff the pheasant.
- Place any excess stuffing in a small roasting pan and bake separately.
- Generously rub the pheasant with a mixture of butter and minced sage. You can also tuck some of the butter-sage mixture under the pheasant skin.
- Place the pheasant breast side up in a roasting pan, large enough to surround the pheasant with potatoes and vegetables.
- Before roasting generously rub the pheasant with a mixture of butter and minced sage.
- Top the pheasant with slices of bacon so that the breast is covered.
- Roast for about 45 minutes or until juice runs clear when the skin is pricked.
- If the pheasant browns too much lightly cover with tinfoil.
- Bring to the table on your favorite serving platter surrounded by the roast vegetables.
Other holiday food and beverage ideas!
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