Braised Pheasant with Red Cabbage and Wild Rice

I come from a family who loves to hunt for their food.  Saturdays and Sundays during the fall were spent walking the fields around SE Minnesota, with dogs in tow, trying to flush out birds.  …Pheasants, to be exact.

This is Titan. He's a britany spaniel. He's one of many, many hunting/family dogs we've had through all the years

I never really enjoyed hunting and only went with a few times (I never actually carried a gun…and if I would have, I would have never been able to point it at something to kill it.  That’s just not something I could do).   Most of the times that I tagged along, I was more of an annoyance for my dad than anything.  I hated that I had to be quiet, I didn’t like that you couldn’t eat anything for hours on end, and I despised that I was really expected to go to the bathroom behind some trees?!?!  I also didn’t enjoy when I’d be walking along, minding my own business, and all the sudden a pheasant would fly up right in front of me!  That is scary!

Aside from not enjoying hunting, I also refused to eat any of their kills.  Infact, this extended to me refusing to eat fish as well.  I just could not bear to see an animal being shot, skinned, caught or filleted.  I was kind of a hypocrite though.  I’d eat beef and chicken without ever questioning how it got on my plate.  My mom would often cook venison and pheasant and tell me that it was beef or chicken.  She knew I liked the taste, but if I knew the truth, I would not touch it. This lasted for years.

Eventually, when I was in college, I began to eat venison occasionally…and I loved it!  I also started eating fish again.  I still refused the pheasant. But last year my brother in law went pheasant hunting for the first time,

Brian, after his first hunting adventure

he got 2 birds and gave one to Piyush.  Piyush has never eaten pheasant and really wanted to try it, so I agreed to fix it for him.  …I put the bird in the freezer, where it has been haunting me ever since.

The truth is, this is the first time I have knowingly eaten pheasant since I was probably 10 years old.  It is also the first time I have ever cooked it.  Mom always put it in the slow cooker with some veggies, but I didn’t really want to do that.  So I turned to google.  Not very many recipes turned up, and so I decided to search epicurious.  Success!  I found a recipe for “Braised Pheasant with Red Cabbage Wild Rice”.  This sounded delicious!…but then again, anything with wild rice sounds delicious to me!

I have to say, this recipe was incredibly time consuming.  You have to be a good multi-tasker (thank god, I am) for this to be a success.  It also uses a lot of pans and utensils, so aside from having awesome multitasking skills, you should also have extraordinary dish washing abilities.  Believe me, you’ll need them!

I followed the recipe for the most part, but had to make a few substitutions.  I also noticed that the recipe had some major problems—mainly involving the wild rice.  It called for 1 cup of water to 1/2 cup of rice.  Now, if it was regular white rice, this would not be an issue.  But wild rice is not white rice.  It needs approximately 4c of liquid to ever 1c of rice.  The recipe also says to bake the rice.  I did as I was told, but I did not like the results and would totally do it differently next time.  I’d boil the rice, uncovered, on my stove top.  Rice aside, this recipe was pure gold!  The flavor was tremendous and I could imagine ordering this at a high class restaurant (and paying a pretty penny for it, too!).

 Braised Pheasant with Red Cabbage Wild Rice (via Epicurious)

The Recipe:

For wild rice

  • 1/2 cup wild rice
  • 1 cup chicken broth (please, increase this to 2c…at least!)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 slices bacon
  • 1 small onion, sliced thin
  • 2 cups thinly sliced red cabbage (about 1/6 head)
  • 2 teaspoons red-wine vinegar ( I used a mixture of balsamic vinegar–probably 2 teaspoons, and red wine–probably a good 3/4 of a cup.  It made the flavor shine!)

For pheasant

  • a 2-pound pheasant (mine was skinless, breasts still on bone)**
  • 1 1/2 cups water (I skipped this and used chicken broth instead)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice (made my own using equal parts cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup minced shallots (about 3)
  • 1/4 cup gin
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste (I used 1/2 of a large sized heirloom tomato)
  • a 3-inch fresh rosemary sprig plus 1/2 teaspoon minced leaves (had to use dried.  Unfortunately.  I didn’t have fresh on hand)
  • 1/2 cup halved red and/or green seedless grapes (I used red, and this totally made the recipe!)

**I think you could probably substitute chicken, venison, maybe even beef? for the pheasant in the recipe and it would turn out divine!

Make wild rice:

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a fine sieve rinse wild rice well and drain. In a small saucepan bring broth to a simmer. In a small flameproof casserole Sauté rice in oil over moderately high heat, stirring, 1 minute and stir in hot broth and salt and pepper to taste. Bring mixture to a boil and bake, covered, in middle of oven 1 hour, or until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender.

While rice is cooking, in a 10-inch skillet cook bacon over moderate heat until crisp and transfer to paper towels to drain. Transfer all but 1 tablespoon drippings to a small bowl and reserve for cooking pheasant.

Heat drippings remaining in skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking and sauté onion and cabbage, stirring, until softened. Add vinegar and salt and pepper to taste and sauté, stirring, 1 minute. Chop bacon. Just before serving, stir cabbage mixture and bacon into wild rice.

Again, I have to say, Please boil the rice.  It’ll turn out better.  If you insist on baking it, at least increase the liquid by about 4 times. 

Make pheasant while rice is cooking:

Rinse pheasant under cold water and pat dry inside and out. Cut pheasant into 6 serving pieces, transferring feet, back, neck, and wing tips to a small saucepan. To saucepan add water and bay leaf and simmer, uncovered, 15 to 20 minutes, or until reduced to about 3/4 cup. Strain stock through a fine sieve into a heatproof bowl.

In a small bowl stir together salt, pepper, and allspice. Pat pheasant dry again and sprinkle evenly with allspice mixture. In a 10-inch heavy ovenproof skillet heat oil with 1 tablespoon reserved drippings over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking and sauté pheasant until golden, about 5 minutes on each side. Transfer pheasant to a plate.

In fat remaining in skillet cook raisins and shallots over moderate heat, stirring, until shallots are softened. Stir in gin and boil until most is evaporated. Stir in wine and boil until reduced by about half. Stir in stock, tomato paste, rosemary sprig, and salt and pepper to taste and bring sauce to a boil.

Add pheasant to sauce, skin sides down, and braise, tightly covered, in middle of 350°F. oven until breast meat is cooked through and tender, about 10 minutes. Transfer breasts to a clean plate and keep warm, covered. Braise legs and thighs until cooked through and tender, about 10 minutes more. Transfer legs and thighs to plate and keep warm, covered. Stir minced rosemary and grapes into sauce and boil until slightly thickened, about 1 minute.

Divide pheasant between 2 dinner plates, spooning sauce over it, and serve with red cabbage wild rice.

I wish my house had better lighting in the evening, because these photos don’t even do this dish justice!  It was stunning on the plate!

Fantastic!

After eating pheasant again…and not being tricked into it…I have to say, we’ll be eating this more often!  The meat was moist and had so much flavor.  It wasn’t tough at all (which is sometimes a problem with pheasant).  The grapes added at the end were brilliant!  They added a little sweetness and were flavored with that beautiful sauce.  I wish you could taste it right now!!!
I’d really like to make this for my family and see what their thoughts are.  They’ve only had pheasant in a crock pot, so I think it would be quite the change!
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4 thoughts on “Braised Pheasant with Red Cabbage and Wild Rice

  1. Ann

    I’ve never had pheasant, but that looks incredible! I understand your reluctance to cook, serve and eat food they caught – I’m a bit squeamish in that aspect, too. However, as I’ve heard more about the farm-to-fork and snout-to-tail movements…I appreciate using what we catch, grow and hunt. (that being said, I also love to eat chicken & beef from the grocery store and enjoy a burger out)

    It’s a fine line….and I certainly don’t have the answer….I just know your pheasant looks delicious!

    Reply

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