Friday 10 January 2014

Pheasant with Juniper and Thyme

Adapted from a recipe of Roger Vergé, this relies for its wow-factor on the quality of the sauce. As ever, the secret to the sauce is slow reduction over time, and although the whole process may seem complicated, from the number of steps involved, in practice it is actually quite straightforward. And definitely worth the effort!
Boning the bird as a first step means that one pheasant will readily feed four people...and, as I've found in practice, probably with enough left over to give you the makings of a pheasant ragu to go with fettucine or as a risotto flavouring, or else to make stuffing for ravioli.

For four (with leftovers):

Ingredients:  1 pheasant; 2 large shallots; 6 juniper berries; 1 tsp dried thyme; 100g butter + 2 tbsp; 1 tbs tomato purée; white wine (approx 1 wineglass); approx 400 mlstock (chicken/duck/rabbit - whatever you have on the go); salt & pepper.


1. Bone the bird, removing the ribcage and the upper leg bones.

2. Finely dice one of the shallots, and mix this with 100g butter, the dried  thyme and the juniper berries (crushed and then finely chopped with a sharp knife). Season to taste - I generally use a generous half tsp of salt and a few grindings of pepper.

3. Slide your hand in and carefully part the skin of the pheasant from the underlying flesh, to create a gap into which two thirds of the butter mixture should be pushed, spreading it as evenly as possible around the bird; use the remainder of the butter mixture to make a poultice to put on the breast. Put the prepared bird into the fridge until needed (you will need to have done this prep work several hours before you want to cook the bird, to allow enough time to prepare the sauce).

4. Chop the pheasant bones, roughly, so they will  sit comfortably in a layer in the pan in which you will make the sauce.  

5. In the remaining butter, sautée the bones for a few minutes over medium heat, then add the remaining shallot, diced, along with the tomato purée. Once the shallot has softened, add the wine, to cover the bones and then simmer to reduce the liquid by half. Then, add enough stock comfortably to cover the bones and continue to reduce slowly, until you have the equivalent quantity of liquid to fill two demi-tasses. Pass the contents of the saucepan through a fine sieve (discarding all of the residue) and continue to reduce the sauce slowly until it is thickened to coating consistency and you have enough for a couple of tablespoons per serving.

6. During the final stage of sauce reduction, roast the pheasant for twenty minutes in an oven pre-heated to 250 degrees C, and then let it rest in a warm oven for ten minutes or so.

7. Slice and plate the bird. Taste and (if necessary) adjust the seasoning in the sauce, and spoon a couple of spoonfuls of sauce over  each serving. 

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