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Fancy pheasant, flustered foodie
Since my significant other recently received his hunting license, I am now entering a semi-intimidating new cooking realm of wild game preparation. While on a trip to Eastern Montana, he went pheasant hunting and successfully shot a bird. As a Los Angeles native, I have found that those types of trips seem to really emphasize the Montana lifestyle, which is great because he’s literally “bringing home the bacon” or small game bird in this case. However, never having cooked or eaten much wild pheasant, I am now faced with the challenge of preparing the bird.
Thanks to the Internet, I begin my research. I have to preface this by saying that I do enjoy cooking and trying new, simple recipes, but when there are up to 20 different steps involved, I do get flustered.
First, I must decide whether to grill, fry, oven-roast, pan-sear or crock-pot. Wavering from using the crock to finally deciding on oven-roasting…or maybe first pan-searing then oven roasting. This damn bird just got more complicated.
I type in Google “easy pheasant breast oven recipe” and peruse. Almost every recipe calls for bacon, so I think it must be really good with salty bacon—I can handle that. Then I see the recipe requires a mixture of mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, red wine, white wine, pomegranate juice and tart apples for stuffing. Too complicated, so I ex out that recipe and look for a different one.
The next recipe calls for brining the bird with Kosher salt for an hour and again I think easy—I can handle that. I continue to read and it says to first pan-sear the breast until browned and place in the oven, then let the breast rest and use the juices and Madeira wine to reduce and deglaze. Finally, serve over wild rice with mushroom bread pudding. Oy, again too many steps.
After Googling many more pages of recipes, even looking at the Fish, Wildlife and Game website, which also posted a fancy procedure, I think who is really preparing these wild-caught game birds?
Are hunters truly following these complicated recipes to enjoy their catch? I can’t imagine a Montana hunter coming home with a fresh bird and deglazing (what does that even mean?) followed by 15 other steps. Maybe pheasant is just a fancy bird to prepare. I do remember one time in France, when I ordered pheasant that came with doily-like socks on the legs. Is this a doily type of bird? Do I really need to follow these recipes for it to taste decent or can I just throw some barbeque sauce and Worcestershire on it and call it a day?
Still undecided on a recipe, I think about the potential of hunting game and the recipes I need to start looking up for uncommon meats like deer or elk. Hopefully, there is a wild game cooking blog or forum where hunters discuss, trade and inspire recipes. Surely those preparing the meats don’t have time or the energy to deglaze. What about during the hunter-gatherer times, I bet they didn’t follow a 20-step procedure—meat, fire, food, simple as that.
The clock is ticking, if I decide to roast or grill, I need to start marinating the bird now or am I ready to attempt to deglaze the thing? I call my mom for suggestions. She grew up on a farm in Germany, so I bet she knows what to do. She explains that because of pheasant’s gamey nature, I must brine it first for at least 12 hours. And then what do I do, I ask? She tells me to Google it.
6:30, Sunday evening. I decide to pan-sear the breast first in a hot skillet, then bake it up with some vegetables, spices and a bit of water—no deglazing or anything too fancy.
An hour later, the bird is done. Cooked with a bit of stress and a dash of love, the food tasted great. Although, a bit salty (I’m not sure if brining was necessary), the pheasant was like a deliciously cooked chicken breast. I can’t wait to see what game meat is next.