Archive for December 2nd, 2011
Unlike many of my fellow Tundra inhabitants, I happen to enjoy living in Minnesota. I’ve got a 4×4 Jeep Cherokee (and a nice layer of insulation) to get me through the winter, fishing and swimming to get me through the summer, and hunting of all kinds to entertain me during the fall. Pheasant hunting is one of my favorite ways to spend a weekend. What could be better than a weekend with family, dogs and guns? Not to mention that because we spend all day walking the fields, we can justify having huge breakfasts with eggs, bacon and cornbread!
The weekend before Thanksgiving, I hit the fields with my brother Dan, my uncle Craig and my cousin’s husband, Ben. We had ourselves a grand old time and possibly our most bountiful harvest yet. There was one point where we let two pheasants get away because most of us were out of shells in our guns. But after the fun of actually hunting, you’re left with a lot of pheasant meat which can be very tricky to do well. I find that most of the time I have pheasant it turns out pretty dry, almost without regard to the manner in which it was cooked. So you can either serve it in stew, serve it with a rich gravy, or brine it. Having never tried that last option with a pheasant, that’s the way I decided to go and I may never go back again. The recipe for the brine is:
- 8 cups water
- 1/2 cup kosher salt
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup real maple syrup
- 1 onion, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, smashed
- 1 tsp black pepper corns, whole
- 1-2 dashes of worcestershire sauce
- 1 pinch ground cloves (I used whole because that’s what I had)
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1 dash cayenne pepper
Combine the water and the salt in a large pot, and heat it up on the stove until the salt dissolves. Then you need to cool of that liquid, so if you live in a similarly arctic environment just put the pot outside. Once it’s cool, bring it back inside and add all of the other ingredients, and the pheasant(s). I would imagine this could cover up to two whole pheasants as long as you separated the pieces, for me it was just enough to cover three large breasts. You’ll want to brine the pheasants for 8-12 hours. At this point, you can do all sorts of things with them. You can still roast it in the oven, bread it and fry it, whatever you like. But if you want dangerously good pheasant, read on…
Take the pheasant breasts and debone them. If you haven’t done this before, you’ll need a sharp knife and a good youtube video of deboning a whole chicken (skip to about 1:30). Now that you’ve got your boneless pheasant breasts, cut them diagonally in half. The point of the diagonal cut is that you don’t want one piece being short and fat while the other is long and thin or they obviously won’t cook evenly. Now pat the meat dry and toss with just a bit of olive oil and a sprinkling of some kind of seasoning. You could use cajun seasoning, garlic & herb, whatever, I used some chicago steak seasoning blend. Just remember to go easy on both things because excess olive oil is going to cause flares on the grill and 12 hours of brining kind of obviates the need for tons of seasoning on the outside of the bird.
Now’s when the real fun starts: you’ll need a pack of bacon! Wrap the pheasant breast sections in bacon, using toothpicks to hold everything together. If you can, try to hide at least one end of the toothpick in the meat so it doesn’t burn. You’ll probably need to move the meat around the grill quite a bit because the bacon fat will cause flareups and there’s pretty much nothing you can do about it. Just keep moving the pheasant so the meat doesn’t get scorched or covered in soot. Cook the meat to an internal temperature of 165 degrees then remove from the grill and let rest for 5 minutes or so.
So, why is this recipe dangerously good? Well, if you’ve never eaten game birds before there is one critically important thing which you must not forget: you may bite into a piece of shot at any time. Depending on the size of shot, that will be anywhere between the size of a peppercorn and a pin head but regardless of the size, it will hurt like a son of a bitch if you bite down on one. Because of that, you have to chew the meat very slowly and concentrate on feeling for any peices of shot. When I first made this recipe last weekend, the combination of the brined pheasant with the bacon flavoring and the smoke of the charcoal was such an amazing combination that I continually forgot that I needed to eat it slowly and just started scarfing. Try this recipe at your own risk!