Archive | Pheasant

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THE GAME COOKBOOK by Clarissa Dickson Wright & Johnny Scott [Book Review]

Posted on 22 December 2010 by Cork Graham


If you remember the British cooking series, Two Fat Ladies, of PBS and BBC fame, you’ll immediately recognize Clarissa Dickson Wright as the taller of the two, not the proud chainsmoker who passed away from lung cancer in 1999.  Dickson Wright is the co-author of The Game Cookbook with Scottish farmer and outdoorsman, Johnny Scott.

A gorgeously illustrated review copy sent to us by the publisher, The Game Cookbook takes standard table game and puts a variation on it that brings out the best qualities through innovative experimentation, with classic recipes and those that seem to have been magically created by neighbors on the other side of the authors’ hedge.

Included are recipes that are very traditional in the UK and Europe. Others reach to the Middle East and South Asia, modified from recipes based in preparing more traditional farm-raised meats. Well-read and always willing to tell a story, Dickson Wright colors the recipes with asides of family histories and remembrances of foreign travel and meals had with friends.

You’ll find that it’s very much a UK book with such references as “wapiti”, which those of us in the US and Canada recognize as elk: what they call elk in Europe and the UK, we call moose in North America.

The artwork gracing the pages is a mix of old paintings, of hunting and fishing in North America and Europe, even movie stills (James Mason looks quite dashing with a side-by-side), and then photos of completed dishes just as beautiful as the sketches and historical art. Together they bring to the reader the old and new of game and fish cuisine, along with anecdotes that can prepare the neophyte hunter or angler for their first hunting or fishing experience.

At the end of the book is a listing of hunting and fishing organizations in the UK and US, along with a collection of wildlife agencies in the United States. For those who might not be personally able to collect their own main component of a game or fish dish, a listing of game suppliers offering meat farm-raised animals (unlike in Europe, where wild game and fish are sold in many shops, the selling of true wild game in the US has been illegal for years) provides an option.

One of the topics that I keyed in on, because it puts so much fear in the new game chef, is aging. In the US of late, as the tradition of hunting has skipped one, two or even three generations, the result of more Americans moving into urban areas in pursuit of employment, the art of aging has been forgotten. If you read some of the forums on the Internet, there’s such an intimidation toward aging and meat contamination that it can sometimes be humorous, sometimes sad…. What would people do if suddenly our refrigerators no longer worked and we were suddenly dumped into a kitchen life experience most families had up until the end of the early part of the last century?

Aging was a heavily practiced technique for stretching the day’s take, improving flavor and tenderizing a tough old bird, or side of venison. It all has to do with air temperature and humidity: cool and moist tops the list, and extends the aging time. The author goes through the aging process for just about every meat type taken, from grouse, to pheasant to venison.

There are also recipes for those that might not be specifically sought in the US and Canada, but are looked forward to in Europe and the UK, such as carp. There are recipes for grouse, pheasant, elk, moose, antelope, caribou, wild boar, partridge (chukar), quail, dove, American woodcock, snipe, hare (jackrabbit), cottontail, salmon trout, sea trout, zander (yellow perch), pike and of course goose.

At the back just before the meat supplier’s list, is a collection of recipes for compotes, sauces and stocks bringing out the best flavors of the dish.

When it came to testing a recipe, I decided it was time to use one of the many pheasants that Ziggy had pointed out for me last year—the dish quick to prepare and a rich, creamy mix of flavors!


A bit sweet. A bit tangy. All delicious!



  • 1/3 cup (3/4 stick) butter
  • 4 pheasant breasts
  • 4 shallots, chopped (if unavailable, use 4 tablespoons of chopped mild onions)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tbsp bottled horseradish, or 1 tbsp strong fresh horseradish, grated.
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 packet black or green Italian noodles or make your own chestnut noodles (enough for 4 people)
  • small bunch of parsley, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Heat the butter in a heavy frying pan for which you have lid
  2. Sauté the pheasant breasts until they are sealed
  3. Remove them and sauté the shallots and the garlic until the shallots are pale gold
  4. Remove and discard the garlic clove
  5. Stir the horseradish into the shallots
  6. Add a tbsp, or so, of water and the lemon juice
  7. Return the breasts to the pan, add the cream, and cover
  8. Cook gently for 15-20 minutes, until the breasts are cooked
  9. If the sauce is too wet, remove the breasts and zap up the heat to reduce
  10. If it’s too dry, add a little more cream or some dry white white wine
  11. Cook the noodles according the package instructions and drain
  12. Serve the noodles with the pheasant
  13. Sprinkle the chopped parsley on top.


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FORGOTTEN SKILLS OF COOKING by Darina Allen [Book Review & CO Radio/TV]

Posted on 19 August 2010 by Cork Graham

In 1972, I arrived in Singapore to attend the Singapore American School and soon after was introduced to a documentary film, called Future Shock, based on a book by Alvin Toffler and narrated by Orson Welles which was taking the US by storm. As a child, it totally freaked me out….perhaps one of the reasons I avoided computers until I could avoid them no longer. At that time there was also a large movement to get back to basics.

It revealed itself in the very large “Ecology” movement of the 1970s (remember the riff on the American flag, in green with the Greek letter ‘Theta’ where the stars and blue background would have been?), and publications like The Foxfire Books, a collection of stories detailing life in Southern Appalachia. I still have my father’s copies that he picked up on visits back to the States. It’s full of information on woodcraft and pre-supermarket self-reliance. They even showed how to properly scald a pig, which I used in this episode of Cork’s Outdoor TV on roasting a pig.

I’m reminded greatly of the back-to-basics movement of the 1970s, by these latest “slow food” and “green food” movements recorded by Michael Pollan and Paul Bertolli. What could be better than eating food that led to a slower and more relaxed society? But, so much information has been lost due to the increasing lack of family histories and traditions being handed down through live practice, i.e. on a farm or ranch. So many generations have moved off the land and into cities. Nowadays, most slow food information is that carried into the US by new immigrants from Asia and Latin America.

This is a pity as there was a lot of slow food information held in the family lines that came here from Northern Europe. In March of this year, I had the opportunity to complete a phone interview for Cork’s Outdoors Radio with one such food authority on her latest book on getting back to the basics (be sure to listen to the audio and watch the show below).

Darina Allen is noted as the “Julia Child of Ireland” and has been entertaining and educating on the subject of cooking in Ireland and the United Kingdom through her TV show and a collection of books. Her latest book, Forgotten Skills of Cooking: The Time Honored Ways are The Best – Over 700 Recipes Show You Why, is that treasure trove of not only Irish, British, and foods from other parts of the world, like Italian slow food recipes, but also articles and remedies for raising your own chickens for meat and eggs, how to properly butcher large farm animals like pigs, cattle and lambs.

It’s a gorgeous book, with photos that took all the seasons to create, evidenced by plants in bloom, and the foods in season. It’s all about being seasonal, Allen says, something clear in how she describes not only those foods that are collected on the farm, but also on a day’s walk in the woods gathering such morsels for the kitchen as nettles, mushrooms and a number of herbs, leafy greens, and berries.

Both land and water are covered, with foraging rewards, like limpets that are easily found in the Americas, and are cooked in a number of dishes that incorporate the bounty of the farm and field.

Though spending a lot of time reading through the scrumptious recipes that anyone would easily take a few years preparing all the scrumptious family meals using organic ingredients (either purchased or foraged): pies, breads, puddings, roasts and grilled fishes, I was keen on the game and fish sections.

Hare, venison, duck and goose are covered well, both as farm offerings and from the marsh, and of course the obligatory pheasant, but I’d done enough pheasant recipes lately, so I quickly focused on the basil cream rabbit recipe. It was the very cottontail taken with a .22 pellet rifle from Crosman. Who would have thought the hardest part for this recipe was to get the caul fat: Thank God for Dittmer’s in Mountain View, CA!

Watch the preparation and presentation on Cork’s Outdoors TV and return for the recipe below:


reprinted with permission from the publisher, KYLE BOOKS


6 saddle of rabbit (use the legs for confit)

4oz pork caul fat

salt and freshly ground pepper

extra virgin olive oil

23 cup dry white wine

23 cup Chicken Stock

23 cup cream

2oz basil leaves

Caramelized Shallots (see below)


  1. Trim the flap of each saddle, if necessary (use in stock or pâté).
  2. Remove the membrane and sinews from the back of the saddles
  3. with a small knife.
  4. Wrap each saddle loosely in pork caul fat.
  5. Season well with salt and freshly ground pepper.
  6. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the rabbit pieces in a stainless steel or heavy roasting pan and roast for 8–12 minutes, depending on size.
  7. Remove from the oven, cover, and allow to rest.
  8. Degrease the pan if necessary, and put the wine to reduce in the roasting pan.
  9. Reduce by half over medium heat, add the chicken stock, and continue to reduce.
  10. Add the cream.
  11. Bring to a boil, season with salt and freshly ground pepper, and add lots of snipped basil.
  12. Serve the rabbit with the basil sauce, caramelized shallots, boiled new potatoes, and a good green salad.



1lb shallots, peeled

4 tablespoons butter

12 cup water

1–2 tablespoons sugar

salt and freshly ground pepper


  1. Put all the ingredients in a small saucepan, and add the peeled shallots.
  2. Cover and cook on a gentle heat for about 10–15 minutes or until the shallots are soft and juicy.
  3. Remove the lid, increase the heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally.
  4. Allow the juices to evaporate and caramelize. Be careful not to let them burn.

For more information on Darina Allen’s cooking school in Ireland, check out her school’s website: Ballymaloe Cookery School


For your daily commute on your MP3 player – Download and Enjoy Darina Allen’s interview on Cork’s Outdoors Radio:

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Roast Pheasant with Apricot Sauce

Posted on 02 July 2010 by Cork Graham

Perfectly roasted ringnecked pheasant about to be carved!

 It’s that time of the year when I start really looking in my game freezer to see what’s left from the last hunting and fishing season. Perhaps you do, too?  

It’s the time when I check to see how much salmon and steelhead is left from last year. If I went abalone diving, I also check to make sure that I don’t have any abalone leftover, especially with all that’s fresh, only risking a swim in “Mr. Grey’s” waters… Didn’t go last year, so no abalone this year…   

Now that I have a Brittany, there’s meat in there that I definitely have a lot of: ringneck pheasant. Most of it is from bird clubs, as the best deal when you have a birddog that just finds every bird in the field is the end of club season  “Shoot Out”.   

At the end of the club gamebird season, that lasts much longer than the government season because birds are planted in the field for hunters, there’s often a surplus of birds. It’s too expensive for the club to feed those birds all the way until the next season, so they conduct shoots outs to clear the raising areas for new chicks.   

In a shoot out, the club releases a certain number of birds per hunter. But, then they also let it be known that if you come across more birds than the number set out, and bag them, there’s no charge for those extra birds. With a good birddog you can really clean up!   

The question then is not whether you’ll get your birds, but what are you going to do with all those birds? Last time out, my Brit, Ziggy, got us into three limits of birds.   

As one who prefers to clean and hang my birds for a day or two, I don’t use the cleaning and plucking services often offered at such establishments. So, when it comes to plucking this many birds, especially when it’s not a normal two to three birds, but seven to twelve birds taken, your fingers can really cramp up!   

…But then later in the year, when you prepare those pheasants just right, it makes up for all that plucking work during the hunting season!   

And which is the hardest for many to prepare?   

Yes, you got it: roast pheasant!   

Often it ends up on the table dry, and in the mouth like sawdust. 

Here’s a recipe that’s guaranteed to keep your pheasant not only moist, but also flavorful!  

Roast pheasant with apricot sauce and country potatoes


Roast Pheasant and Apricot Sauce


1 pheasant   

2 onions large slices   

4 strips of salted bacon   

1 tbsp Herbs de Provence   

1 cup of celery large cut   

1 cup of carrots large cut   

6 red potatoes quartered   


Apricot Sauce


6 fresh apricots   

1 tbsp Cachaça or Brandy   

1 pinch of salt   

1 cup of water  

2 tbsp sugar 

Surrounded by aromatics and under a layer of bacon, ready to roast

Two-day preparation:

Place the pheasant in a brine of one gallon of water to half a cup of sugar and half a cup of Kosher salt overnight.   

Drain and let the pheasant rest for a day or two days, breast up in the refrigerator, uncovered to let it dry on the outside.   

Start with the sauce as it will have to boil down and you’ll have to strain it.   

  1. Pit and chop five of apricots—cut the sixth apricot into six slices.
  2. Put in a sauce pot and cover with the sugar and cold water
  3. Add pinch of Kosher salt
  4. Place on stove on high heat, then turn down to medium-low heat to simmer, stirring repeatedly.
  5. When apricots seem soft enough to push through a sieve, do so, making a puree.
  6. Add the liquor, and apricot slices and boil for only a minute to evaporate most of the alcohol and set aside.

Roasting in a Big Green Egg infuses your food with that old country scent of a wood stove


Then carry on with the pheasant:   

  1. Preheat the oven to 345 degrees Fahrenheit. Or, if you’ve got a Big Green Egg, start the charcoal and get the heat up to 500-600 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Grab a large skillet and place the patted dry pheasant in the center. Slip two halves of an onion in the cavity, and truss up the legs, or stick the ends in the cavity skin tag of the tail.
  3. Grind the Herbs de Provence between your thumb and fingers as you sprinkle them on the pheasant and rub them over the breast and legs. Lay the straps of bacon over the pheasant in a single layer, covering the breast and legs.
  4. Surround the pheasant with the carrots and celery.
  5. Place the skillet, covered with aluminum foil. If you’re using the Big Green Egg you don’t have to cover it: it makes the bacon very crispy. Let enough heat out of the Big Green Egg to bring the thermometer reading fall to 350-400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  6. Cook for 20 – 30 minutes. In the last 10 minutes remove the bacon if you want a much crispier pheasant skin.
  7. Right after removing the bacon, take the quartered potatoes and wrap in a moist paper towel and set in the microwave for 6 minutes on high.
  8. Remove the pheasant to a cutting board and place the potatoes in the skillet to brown by frying in the bacon oil on the stove, or the Big Green Egg’s grill.
  9. Warm up the apricot sauce.
  10. After the pheasant is sliced, set on the plate with potatoes topped with chopped bacon and a line of apricot sauce across the pheasant slices—enjoy!

Total preparation: 1-2 days (brining is what really keeps the moisture in and intensifies great flavors).   

Total cooking time: 30 minutes. 


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