There's much more to poultry than just turkey or chicken; there's also small hens, duck and pheasant. Yes, pheasant and although it's not the most popular it's super tasty. Quite frankly I think it tastes a lot like rabbit and I love rabbit.
I was recently given a MacFarlane pheasant to cook and review. MacFarlane has been in the game-bird business for nearly 80 years. Their pheasants are all natural and aren't given any hormones or animal by products.
Like other forms of fowl, when it comes to cooking methods, pheasant is pretty versatile. It can be grilled, roasted, baked or even slow cooked in a nice sauce to be served over pasta.
Slow Cooked Pheasant with Spaghetti
(adapted from Lidia's Italy)
½ cup dried porcini mushrooms
4 whole cloves
2 bay leaves
1 sprig fresh thyme
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 pheasant, cut into pieces
freshly ground black pepper
2 medium leeks, chopped2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup pancetta, finely chopped
1 cup dry white wine
4 tablespoons tomato paste
3 cups chicken stock
½ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated, plus more for serving
Spaghetti or pasta of your choice
Soak the porcini in 2 cups of warm water until softened, about 30 minutes. Drain the porcini, reserving the liquid. Rinse the mushrooms and chop them coarsely, discarding any tough bits. Strain the soaking liquid through a sieve lined with cheesecloth. Set the liquid and chopped mushrooms aside. Tie the cloves, bay leaves, and thyme securely in a small square of cheesecloth.
In a large nonreactive casserole heat the oil over high heat. Add the pheasant pieces and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Reduce the level of heat to medium high and cook, turning often to prevent sticking, until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Remove the pheasant pieces.
Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat from the pan. Add the leeks, garlic and pancetta to the casserole, season them lightly with salt and pepper and cook until golden, about 5 minutes. Add the chopped porcini and cook, stirring, until they are dry, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and cook, stirring, until nearly evaporated, about 4 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste until the vegetables are coated. Add the reserved porcini liquid and about 1/2 cup of the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Return the pheasant pieces to the pan and tuck the cheesecloth packet into the liquid. Adjust the level of heat to a simmer. Cover the casserole partially and simmer gently until the liquid is reduced by about half, about 15 minutes. Continue simmering, adding chicken stock 1/2 cup at a time and waiting until the liquid is reduced by half before adding more, until the pheasant is tender and the liquid is velvety, about 1 hour. Remove and discard the cheesecloth packet. (The pheasant stew can be made up to 2 days ahead and refrigerated, covered.)
Remove the pheasant pieces from the liquid and skim the fat from the surface of the stew. (It will be easier to remove the fat is the stew has been refrigerated.) Pull all the meat from the bones. Discard the skin and bones. Shred the meat coarsely and return it to the sauce. Reheat the sauce to simmering. Taste the sauce, adding salt and pepper if necessary.
Meanwhile, bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta.
Drain the pasta and return to the pot over low heat. Add half of the liquid part of the pheasant sauce and toss until the pasta is coated. Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 cup of the grated cheese. Transfer the pasta to a serving platter or individual plates. Spoon the remaining sauce over the pasta and sprinkle with a little more grated cheese.