The roads again amok with Pheasants and the like, driving in the country at this time of year is akin to running the gauntlet, obliging severe and intrepid manoeuvring to avoid the creatures. Last week however, I hit one. And, as etiquette prevails, fast wrung its neck. Unwilling to not eat a bird I had unwittingly killed, I took it home.
Sometime, and yet I haven’t the courage this morning, I shall write a treatise detailing my views on wild and reared meat… Here instead, let me simply say, I had never before eaten roadkill pheasant.
I hung the hen pheasant in the shed for three days. On Sunday, returned to the cottage and, as dark fell, put a pot of Lentils on the stove, plucked the bird. I was lucky to have hit it in the neck/head region as the body was undamaged, the bird clean.
Plucking a Pheasant
On Preparing a Pheasant:
Remove all the feathers, pulling in the direction they grow so as not to tear the skin. Then take off the Feet and the Head, discard, leaving the Neck intact. Next remove as much length as possible of the Neck – this is a tasty piece of meat ideal for a stock, a stew or soup. The Crop where the Pheasant momentarily holds its food (often corn) can be slipped out, the Windpipe likewise extracted from the neck end of the Pheasant. Any yellow lumps of gathered fat should also be removed as these are not pleasant to eat. The base of the Pheasant is then slit open. Plunge a hand in and drag out the insides, of this the edible parts are: the Heart, the Liver, the outer layer of the Gizzard. The Gizzard is a delicious Muscle, which to be eaten has to be peeled off the inner part of the muscle where food is ground. On one occasion, having gutted and spatchcocked a dozen Pheasant for a New Year’s party, I gathered all the Gizzards and prepared them in a Goose Fat Confit as the French might Gésiers de Canard. These would then be served hot on Salad leaves with Croutes and Goat’s Cheese for a Provençal feel.
Prepared, the Pheasant was stuffed with chopped Apples, Onion, and Quince. A knob of Butter, some Garlic Cloves, a bunch of Thyme. Pheasant is a lean meat with very little of its own protective/ cooking fat, so it was covered in Bacon. A sudden moment of inspiration led us to fill the tray with chunks of Pumpkin, Swede, Marrow, Parsnip, and more Fruit. The lot was doused in Apple Juice, more Butter, Salt and Pepper and loads of Rosemary. Put in the oven about 200C for roughly 30 mins, then 150C for 20 or so until cooked. Rested for ten before serving.
Despite the chaotic end to its life, the bird was beautifully tender, no doubt the Fruit and layers of Bacon kept it thus. Served on a bed of Puy Lentils with the apple-juice-roasted fruits and veg, the meal was a joy, part medieval banquet part reminiscent of the provincial food of French Wayside Inns.