Monday, June 3, 2013

Pheasant Coq au Vin

Translated into English, Coq au Vin means "rooster/cock with wine." Traditionally, it is a long, braising process of an old, tough rooster, but modern recipes today use regular chicken, which doesn't take long to cook at all. The bird in this recipe was a rooster pheasant that was given to me. Although I don't find pheasant breast tough at all, it's legs can certainly be, benefitting from the longer braising time that this recipe was originally intended for. 
If using game that you harvested yourself, it will of course take a little more time to prepare, unlike buying ready-to-cook chicken from the store. I cleaned the pheasant as best as I could once it came off the field, but I still needed to put in some extra work before I could actually cook with it, even if the bird was entirely skinned-- or maybe it's because I'm just slow. Getting every bit of feather off the bird was a pain in the butt, but finding pheasant feathers in your finished dish is even worse. Also, remember to look for shot and to dig out feathers that may have lodged into the wounds. 

I like dishes like these because they utilize the whole bird, or most of it. Out of laziness, I am sometimes guilty of just breasting out birds as well, but it always makes me feel bad afterwards because there is still quite a bit of meat on the legs, as you can see in the photo above. Learn how to braise and you'll feel more likely to save the whole bird. That's how it should always be. 

Servings: 4
Prep time: 45 minutes
Cooking Time: 2 hours
Ingredients:
- 3 slices of thick cut bacon, chopped
- 1 whole pheasant
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup + 1 tbs. of flour
- 1/2 lb. of carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 yellow onion, sliced
- 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 1/4 cup of cognac or brandy
- 1/2 bottle of dry red wine, like Burgundy or Syrah(Shiraz)
- 1 cup of chicken stock
- 10 fresh springs of thyme
- 2 tbs. of unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided
- 1/2 lb. of pearl onions
- 2 tbs. of olive oil
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 tsp. of sugar
- 1/2 lb. of baby bella mushrooms, quartered



1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.

Clean and wash pheasant thoroughly. Remove any yellow fat on meat. Separate into 6 pieces: legs, breasts and back cut into 2 pieces. Slice breasts into smaller pieces. Sprinkle salt and pepper on all sides. Set aside. 
Yellow onion and carrots should be cut like so. 
2. In a Dutch oven, cook bacon until crispy over medium heat. Remove bacon and set aside.
3. Lightly dredge pheasant pieces in flour and brown on both sides in bacon fat. Cook in batches and do not overcrowd the pan. No need to cook through. Just brown the outside. 
Set aside the pheasant with the bacon.
4. Lower heat to medium-low and add carrots and onion to the pan. Add more oil if necessary. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and cook for 10-12 minutes, or until turning brown-- stir often. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute.
5. Next, add 1/4 cup of cognac to the pan. DO NOT POUR DIRECTLY FROM BOTTLE. Scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. 
Put the bacon and pheasant back into the Dutch oven, along with any juices from the plate. Add wine, chicken stock and thyme. Add 1 tsp. of salt. Bring to a simmer. 

Cover with a tight fitting lid and place in a 250 degree F oven for 1.5 hours. 
6. For easy peeling, add pearl onions to a pot of boiling water and boil for 2 minutes. Drain and run under cold water. Cut off root end and squeeze onions out of their skins.
They should pop right out!
7. In a skillet, cook pearl onions, 1/2 tsp. of sugar and 1/2 cup of water over high heat. Cook until onions start to fry then lower heat to medium-low. Cook until onions begin to glaze, stir occasionally. Set aside.
8. Quarter mushrooms. Heat 1 tbs. of butter in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add mushrooms and sauté for 5-10 minutes, or until browned.
9. Remove pheasant from oven and bring it back to the stove. Check to see if pheasant legs are tender. Discard thyme. Add mushrooms and pearl onions to the pot. 

To thicken up the stew, mash together 1 tbs. of flour and 1 tbs. of softened butter, then mix into the stew. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper, to taste. 

Serve hot with mashed potatoes and/or French bread. 

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