Pheasant Tortilla Soup

I am a Chicken Tortilla Soup eating fiend, and this is a recipe that I've always wanted to make with pheasant. If there's chicken tortilla soup on the menu, you can bet your bottom dollar that I will order it. This recipe is adapted from one of my favorite restaurants in California called Island Burgers. Yes-- I'm one of those weird people who will go to a burger joint just to order soup. Trust me. It's THAT good! No one makes chicken tortilla soup as good as they do, which is ironic because there's nothing Mexican about the restaurant... it's Hawaiian themed. Anyway, I am thrilled to be able to share this recipe with you using pheasant, one of my favorite wild game meats. It may take a bit of time to make, but it's well worth the wait. 

Servings: 6
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: about 3 hours
- 1 whole pheasant, skin off
- 4-5 strips of bacon
- 10 cups of water
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 medium red bell pepper, diced
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
- 1 Anaheim pepper, seeded and diced
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 cup of diced corn tortillas 
- juice of 1 lime
- kosher salt, to taste
- 1 tsp. of chili powder
- 1/2 tsp. of paprika
- a pinch of cayenne pepper
- 1 tbs. of fresh cilantro, minced

Tortilla Strips:
- 2 cups of vegetable oil
- 6 6-inch yellow corn tortillas
- chili powder, to taste
- paprika, to taste
- cayenne pepper, to taste
- 1/2 tsp. of salt

- shredded Monterey Jack cheese
- 2 avocados, diced

Before you serve this soup to guests, make sure you apologize beforehand for any stray feathers that might be found in the soup. As hard as I tried to get as every bit off the bird as I could before cooking, I simply couldn't. 
1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.

Line a baking dish with aluminum foil for easy clean up. Lay 4-5 pieces of bacon side by side in the baking dish. I used the 5th piece later to fill in the gaps as the bacon shrank during cooking.
Lay pheasant on top of the bacon and wrap the bacon around the bird as best as you can. The bacon's sole purpose is to keep the bird from drying out in the cooking process. It will not be included in the soup. 

2. Roast the pheasant in the oven at 500 degrees F for 15 minutes. Then remove the bird from the oven and lower heat to 350 degrees F. Return the bird and continue roasting for 40-45 minutes, or until fairly cooked through. Don't worry if it's still a little red inside because the pheasant will continue to cook in the soup. 
Tip: While the pheasant is roasting in the oven, start chopping up the veggies. I always try to do a couple things at once in the kitchen to save time. 
3. When the pheasant is cool enough to handle, remove the bacon strips. Pick off as much meat as you can. DO NOT DISCARD THE BONES. I suggest keeping the leg meat on the bird, since it will most likely be tough.  At this point, you can snack on the bacon or save it for later to chop up in stir fries or whatever you want. 
4. In a big pot, simmer pheasant carcass in 10 cups of water for 30-45 minutes. 
Next, remove and discard any visible fat from the meat. It's not needed in the soup.
Shred with meat with forks and set aside. 
5. In a large skillet, heat 1 tbs. of the pheasant and bacon drippings over medium-high heat. Sauté onion, garlic, peppers, carrot and a pinch of salt for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. 
6. After 30-45 minutes of simmering, remove and discard the pheasant bones. 

Add sautéed veggies, diced tortilla, lime juice, shredded pheasant meat, chili powder, paprika, cayenne pepper and salt. Cover and simmer soup for 1 hour. 
Add chopped cilantro 30 minutes in. 

7. Cut 6 yellow corn tortillas into thin strips. Heat 2 cups of oil in a medium sauce pan. (Oil is hot enough when test strip bubbles rapidly.) Fry strips in batches until golden and crispy. Drain on paper towels. Toss in cayenne, paprika, chili powder and salt, to taste. 
Once the soup is done, taste to adjust seasonings. 

8. Ladle soup into serving bowls. Garnish with diced avocados, shredded Monterey Jack cheese and fried tortilla strips. 

Then slurp it all up!