Pheasant and Pesto Sandwich

Pesto and shrimp pasta is one of our favorite dinners, but sometimes, we make more pesto than we can eat. While it is great on pasta and pizza, pesto is also fantastic in sandwiches. With the leftover pesto from the night before, I decided to pan sear some flattened chicken breasts to make sandwiches one night. Also filled with with mozzarella cheese, fresh tomatoes and arugula, the sandwiches turned out great. It kind of reminded me of the pesto sandwiches I used to eat at the Corner Bakery Cafe, which I sorely miss. They made the best soups and sandwiches, and unfortunately, there isn't one in Nebraska. (Panera sucks.) 

Here's our pheasant version of that sandwich, and it was equally as delicious. Although not necessary with chicken, we brined the pheasant breasts to make them more flavorful, juicy and tender. Spend the extra bucks on some good ciabatta bread and fresh mozzarella cheese. It'll be worth it. 

The recipe below will make more pesto than you need-- but you won't be sorry. Toss the extra pesto with some freshly cooked linguini, and it will be grand. 

P.S. We wish you all a very Merry Christmas! Hope you all get to spend quality time with your family and friends. 

Servings: 4
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
- breasts from 2 pheasants (4 breasts), lightly flattened with a mallet
- freshly cracked pepper, to taste
- sliced tomatoes
- arugula or spinach
- fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
- balsamic vinaigrette
- ciabatta bread
- 4 tablespoon of unsalted butter
- 4 cups of water
- 1/4 cup of kosher salt
- 1/4 cup of brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon of whole peppercorns 
- 2 teaspoons of juniper berries, crushed
- 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
- a few sage leaves, chopped (dried leaves are fine, too)
- 1 cup of fresh basil leaves, packed
- 1 cup of fresh kale leaves, ribs removed and ripped into smaller pieces, packed
- 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup of walnuts
- 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 1/2 cup of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- salt and pepper, to taste

1. Combine brine ingredients in a sauce pan and heat until sugar and salt dissolve. Allow brine to cool, then pour into a container. Place pheasant breasts into the brine and refrigerate for 1 hour. Afterwards, take pheasant breasts out of the brine and pat dry with paper towels. Next, lay pheasant breasts between two sheets of plastic wrap, and lightly pound with a mallet to slightly flatten and to get pieces uniform in thickness. This will help the breasts cook more evenly. 

2. Heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle cracked pepper on both sides of breasts and then brown until cooked through, about 3-4 minutes each side. Do not overcook. Cook in batches. 

3. Clean out skillet, then heat another tablespoon of butter. Toast bread on both sides until slightly browned. Add more butter, as needed. 
4. To make pesto, combine basil, kale and walnuts in a food processor. Pulse, then add garlic and parmesan cheese. Scrape down ingredients on the sides, and pulse some more. With the food processor running, add olive oil in a steady stream. Or, add olive oil in batches if your food professor doesn't have an opening. Blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
5. Spread pesto onto both sides of toasted bread. Stack the bottom bread slice with arugula, mozzarella cheese slices, tomato slices and a splash of balsamic vinaigrette. 
Finally, top with cooked pheasant breast. Finish with a sprinkle of salt and finally place the top bread. 
Serve immediately while still warm. Enjoy!