braised pheasant
PHOTOGRAPH BY GENTYL + HYERS

Braised Pheasant With Bacon + Green Olives

Slow-cooking with bacon, vermouth, and fresh herbs is the secret to these luxuriously tender birds.

November 17, 2015

If you spot a ring-necked pheasant in your poultry aisle, don’t call the game wardens. The law forbids the sale of wild pheasant, so the one you’ll buy was a domesticated bird, raised on dense grassland that supports beneficial insects, making pheasant farms more environmentally sound than other poultry operations. Try them braised with bacon, vermouth, and fresh herbs—the long, slow cooking moistens and tenderizes the white and dark meat. “I first concocted this dish in France with freshly killed pheasants and local bacon and olives,” says Mary Sue Milliken. “Try experimenting by adding other treats to the braise, like mushrooms or turnips.”

Order pheasant from Joyce Farms (joyce-farms.com), a breeder with strict animal-welfare standards. While not certified, the farm’s pheasants are free-range, antibiotic-free, and fed organically. Some preserves and farmers raising pheasants for hunters also sell fresh birds to order. Check with the North American Gamebird Association, mynaga.org

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Serves 6–8

2 2-pound pheasants, quartered into 2 breasts and 2 legs per bird
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
½ pound slab bacon, cut into ¼-inch-long pieces
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for dredging
Olive oil, if needed
1¼ pounds (about 12 large) shallots, halved
2 cups dry white vermouth
1 bunch (½ ounce) thyme, tied with string
3 cups chicken stock, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2⁄3 cup (4 ounces) mild green olives, such as Lucques or Picholines, pitted
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons butter

1. Season pheasant with salt and pepper and let sit at room temperature 1 hour. 

 

2. Heat oven to 300 degrees. Cook bacon in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp and fat is rendered, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a plate. 

3. Dredge pheasant in flour, shaking off excess. Working in batches, sear pheasant in bacon fat, adding oil if pan gets too dry, about 6 minutes per side. Transfer to plate with bacon. 

4. Add shallots to pan and cook until golden brown, 2–3 minutes; transfer to a separate plate. Add vermouth and thyme to pan, increase heat to high, and reduce vermouth by half, about 6 minutes.

5. Add bacon, pheasant legs, collected juices, and enough stock to cover the meat by two-thirds. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook, uncovered, 15 minutes. Add pheasant breasts and shallots, cover, and transfer to oven. Cook until meat is cooked through and tender, about 30 minutes.

6. In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons flour and the butter to form a paste. Using a ladle or turkey baster, transfer cooking liquid from pot to a small saucepan; bring to a boil. Whisk paste into cooking liquid to thicken, and season with salt and pepper. Pour gravy over pheasant and stir gently; add olives and serve immediately.

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