One of my favorite aspects of the holidays is that my mom lets me get adventurous with the meal plan. Starting a few years ago, I began cracking open The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg, flipping through, looking at every ingredient and flavor pairing until something struck me. Shortly after discovering The Flavor Bible, my friend brought me a cookbook home from Paris, and you wouldn’t believe who wrote it. It was Culinary Artistry by Page and Dornenburg. With the two books, I took it upon myself to create my own recipes.
Now comes my issue with turkey. I am not a fan of turkey.. I know, I know.. blasphemy.. but those birds, even if you find a “small” one, are still gigantic. My biggest problem is that instilling flavor throughout the bird is quite difficult, and no matter what, there are always dry spots. I have seen them brined and roasted, only roasted, fried in vats of oil, and I am still looking for that turkey that just blows me away. Actually, writing this post made me think that perhaps next year that should be my project. Anyway, my answer to this problem for now, smaller game birds.
This year, I decided to go with pheasant. I have never cooked a pheasant before, and the only place I have eaten one is in a pie that I had in London. I must say, the pie was delicious. I even bit into a small piece of buck shot, so it was authentic to say the least. When I envisioned my plate, I wanted the pheasant, frisee, and maitake mushrooms to be centered around something. According to Food52, bone marrow has been on people’s radar, and I LOVE it. So in my head, the marrow bones would be like a branch in the woods, with frisee acting like leaves, the mushrooms acting like, well, mushrooms, and the pheasant would be the bird in the brush. I was pretty close to achieving this vision, however, the marrow bones were not canoed like I imagined. Next time I will definitely specify.
Despite the presentation panning out a little differently, my meal turned out. It was the Thanksgiving first course, and the flavors I paired turned out great.
Apple Cider Glazed Pheasant with Roasted Marrow Bones, Hen of the Woods, and Apple Chestnut Puree:
1/2 cup chopped apples ( I used Braeburn apples)
1/2 cup roasted chestnuts
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 shallot roughly chopped
1 teaspoon of salt
1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice (a little extra for adjustments)
Ground black pepper
1/2 cup apple cider (preferably unsweetened)
1/4 stick of unsalted butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 marrow bone that has been canoed
1/4 lb. Hen of the Woods (maitake) mushrooms
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 bunch of frisee
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Begin by washing the pheasants. Using kosher salt, scrub the pheasant all over, and then rinse with cold water. Set aside.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Take the chestnuts, and using a small knife, put a small cut into the shells. Place the chestnuts onto a dry sheet pan and roast for 35 minutes. You know they will they be done because they will burst open at the cuts. While the chestnuts are cooking, roughly chop the apples, the shallot, take off the thyme leaves, and place them into a small bowl. Toss with 1 teaspoon of salt. After the chestnuts are done roasting, let them cool until you can handle with your bare hands, they should still be warm to the touch. Begin removing the shells and skins, adding the chestnuts to the bowl with the apples. Toss the chestnuts with the rest of the mixture.
Prepare the glaze by melting the 1/4 stick of butter, add in the brown sugar, apple cider, and 1 tablespoon of salt. Bring to a boil and take off heat.
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees for the pheasants. Stuff the pheasant with as much of the apple mixture as you can. Using cooking twine, tie the legs of the pheasant together. If some of the stuffing falls out, that is fine. Lightly salt and pepper the outside of the pheasant. Place the pheasant on its side into a deep pan, baste with the apple cider glaze, and place in the oven. Cook for 30 minutes, basting with the glaze every ten minutes. After 30 minutes, turn the pheasant onto its other side, and put back into the oven, cooking for another 30 minutes and repeating the glazing process. The pheasant should be nice and golden brown on both sides by the time it is done.
While the pheasant is cooking, place the marrow bones on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper, and roast for 25 minutes at 425 degrees. At the same time, heat a skillet with a 2 tablespoons of butter and sautee the hen of the woods, covered, for 5- 10 minutes on each side. they should be nice and golden brown on each side when they are done.
After the pheasant is finished cooking, pull out the apple mixture with a spoon and place in a blender. Add a 1/4 cup of the orange juice and blend. If you want the puree to be thinner, add a little more orange juice at a time until it is the desired consistency.
Now that everything is finished, mix the olive oil and lemon juice, lightly dress the frisee and plate the food.
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