Pheasant Roasted in Butter Muslin
If you want to roast pheasants that are guaranteed to be moist and tender, then this is the best way I've come across. Do remember, though, to check with your supplier that the pheasants are young enough to roast. Older birds should always be braised or casseroled. One pheasant cooked in this way and served with Cranberry and Onion Confit would make a wonderful Christmas lunch for two people.
This recipe is taken from Delia Smith’s Christmas Serves 4-6
Wipe the birds with some kitchen paper and trim off any odd bits of skin that are hanging loose. Then, beginning at the neck cavity of each bird, pinch the skin to loosen it and provide a kind of pocket along each side of the breast. Next insert the pieces of bacon, snipping them in half if you need to, so that what you end up with is breast covered by bacon covered by skin. Now place each bird in the centre of a piece of muslin, season with salt and freshly milled black pepper and plaster each pheasant with butter spread thickly all over. Wrap the muslin up like a parcel, bringing the first two opposite edges up, one over the other, then tuck the thyme and bay leaves in and finally fold the other two edges over and secure the parcels at both ends with cocktail sticks.
Now place the birds in a roasting tin on a high shelf in the oven and give them 30 minutes, then reduce the heat to gas mark 5, 375°F (190°C), and continue to cook the pheasants for a further hour, basting with the butter from time to time. When a pheasant thigh is pierced with a skewer and the juices run clear it's done. Discard the muslin and leave the birds to rest in a warm place whilst you make a gravy. Spoon off all the excess fat from the roasting tin, and place the tin over a medium heat. Stir in a little flour till smooth, then gradually add enough stock to make a thinnish sauce. Season with salt and freshly milled black pepper and let the gravy bubble and reduce before stirring in the redcurrant jelly and the port or Madeira. Serve the pheasant with the gravy and Cranberry and Onion Confit handed round separately.
Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 8, 450°F (230°C).