Roast Pheasant with Chestnut Stuffing and Port and Chestnut Sauce
Those of us who lament the loss of real free-range flavour need look no further than pheasant, one of the finest flavoured game birds. Chestnuts, which have a great affinity with pheasant, thankfully now come ready peeled, which cuts out a lot of tiresome work.
This recipe first appeared in Sainsbury’s Magazine (Guide to Poultry and Game Cookery). Serves 4
Begin by making the stuffing. First heat the butter in a small pan and soften the onion and bacon over a medium heat until golden and tinged brown at the edges (about 10 minutes). Then allow this to cool before mixing it with the rest of the stuffing ingredients.
Now wipe the inside of the pheasants with damp kitchen paper and season well. Divide the stuffing between the body cavities of the two pheasants. Now rub the softened butter all over the skins, then lay the bacon rashers across the breast of each pheasant. Next, place the birds in the roasting tin and cover loosely with foil, allowing room for the air to circulate around and above the birds. Pop them into the oven, roast for 30 minutes, then remove the foil. Now baste the birds well and return them to the oven for a further 30 minutes, basting frequently.
After that, remove the bacon to a heatproof plate, place on a lower shelf in the oven, baste the pheasants again and roast for another 15 minutes until they're cooked. Test this by piercing the thighs with the skewer and checking that the juices run clear. When they are ready, transfer to a warm plate to rest.
Now make the sauce. To do this, pour off any excess fat from the tin, then place the tin over medium direct heat and stir the flour into the juices. When it is smooth, add the port, then switch to a whisk to disperse any lumps. Gradually add the stock, taste and season, then add the remaining halved chestnuts and simmer for about 5 minutes before pouring it into a serving jug.
Carve the pheasant by running a knife down either side of the breastbone and lifting the whole side away from the carcass. Then cut each half into two joints (breast and leg). Serve each person two joints, some crispy bacon and stuffing with the sauce poured over.
Pre-heat oven to gas mark 6, 400°F (200°C).