Pot-roasted Pheasant with Port and Chestnuts
As you read this Michael and I are in the Savoie region of France on a short pre-Christmas break. Many years ago I visited the area at this time of year to do an article on Chartreuse. I still recall the stunning scenery and memorable dishes, many of them cooked on log fires, and I have long vowed to return. Now I am retracing my steps and I hope I won’t be disappointed. I’ll let you know next week. As I mentioned last week I am taking this opportunity to offer you some alternative Christmas recipes. This one makes an excellent change from turkey (if there are not too many of you for Christmas lunch). It is certainly easier and quicker to prepare, and it has a wonderful richness and depth of flavour.
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Start off by melting half the butter and olive oil in a medium-sized casserole. Season the pheasants with salt and pepper, then when the butter begins to sizzle add one of the pheasants to the casserole then brown it all over, using a spoon and fork to manoeuvre it so that all sides get a nice golden-brown. Then transfer it to a plate and repeat with the other pheasant, removing that too to a plate when it is browned.
Now add the rest of the butter and oil to the casserole and when that’s hot add the shallots and bacon and toss them around till nicely browned, then transfer them to a plate. Return the pheasants to the casserole, arranging them side by side (breast side up), then return the shallots and bacon, add the mushrooms and garlic, and tuck the bay leaves and sprigs of thyme in amongst them. Season well with salt and pepper at this stage, then pour in the port and wine. Bring it all up to simmering point, then reduce the heat to a very gentle simmer (but make sure it actually is simmering with faint bubbles coming to the surface), cover with a lid and let it cook for 30 minutes.
After that time add the chestnuts, bring it back to simmering point, cover and cook for a further 30 minutes When the pheasants are cooked, remove them to a carving board. Mix the flour and 1 rounded tablespoon butter together then add this mixture to the other ingredients in half-teaspoon sized lumps. Whisk the sauce back up to simmering point to thicken slightly. Carve and serve half a pheasant per person, garnished with the chestnuts, bacon, shallots and mushrooms and a generous amount of sauce. Some baby sprouts and mashed potato go very well with this.
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