Pot-roasted Pheasants in Madeira
In the original recipe a brace of pheasants were cut up into portions, but that is quite a bit of work.
So we've found it easier this time to cook the pheasants whole and carve them before serving.
This recipe is from Delia's Happy Christmas. Serves 4
Season the pheasants all over, then melt the butter and oil in the casserole and when it starts to sizzle, add the pheasants and brown them all over, turning them around in the hot fat with a cloth to protect your hands.
This will take about 15 minutes. After that remove them to a dish and leave on one side. Now, keeping the heat high, brown the lardons, and remove them. Follow with the shallots and, after they've browned, return the pheasants and lardons to the casserole and add the carrot, celery, mushrooms, garlic, wine, Madeira, thyme, bay leaves and some seasoning then bring it all up to simmering point, turn the heat down to the very gentlest simmer, put the lid on and cook for 1¼ hours.
After that transfer the pheasants to a warmed dish and, using a draining spoon, remove the rest of the ingredients to join them, discarding the carrot, celery, garlic, bay leaves and thyme. Then add the butter-and-flour mixture in ½ teaspoon-sized lumps to the sauce, and whisk until it comes back to simmering point and thickens slightly. Now return the shallots, lardons and mushrooms to the hot sauce while you prepare the pheasant.
To carve the pheasant put one of the birds on its back on a board, take a sharp knife and run the blade down the breastbone and along the wishbone, keeping it as close to the bone as you can. Using the knife as a lever, gently pull the breast away from the frame. Now insert your fingers along the ribcage and you'll find you can ease the leg and thigh away from the bone. Trim the bits of skin off and repeat with the other side. Do the same with the second pheasant, and finally cut each half in half again and return to the casserole to warm the joints in the sauce before serving. Puree of Potato & Celeriac would be a good accompaniment.
You will need 4.5 litre heavy-based casserole