This marks my favorite time of year. Nothing excites me more than watching “The Gunner,” my Hungaraian Vizsla, holding point, teeth chattering in anticipation, over an Ohio rooster. The flush, the shot, and the retrieve hopefully complete our tag team. Note the word “hopefully.” Over the years, I have gained much more trust in my dog’s nose than my trigger finger. However, when it all comes together, it’s magic.
After cold, snowy, mornings in the field, nothing screams warm and cozy more than a low and slow braise. It’s one of my favorite cold weather techniques. With hours of cooking, the flavors meld and deepen as the pheasant becomes succulent and tender. For those who may be unfamiliar with this delightful bird, I recommend this as a first experience. It will have the guests “cackling” for more. Now, pour a drink, turn on the music, and join me as we bring this hearty, hunter-style pheasant from “Forest to Fork.”
Hunter-Style Pheasant: Fagiano alla Cacciatora
- Servings: 4-6
- Prep time: 2 hours and 30 minutes
- Total time: 4 hours and 30 minutes
- 2 large wild pheasants, roughly 3 lbs. each
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 branch fresh rosemary, leaves removed and minced
- 1 sage leaf, minced
- Salt and pepper
- Lard or Extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 large yellow onions, coarsely chopped
- 1 pound Portobello mushrooms, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 4 ounces pancetta, finely diced
- 1 cup white wine
- 1 pound tomato puree
- 1 cup chicken stock, recipe follows
- Pinch sugar
- Pinch red chili flakes
- Homemade chicken or pheasant stock preferred, quality store-bought is okay
- 2 TBSP tomato paste
- Fresh Italian bread (My local bakery makes a whole garlic clove bread! WOWZA!!!)
Cut each pheasant into quarters. If bird shot is found, gently remove unless you are looking forward to a visit with your dentist.
Combine the garlic, rosemary, kosher salt and pepper along with enough olive oil to make a somewhat dry paste. Divide the paste evenly among the pheasant pieces and let sit, covered and refrigerated, for 2 hours.
In a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed stock pot over high heat, add 3 tablespoons of lard or olive oil over medium-high heat. Brush the excess rub from the pheasant pieces and sear each piece on all sides until deep golden brown. Remove the seared meat to a plate lined with paper towels. Add the onions, the mushrooms and the pancetta and cook over high heat until onions are golden brown and fat has been rendered from pancetta. Drain the excess oil, then add the wine and stir the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to dislodge the browned bits*. Brown bits equal loads of flavor! Add the tomato puree, chicken stock, sugar and chili flakes. Bring to a boil. Return the pheasant to the pan. Cook for 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to medium and cook for an hour. Be sure to stir occasionally so the sauce does not burn on the bottom. Uncover and increase heat to medium-high and cook 15 to 20 minutes more or until sauce has reduced and the pheasant is fall-off-the-bone tender. Remove from heat and divide meat evenly among 4-6 warmed dinner plates. Top with plenty of sauce, some freshly chopped parsley and serve with the buttered and toasted garlic bread. Hunt, cook, eat, share, enjoy!
*Brown bits from the bottom of the pan are also known as “fond”.
(Photo courtesy of Tina Maria Photography)
An Ohio native and contestant on Fox' MasterChef, Tyler Viars prides himself as a “rooter to the tooter,” waste-nothing cook. Follow and interact with Viars and his Cookin’ in Camo brand on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.