Tenderize a Tough Rooster with Pheasant Saag

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YOGURT AND THIS INDIAN COOKING TECHNIQUE COMBINE TO TAME AND TENDERIZE A TOUGH OLD ROOSTER

The word saag refers to leafy-green vegetables found in the subcontinent of Pakistan, India and Nepal. Throughout the world, numerous variations of this Indian dish exist, though leafy greens of some sort—spinach, fenugreek, mustard greens or collard greens—remain an essential ingredient. In the United States, spinach is often a fundamental component. 
 
Just as the green vegetables used vary, so does the type of dairy and its ratio. Some recipes call for sour cream, while others opt for yogurt. Because these dairy products are technically a mild acid, they assist in tenderizing meat when cooked low and slow for an extended period of time. 
 
Saag is typically eaten with special bread such as roti or naan, or served with rice. An array of poignant spices are employed, though overall spiciness depends on the cook’s personal preference. Many restaurants specializing in Indian cuisine often lightly puree their green leafy vegetables, thus turning them into somewhat of a paste in which meats such as lamb or chicken will simmer.     
 
This particular recipe, in all fairness, is probably a cross between saag and the Indian dish tikka masala, since the base sauce is a mix of both tomato and spinach (instead of simply spinach). Regardless, this method is guaranteed to tenderize even the toughest rooster and imbue meat with great flavor. Additionally, saag offers numerous benefits to one’s wellness. Combined with organic pheasant, it is both a tasty and healthy dish to serve family and guests.  
 
4 health benefits from eating saag:
Yogurt, as an ingredient, not only tenderizes bird cuts, it is high in protein and potassium, and contains “good bacteria” called probiotics, which aid the digestive tract and strengthens the immune system.
Studies have shown, as indicated by a New York Times piece, that spicy foods help boost your metabolism by as much as 8 percent. 
According to the American Chemical Society, the active compound in hot chilies known as capsaicin may lower cholesterol and improve heart function.  
Spinach, a main ingredient in saag, is very low in calories and cholesterol in ratio to its high content of protein and other vitamins and minerals, including niacin and zinc and vitamins A, C, E and B6.


INGREDIENTS

(Makes two servings)

Meat:
2 skinless pheasant breasts, approximately 10 ounces, cubed
Saag sauce:
1 8-ounce bag of fresh spinach, thoroughly washed and chopped
14-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup cold water
1/2 cup whole milk plain yogurt
1/2 medium yellow onion, finely diced
1 ounce freshly minced ginger
1-1/2 teaspoons freshly minced garlic
1 tablespoon butter
2 teaspoons red chili flakes
2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cardamom 
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon each of salt and black pepper
Basmati rice:
1 cup basmati rice
1-1/3 cups cold water
 

Method 

In a large pot, heat 1 tablespoon of butter on medium-low. Add diced onion, minced ginger and garlic. Lightly salt and pepper and sauté until soft. Dice pheasant into approximate half-inch cubes and add to pot. Increase heat to medium-high, lightly salt and pepper and brown pheasant. When pheasant is browned, add crushed tomatoes along with chili flakes, coriander, cardamom, curry powder, turmeric and salt and pepper. Stir thoroughly.  
 
Turn heat to medium-low and cover pot. Simmer for 10 minutes. Thoroughly wash spinach and rough chop. Add to pot, along with 1/2 cup of water. Cover with lid and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove lid and stir spinach into sauce. Add 1/2 cup of whole milk plain yogurt and stir thoroughly into sauce. Turn heat to low and simmer for 1 hour or longer, until pheasant is tender. 
 
To cook rice, combine 1 cup basmati rice and 1-1/3 cups of cold water in a medium pot, cover with lid and bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn heat to low and turn off heat once all water is absorbed. Leave rice covered until ready to serve.
 
To serve, dish rice onto a plate and cover with desired amount of saag. 
 
Jack Hennessy is a freelance outdoors journalist based out of Minneapolis and the author of the blog “Braising the Wild.” Follow him on Twitter and Instagram: @WildGameJack or on Facebook at Facebook.com/BraisingtheWild.