Heart-warming, rib-sticking pheasant pasties celebrate days afield and roosters bagged
By Lukas Leaf
Pasties are a classic savory hand pie popular in the Midwest. The pasty version of a meat pie is said to have originated as a go-to hearty meal for Cornish miners centuries ago in the U.K. The workers favored the hand pie because of its portability and how easy it was to heat up and eat during a long workday underground.
There are many variations on the pasty, with the most popular being beef, potato and rutabaga. For this recipe, I’ve subbed in the more unused parts of the pheasant — legs and thighs — and used some pheasant-friendly veggies such as wild mushrooms.
Pasties are a one-stop meal that can be eaten right out of the oven for dinner, or made in bulk and frozen for a convenient and delicious meal later on a cold day when something that will stick-to-your-bones is calling your name.
COOK TIME: FILLING 2 HOURS, PASTIES 1 HOUR
3½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup lard at room temperature
2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 egg beaten
1 tablespoon vinegar
¾ cup cold water
2 eggs beaten with 2 tablespoons milk (for the egg wash)
2 packed cups cooked pulled pheasant, diced (thigh and leg meat are ideal)
2 cups peeled and diced yellow potato
1 cup peeled and diced turnip
1 cup diced carrot
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced mushroom (I used chanterelles but most any will work)
¼ cup chopped garlic
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon chili flakes (optional)
8 tablespoons butter
1. Make the dough. In a large mixing bowl combine the flour and salt. Mix thoroughly. Add the lard and mix in with your hands until the mixture resembles small crumbles. Whip the egg and vinegar together and add it to the mixture. Again, mix with your hands until well combined. Now add the water. Mix for two minutes or until the dough comes together in the bowl. Remove the dough from the bowl, place it on the counter and knead by pressing and folding over the dough for 3 to 5 minutes. Kneading will keep the dough from being crumbly after the pasties are baked. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for two hours or overnight. This dough comes together quite easily.
2. Cook the pheasant. You can either roast a whole pheasant and pull the meat or, as I did for this recipe, cook legs and thighs in a crockpot until tender and then pull and dice the meat.
3. Many pasty recipes do not require the filling to be cooked ahead of time, but you can do it here if you’d like to save some time. I prefer to pre-cook the filling. In a sauté pan heat up 2 tablespoons of butter and add the garlic, onion, carrot, celery, mushroom, turnip and thyme. Season with salt and pepper, and cook until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.
4. In a small pot with cold water, add the potatoes. Season the water with salt and bring to a boil. Cook the potatoes until just tender. Drain and set aside to cool.
5. Combine the vegetables, potato and pheasant into a mixing bowl. Check for seasoning, add the chili flakes and mix thoroughly.
6. Split the dough into six even portions and shape into balls. Roll each dough ball out into a round shape on a lightly floured surface until they reach a thickness of just under a quarter inch. On one half of the dough add 1 cup of filling and a tablespoon of butter. Fold the dough over and began sealing the pasty. Start in one corner and roll over the edges and press down every half inch or so until the pasty is sealed. Pinch the ends.
7. Place the pasties spaced slightly apart on a baking sheet with parchment paper. I fit 3 per baking sheet. Brush each pasty with the egg wash and slice slits in the center of each pasty to allow steam to escape. Cook the pasties at 350 degrees for one hour or until crispy and golden brown. Serve piping hot by itself or with your favorite dipping sauce and enjoy.
*Both the pheasant and dough can be made ahead of time to ease up your overall preparation.
*These pasties freeze up really well and make for an easy meal. You can freeze before baking or freeze after cooking for quick heat-up later.
*If you freeze before baking, set the pasties on a sheet pan in the freezer until fully frozen. Then transfer to a plastic freezer bag. Pop them in the oven when you have a hankering for a really great and really easy meal, but add a little extra cook time since they are starting frozen.
Lukas Leaf is lead chef at Modern Carnivore. This recipe originally appeared in the Fall 2020 Issue of Pheasants Forever Journal.