Recipe: Spatchcock Pheasant with Roasted Vegetables and Giblet Gravy

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While spatchcocking (removing the spine to butterfly an entire bird) is often used for larger poultry such as turkey, the technique also works beautifully on pheasant. Joined by roasted vegetables, which are chocked full of vitamins and minerals, spatchcocked pheasant with giblet gravy makes for a healthy and hearty meal for the entire family.  
 
Benefits of spatchcocking a pheasant:
 
  • ​With all main parts of a pheasant pressed against a hot skillet, the skin sears evenly. When finished, skin is crispy and flavorful.
  • A spatchcocked pheasant—as opposed to a trussed, roasted bird—cooks faster, which means the meat stays moister too. 
  • Generally speaking, the legs of a spatchcocked bird reach a desired temperature of 170 degrees Fahrenheit around the same time the breast reaches a finished temperature of 160 degrees. 
Here is a simple recipe featuring a spatchcocked bird and giblet gravy. (Read more about the joys of giblets here.) One bird will serve 2 to 4, depending on appetites.
 
Ingredients
 
Bird:
1 whole pheasant, approximately 2-1/2 pounds, plucked and brined
 
Brine:
1 gallon cold water
1/2 cup non-iodized salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 bulb garlic, peeled and smashed
10 ounces ginger, smashed
1/4 cup black peppercorns
1/2 cup coriander seeds 
 
Gravy:
Neck and giblets (heart, liver and gizzard) from one pheasant
3 cups pheasant or chicken stock
1 medium shallot, finely diced
2 large cloves garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 to 3 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon butter
Salt to taste
 
Roasted vegetables:
2 each of green and yellow summer squash
1 ripe eggplant (ripe = glossy purple color and firm yet pliable to touch)
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon each of kosher salt and pepper
 
Garnish (optional):
Finely diced on-the-vine tomatoes
Fresh rosemary leaves
 
Method 
 
Thoroughly stir sugar and salt in gallon of cold water until dissolved before adding remainder of brine ingredients. Brine a dressed, plucked pheasant for 8 to 10 hours (no longer). Rinse pheasant under cold water upon removing from brine to remove excess salt solution. Pat-dry pheasant. 
 
In a large oven-safe (preferably cast iron) skillet, heat a thin layer of olive oil on medium heat. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. To spatchcock the pheasant, use kitchen shears and cut along both sides of spine to open up the bird. Either dispose of spine or save for stock (recommended). 
 
Place pheasant, now split wide open, breast-side-down into hot oil. Either place a weight over top of pheasant to make certain all sides of bird, including thighs, press firmly into skillet evenly; or hold the bird down yourself, though beware hot oil may splash onto your fingers. Once skin is golden-brown, flip so skin is facing up, then slide skillet into oven. Roast for 30 minutes or longer, until internal breast temperature reaches 160 degrees. 
 
Slice eggplant into approximately 1-inch-wide circles and liberally salt both sides. To remove bitter juices from eggplant slices, place slices on paper towel and cover with another paper towel. To squeeze out bitterness, either place a heavy object over top for half hour; or manually (but slowly and softly) press down on slices to squeeze out bitterness. Rinse when finished and pat dry. 
 
Cut squashes in half. Place 2 tablespoons of butter in a bowl and into microwave for 15 seconds to melt. Add 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper to butter bowl and mix. Place squash halves (seed-side up) and eggplant slices onto a baking tray and brush liberally with butter seasoned with salt and pepper. 
 
Roast eggplant and squash in oven alongside pheasant until both squash and eggplant are roasted through, but not mush (approximately for the last 10 to 15 minutes). 
 
While pheasant finishes in oven, heat a deep sauté pan on low-medium heat and add 1 tablespoon butter. Finely mince two large cloves of garlic and a medium shallot and add to pan, stirring often. Add neck and giblets. Once neck and giblets are seared, add 3 cups pheasant (or chicken) stock and let simmer until pheasant is finished roasting. When ready to serve, remove neck and giblets and raise heat to medium-high. Add desired amount of flour (1 tablespoon at a time) to lightly boiling stock for desired texture and thickness. Stir often until lumps from flour are absorbed. 
 
Serving 
 
To serve, dice roasted vegetables and quarter pheasant. Place pheasant pieces over a bed of roasted vegetables and cover with giblet gravy. Garnish with tomatoes and rosemary. 
 
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.