Fall 2011: Game Recipes

Whether you just buy the meat or try to kill the animals yourself, game is back in season! Here are some recipes you might want to try:

Wild Pheasant Rillettes

Rillettes are a spread made of salted meat slowly cooked in fat, first mentioned in 15th century cookbooks and more famously in Rabelais’ Pantagruel in the 16th century. Although they were originally made from pork, duck and goose have also become fairly common, and many other meats can be used.

I chose wild pheasant today to satisfy my never-ending wintry game cravings. You can substitute it with partridge, grouse, or any other game bird you can get your hands on. If you prefer to (or have to) use farmed pheasant, guinea hen or chicken, I have another recipe for you! You can also find a great recipe for duck or goose rillettes here.

The rillettes can easily be kept for a couple of weeks.

Wild pheasant rillettes
Yields 1 ramequin

1 wild pheasant, about 1 1/4 lb
kosher salt
black pepper, ground
4 thyme sprigs
8 oz duck fat

  • Cut the wings, legs and breast off the pheasant carcass. Weigh these pieces [I got about 12 1/2 oz], and then measure 1.6% of that weight in kosher salt. Sprinkle the salt together with some black pepper on both sides of the meat, then transfer to a sous-vide pouch with the thyme and the duck fat. Cook in a 166 F water bath for 8 hours. If you like a gamier flavor, you can add the chopped carcass, heart and liver.
  • Let the pouch cool for 30 minutes. Strain the fat and juices into a plastic container and place in the freezer for about 30 minutes, until just set. Discard the carcass if you used it. Bone the wings and legs, and reserve in the pouch with the breast meat.
  • Remove the skin from the meat and reserve both. You should have about 6 oz of boneless, skinless meat at this point. Measure 58% of this weight in duck fat, and 30% in jelly [the solidified juice] — for 6 oz of meat that’s 3 1/2 oz duck fat and 1 3/4 oz jelly.
  • In a blender, process the duck fat, jelly and skin (as well as the heart and liver if you used them) until smooth.
  • Transfer to the bowl of an electric mixer fit with the paddle attachment. Shred the meat between your fingers and add to the bowl. Whip on high speed to the desired texture. I like my rillettes on the smooth side, with very few chunks; some people prefer large chunks and will whip the mixture just long enough to distribute the meat. Transfer to a 12 oz ramequin, pack well, then cover with a thin layer of duck fat. Refrigerate until solid, then wrap in plastic film.
  • Take out of the refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving. Accompany with bread and pickles.

Pheasant à la Russe

Here is another recipe I adapted from the Derrydale Game Cookbook. The original had you keep the whole bird on the bone, which must have been pretty hard to cut and eat once it was wrapped in forcemeat and ham! My pheasant is completely boned before being rolled, and the legs and wings, which are too tough to be enjoyable, are used for stock. I also made several other small tweaks throughout the recipe.

According to the Greek historian Aeschylus, common pheasant originated along the banks of the Rioni River in Georgia. Hence its scientific name, Phasianus colchicus, as Colchis designated a region of Western Georgia in ancient geography.

I encourage you to use real wild pheasant, whether you hunt it or buy it. You’ll have to watch out for buckshot, but it’s worth it for the taste. Serve the dish with a mix of mushrooms, also wild if possible.

Pheasant fabrication
Yields 4 servings

2 wild pheasants, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 lb each
1 lb additional pheasant or other poultry meat, skin included
livers from the pheasants if available
6-8 slices prosciutto
black pepper, ground
3 oz dried cranberries

  • Cut the wings and drumsticks from the pheasant carcasses, and reserve for stock. Position each pheasant on its breast, and starting from the middle, separate the meat from the caracass. Once you’re done, you should have the breast and thighs still attached together. Bone the thighs and remove the skin. At this point, the meat is likely to break into 2 or 3 pieces (the skin was largely responsible for holding it together), but this is fine. Reserve the carcass and bones for stock.
  • Process the additional poultry meat, skin, and livers through a meat grinder using the small die. On a sheet of plastic wrap, arrange 3 or 4 slices of prosciutto so that they form a rectangle slightly larger than each boned pheasant. Cover with half of the ground meat, leaving a border clear around the edges. Do not season with salt as the prosciutto is already salty.

  • Arrange a boned pheasant on top, so that it more or less covers all of the ground meat. Season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with half of the dried cranberries. Starting from the edge near you, wrap the meat into the prosciutto to form a log. Tightly wrap the log into 2 layers of plastic film.
  • Repeat with the other pheasant. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours.

Smitane sauce
Yields 4 servings

3 oz onion, small dice
1/2 garlic clove, thinly sliced
1/2 oz butter
black pepper, ground
2 oz white wine
6 oz pheasant or chicken stock
4 oz sour cream

  • Sauté the onion and garlic with the butter in a pan over medium heat. Season with salt and pepper, and cook until soft. Add the white wine and reduce almost completely, then add the stock and reduce to 1/4. Add cream, simmer for 5 minutes, and let rest for 15 minutes.
  • Process in a blender until smooth, then pass through a chinois and reserve.

Yields 4 servings

pheasant logs
olive oil
smitane sauce

  • Remove the pheasant logs from the plastic film, and tie with butcher’s twine to further secure shape. Sauté with olive oil in a hot pan until brown on all sides. Add 1/2 cup water  and transfer to a 200 F oven. Cook for 1 1/2 hours, turning the meat when halfway done.
  • Cut off the twine and slice eat wrap into 4 pieces. The thigh meat will still look pink, which is fine, whereas the breast part will be much whiter.
  • Reheat the smitane sauce in a small saucepan and pour over the meat. Serve immediately.