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Pan-fried Pheasant Hen image

Pan-fried Pheasant Hen

The delicate taste of pheasant will surprise your dinner guests. Serve with a winter vegetable, such as cabbage.

Pheasant are game birds. During hunting season, you may be able to get them fresh; the rest of the year they are available frozen. If you have an option, buy a pheasant hen. The meat of a hen tends to be more tender.

Of course, you could buy fillets and pheasant legs, but buying a whole bird gives you some advantages worth noting. First of all (and yes, I am Dutch) it saves you money. Second, you get some extra bird to make a sauce with.

Here is the way I prepare pheasant.

I trim off the legs. This leaves the carcass. Then, using game scissors, I cut the back off, leaving the two breasts together. The back I then use to make the sauce.

 The Sauce 

Fry the pheasant's back in butter until well browned. Add water so the back is submerged. Add some bay leaves and pepper corns and, if you feel lucky, two anise stars. Simmer for 15 minutes. Using a strainer, filter the liquid. Return the liquid to the pan and reduce to a third of its original volume. Add salt to taste. Add some fruit marmalade (I prefer plum) to add a sweet note. Take off the heat and set aside. Add some extra butter to bind the sauce.

Pro tip: never add salt to a sauce before reducing it. As the amount of liquid reduces, the salt concentration would increase, thus risking a sauce ending up too salty. 

Pan-frying the pheasant

The breast part of the bird with the fillets still on the bone is thicker than the legs. So, in order to get breasts and legs done at the same time, start with the breast.

Season with a royal pinch of black pepper.

Frying the pheasant parts

Use a skillet with a thick bottom for even heat distribution. Take a good amount of butter, heat until browning. Fry the breast for a few minutes, then add the legs to the pan. Brown on all sides, then leave in the skillet for a few more minutes on low heat, covering with aluminum foil.

Carving the Breast Fillets

Just before serving, carve off both breast fillets. Starting at the breast bone, let your sharp knife follow the bone to trim the fillets. Serve a leg and a fillet per person, pouring some sauce over them. Put the rest of the sauce on the table in a nice bowl for those of us that want extra. 

Serve with a winter vegetable, such as cabbage and roast potatoes. To add a bright (and Christmassy) note, I like to also serve with a good dollop of cranberry sauce.

One bird will serve two people (a leg and breast each).