Cooking game birds, including pheasants, is a little different from cooking other meats. The main thing to remember when cooking pheasant is that it doesn’t have nearly the same amount of fat as other meats, so make sure the birds do not dry out. Use extra fat, or seal them in a cooking bag.
It is the so-called ‘wild’ flavour that makes pheasant special, so heavy seasoning should not be used. Culinary experts all agree that pheasants should be hung before being eaten. Pheasant flesh has been described as tender, sublime and highly flavoured. It has something of the flavour of both poultry and venison.
If feathers are left on the bird while hanging, additional flavour will be obtained, as some of the oil in the feathers will be absorbed into the flesh.
Some connoisseurs prefer hens to cocks, as they claim hens are more flavoursome and moist.
This basic method of cooking is suggested if time is a limiting factor.
Place sliced pieces of apple in the body cavity together with a tablespoon of butter. Wrap the bird in foil with a few tablespoons of butter on the top and cook in an oven at 190°C for 1–1¼ hours or until bird is tender. Open the foil for the last 15 minutes of cooking to brown the bird. Make gravy from the drippings.
Follow exactly the same procedure as described above, but do not use apple. Instead, rub salt over the bird and cover with 4 tablespoons of sour cream, which should be frequently basted over the pheasant if foil is not used.
Roughly chop the mushrooms, mix with butter, season well with salt and cayenne pepper; add a few drops of lemon juice. Stuff the bird with this mixture. Cover the breast with strips of bacon. Roast the bird in a moderate oven (180°C) for 40–50 minutes, or until tender, basting when necessary. About 15 minutes before the bird is cooked, remove bacon, dredge the bird with flour, baste and return it to the oven. This will give it a crisp brown skin.
Cover the bird with stock and simmer until tender. Remove and cut up the meat. Boil the rice in the stock until half done. In a buttered casserole, combine the rice and vegetables, adding a small amount of stock to finish cooking the rice. Cover the casserole and bake at 180°C for 30 minutes.
Cook the pheasant in a covered pan with a little butter and the sherry. Cool. Cook the chestnuts in the stock, drain and sieve, beat to a purée, season and add cream. Spread this purée down the middle of the serving dish, carve the pheasant and lay the slices on top. Peel and slice the oranges and arrange them around the meat. Add any juice from the pan to the French dressing together with the shallot and the wine. Mix thoroughly. Spoon over the dish and garnish with celery and lettuce.
Combine the above ingredients and lightly pack into the cavity of the bird.
Grate the apple and mix with softened butter, lemon juice, onion, oil, pepper and salt. Place stuffing inside the body cavity, salt and pepper the birds. Cover the birds with the strips of bacon and place in a casserole. Add wine and chicken stock and cook in an oven at 180°C for 1–1½ hours, or until tender. In the drippings, prepare a gravy using a little additional chicken stock. Serve on a bed of rice garnished with parsley or serve just with potato crisps.