Roasted Pheasant Stuffed with Sage and Granny Smith Apples
Pheasant is a French delicacy. My family would cook pheasant around the holidays. I looked through Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" in search of a good pheasant dish to make, and the only recipe I found was a stew called "faisan en escabèche" (pheasant jellied in lemon). I think it tastes better when it's roasted, so I made this dish.
I stuffed the game bird with sage, bread to absorb all the fat (and flavors) of the bird, and some Granny Smith apples for their sweet and acidic taste. Yogurt is used as a meat tenderizer. In France, I would always use two Petits suisses instead. What's a Petit suisse? Le Petit suisse is like yogurt, but better; it has a richer consistency than regular yogurt and is sold in half the size (4 ounces) of the standard American yogurt because of its high fat content . It's made from milk, sweet cream and a starter. And it's oh, so good.
Yields: 42 whole pheasants
16 ounces full-fat Greek yogurt
1 Granny Smith apple, diced (more if you want to serve them as a side dish)
4 cloves garlic, peeled, left whole
1 carrot, peeled and sliced
1 stalk celery, sliced
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1 onion, cut in wedges
1 lemon, sliced
1 sprig thyme
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 bay leaf
1 bunch parsley stems only, (+ 1 tablespoon of finely chopped parsley leaves)
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon black peppercorns, coarsely ground
4 sage leaves, + for garnish
2 tablespoons olive oil
1-1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 slices bread, crust removed
1/2 cup whole milk
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
The day before, cut off all the fat around the bottom of the pheasants. Wash them and pat them dry with paper towels.
Reserve a few sage leaves for the stuffing and for garnish. Cover the pheasants inside and out with yogurt. Place a few leaves of sage under the skin of the birds and stuff the birds with about 1-2 sprigs of sage. Drizzle with olive oil (1 tablespoon). Plastic wrap the pheasant and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, rinse the pheasants and discard all the yogurt and sage. Pat dry.
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Soak the bread in milk. Let sit for about 10 minutes. Remove as much liquid as possible. Discard the milk.
In a pan, heat some oil and the butter. Add the shallots. Cook until translucent (about 2 minutes). Add 2 finely minced leaves of sage and the apples. Sauté the apples until tender: transfer to a bowl. Add the bread, nutmeg, 1 tablespoon of parsley leaves, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of pepper and the egg. Stuff the birds with the mixture. Close the bottom of the birds with twine. Sprinkle the rest of the salt and pepper over the birds. Drizzle a little more olive oil as well.
Place the carrot, celery, parsley stems, whole cloves of garlic, onion wedges, slices of a lemon and a sprig of thyme in a roasting pan. Add 1/2 cup of water. Place a roasting rack onto the roaster. Brush the rack with oil using a silicone brush to prevent the meat from sticking.
Place the 2 pheasants on the rack of the roaster. Roast for about 45 minutes until golden.
Remove from the oven. Lightly cover with a sheet of aluminum foil. Let the meat rest for at least 10 minutes before carving. Be patient.
Garnish with sage sprigs. Serve with the roasted vegetables from the pan, roasted garlic fingerling potatoes, a green peppercorn truffle sauce and some caramelized Granny Smith apples (see tips for recipe).
Don't discard the stems of cilantro, parsley or other aromatic herbs. I usually use them as part of a bouquet garni to flavor broths and sauces.
I usually use plain yogurt from the Indian store or Greek-style yogurt; it has a denser consistency than the regular one.
I use a fresh bay leaf from my garden, but you can use the dry version if you can't get fresh.
Remove the pheasants from the refrigerator at least 20 minutes prior to cooking so they're at room temperature.
You can also add about 1/2 cup of water to the roaster to make a sauce. Scrape all the caramelized bits from the bottom of the roaster. Strain the sauce through a fine mesh sieve. Add 2 teaspoons of crème fraîche. Serve the sauce in a gravy boat.
How to caramelize apples (perfect with any white meat): In a pan, heat a tablespoon of butter. Add about 3 unpeeled apples (cut in wedges or diced). Sauté for about 2-3 minutes until caramelized. Add a teaspoon of brown sugar and a sprig of thyme. Drizzle about 2 teaspoons of apple cider.
You can serve with caramelized Fuyu persimons as well. It tastes wonderful with a roasted duck.
You can make this dish with any other kind of poultry. For more recipes, check here.
To check for doneness, a meat thermometer should register 165°F in the thickest part of the bird or the juice should run clear when you prick the meat around the thighs.
Published By: on August 5, 2009.