Not-so-pleasant Pheasant


Consider this my official SOS to anyone who has successfully mastered the art of preparing pheasant.

Yep, that’s pheasant on that plate alright.  Not petrified wood. Not what I scooped out of the yard once the snow melted. It’s pheasant. Chicken of the prairie, harvested by my husband.

My husband is an avid hunter and by avid I really mean obsessive. Consequently, each winter our freezer fills with way too much game. More specifically, ground venison.

Ground venison is great, but how many spaghetti nights can a reasonable person handle in one week? And taco nights, barbecue nights and chili nights for that matter.

Every now and then we need to break up the monotony. 

When I can’t take another night of the venison menu rotation, I dig deep into the freezer past the packages of ground venison until I emerge with a Ziplock bag of pheasant.

I was cleaning out the freezer the other day and in the process came upon one such Ziplock. It had been so long since I’d last given myself the opportunity to prepare it. And completely dry it out.

Pheasant seems to me to be a distant cousin of the chicken, yet I can’t seem to find a way to prepare it without ruining it. The end result seems takes on the integrity of a hockey puck rather than a succulent poultry dish.And believe me, I’ve tried to get it right. You name a cooking method, I’ve tried it and failed.

All methods except one: I refuse to wrap it in bacon. Someone made this suggestion to me and quite frankly I consider wrapping anything in bacon as cheating.

A more trusted friend told me to let it marinade overnight in chicken broth. Having exhausted every other method (besides bacon, of course) I took her advice. 

Feeling ambitious that particular night, I added lite soy sauce, garlic, lemon juice, a drizzle of olive oil, fresh basil and freshly grated ginger to the chicken broth. Yum, right?

The next morning, I arranged my pheasant and marinade in the crock pot. I set the dial on low but my expectations were high.

One of the greatest pleasures of cooking dinner in a crock pot is remembering that while I’m at work all day, so is my crock pot. A nice, warm meal will be waiting to greet me at the door.

Or so I thought.

Once home, I was received by a pleasant aroma. I was about to pat myself on the back as I walked from the front door to the crock pot.

It only took one look inside the crock pot for my heart to sink: I had created a pheasant reduction.

My succulent pheasant feast had dwindled to hardened, bone-dry pieces of meat. No amount of barbecue sauce could cover that up.

I’d like to think perhaps my husband came home for lunch and gobbled down half of the slow cooker’s contents, but that’s not my reality when it comes to pheasants.

Do I cook it too long? Was the pheasant too old? Am I missing some magical moistening agent? I’m determined to find a recipe that works. I’ve tasted pheasant prepared correctly and it’s wonderful.

And unless Minnesota lowers the daily limit of pheasants from two to zero, it’s not going away. Not in our house, anyway.

Whatever it takes, I’ll do it. Except bacon.

1 Response

  1. Jenna – my favorite pheasant recipe is from the Colorado Cache cookbook – I’ve made it for years (although more recently with turkey or chicken, since I no longer live among the Hanson hunters). I’ll email it to you – let me know how you like it. And no, it doesn’t have bacon in it!

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