Dutch Oven Pheasant Pot Roast
By chef and author, Eileen Clarke
2 ounces Polish sausage, diced
2 tablespoons oil
1 cup Madeira (A Portuguese red wine)
1 cup chicken bouillon
1 teaspoon dried leaf thyme
6 carrots, quartered
1 pound new red potatoes, peeled
1 whole cleaned bird
- In a 3-quart Dutch oven, lightly brown the Polish sausage over medium heat, about 5 minutes. Pour the Madeira into the pot, and stir up the tasty bits from the bottom. Let the Madeira come to a simmer, simmer about 1 minute, and add the bouillon and thyme. Let this mixture come back to a simmer, then lower the heat to medium low. Preheat your oven to 300F. Arrange the cooking rack so the Dutch oven will sit in the middle of the heat.
- Add the carrots and potatoes to the Dutch oven, stirring them into the pan juices. Then spread the vegetables to either side of the pot, and nestle the pheasant into the pan juices. Spoon the sauce over the bird, too. Then cover, and place the Dutch oven in the center of your oven.
- Let the pheasant cook about 60 minutes, or until a meat thermometer stuck into the thigh measures 165-170°F. To serve, carve the legs and breast off, and slice the breast. Arrange on a platter with the carrots and potatoes and pour the pan juices over all.
Tips for Cooking Whole Pheasants
The most common problem of cooking whole pheasants is getting the thighs and drumsticks cooked to a safe temperature without overcooking the breast. This pot roasted pheasant recipe solves that problem by cooking both with added fat—which pheasants have little of—and cooking in moist heat. Even better, this recipe works for any whole pale-meated bird like forest grouse, Hungarian partridge and chukar. The cooking times will differ along with the size of the bird, so set your timer, but only set it for 20 minutes at first, and check the bird with a meat thermometer before resetting the timer. How much more time? Once the bird gets to 100°F, it only takes about one minute for each two degrees of heat rise. So if the pheasant is 120°F and you’re aiming for 165-170°F, it will take about 20 more minutes. The other signs are that a pheasant’s juices will run clear when done, and the leg should be fairly loose in the hip socket.
How To: Keep the moisture where it belongs
- Once the shooting’s over, the next step is to draw the bird. A lot of people, including my husband, insert the knife in the vent and cut up toward the breast. Usually about a third of the way up the breast. That leaves precious breast meat open to the dry air, both in your vest and when you take it home to age in the frost-free refrigerator. (Possibly the driest climate on earth.)
Try this instead: buy yourself a knife with a bird gut hook. Then insert the point of the knife in the vent and cut down, toward the hip bone. Draw the intestines out with the gut hook, rinse, and fold the feathers back over the opening. When you get to the kitchen sink, you might have to enlarge the whole a bit, but I can draw all the organs, including the gizzard, through that little hole. And making a little hole helps retain the bird’s own moisture.
Tip From The Chef: A Neater Presentation
We eat first with our eyes, and then our stomachs. So when I make a whole bird, I like to tuck the legs in against the body, and since this is a moist-cooking meal, you don’t have to worry about legs cooking more slowly than breasts.
There are two ways to do it: First is to simply hold the legs together at the ankle, and tie a short piece of string around them. What I think looks better however, is to make a small slit in the skin on either side of the hip opening. It doesn’t have to be much. Just enough to slip the ankle in, without being so big the legs will pop out again during cooking. Now tuck those ankles in. This will be a beautiful bird.
To try out more of Eileen Clarke’s upland bird recipes check out Upland Game Bird Cookery at her website www.riflesandrecipes.com or order a copy for just $20 by calling 406-521-0273