Harvest Kitchen Series: Pheasant Stew
Like most readers, I’m not a master chef — just a guy who loves to hunt, fish, and eat what he harvests. If success afield and family schedule allows, this series will highlight a new game or fish dish each month. I’ll cover all the details from take to table, and everyone will benefit with a collection of easy, everyday meals harvested from nature’s pantry and celebrated in the home kitchen.
It was an overcast late December morning. The air was cool, and I didn’t have to go to work, which usually makes for a winning combination. As soon as I began lacing up my boots, my dog, a Springer Spaniel/English Setter hybrid named Cali, anxiously nosed her muzzle into the back game pouch of my pheasant vest. Yes, we were going hunting together.
We headed for a nearby tract of state game lands listed on the Game Commission website to receive some late-season stockings. After a brisk walk from the parking area to some secluded CRP fields lined with lots of brushy, wooded cover, we were well into the thick of things.
I managed to miss a nice cock-bird right away with my 20-guage, then I lost the remote to Cali’s Sport Dog electronic collar, and then we backtracked and thankfully found it — all to the chagrin of my now irritated four-legged companion who just wanted to hunt.
Finally, I got my act together, and about an hour or so later, we headed back to the truck with a full limit of two pheasants in the bag, a satisfied hunter, and one tired bird dog.
I love that the fall and winter hunting seasons afford such opportunity to stock up the freezer for the year, which is exactly what I did with this harvest. The birds were skinned, dressed, and dropped in a slow cooker, covered with water and a little bit of bay leaf and parsley to de-bone and make plenty of stock.
After sorting the meat from the bone and straining the liquid into a reserve container, I diced up some carrots, onion, and potatoes, and grabbed some frozen green beans from the summer garden. These, along with a few spices for flavor, all went into the stove pot to simmer on low heat until everything was fork tender and ready to eat.
The Table Takeaway
While half of the stew was enjoyed right then and there, the other half was ladled into a quart container and left to cool before going directly into the freezer. At any given time throughout the year, I have about a half dozen (or more) quarts of assorted stews, soups and chilis, typically reserved for crazy weeks when we don’t feel like cooking.
Last week was one of those weeks, as my wife was busy planning a senior prom at her school, I was getting ready for the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association Conference, and our son’s sports schedule kept us running around every evening.
It required but a five-minute blip in our evening routine to pull this delicious stew from the freezer, plop it into a pot on the stove, let it re-heat with a few quick stirs and shovel it down before heading out the door for soccer practice.
It was almost as tasty as I remembered it, and despite the May rush, it took me back to a carefree December morning when my only real concern was keeping my bead ahead of the birds and making sure my Sport Dog remote remained attached to its lanyard!