It’s decadent. It’s delicious. It’s actually pretty simple and as if that wasn’t enough, we served it with a potato and celeriac dauphinoise too. God I love the winter…
The Pheasant – serves two
1 large pheasant or a small brace
2 shallots, thinly sliced
2 sticks of celery, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 smoked rashers of bacon, chopped
Few slices of smoked speck (optional)
Dash of brandy
½ a bottle of good, preferably French, red wine
200ml chicken stock
A few sprigs of thyme, some chopped rosemary and 1 bay leaf
1 tspn of tomato purée
Couple of handfuls of chestnut mushrooms (or whatever else you’d like), quartered
The Dauphinoise (this makes two large oval dishes worth)
1 celeriac very thinly sliced (this cooks faster than the potato)
Twice the amount of potato also thinly sliced (we use our meat slicer for this task)
200ml double cream
200ml milk (preferably whole)
1 bay leaf
1 clove of garlic
Some grated cheese (cheddar, parmesan, something hard and strong basically)
Lots of seasoning
Cut up pheasant into breasts (to be kept aside) and thigh and leg segments. Lightly dust the leg pieces in seasoned plain flour. Pre-heat oven to about 160c. I made the pheasant in advance of the dauphinoise, so if making at the same time either cook the dauphinoise for longer (as on a lower heat) or cook the pheasant on the stove-top.
Fry the onion, celery, bacon and (speck) in butter and olive oil, add chopped garlic after a few minutes (I use a cast-iron lidded pan that can be transferred to the oven). Once onions are soft, and bacon coloured, remove from pan. Add more butter, turn up the heat a bit and colour the pheasant legs on both sides. Add a splash of brandy and flambé for a couple of minutes. Add the onions and bacon mixture back into the pan, and pour in the wine, stock, tomato purée, herbs and season. Bring to boil then put the lid on and put in the oven. Forget about it for at least an hour and a half.
Then add the mushrooms, and chop the breasts up a bit and add them to the stew. Finish on stove-top (another twenty minutes or so). If the sauce isn’t thick enough I often add a knob of butter mixed in with about the same amount of plain flour – I take the meat out and add back in once the sauce is thickened. Check seasoning and it’s ready to go. This kind of thing is great made in advance, and can be frozen and then re-heated, when you’re feeling indulgent enough to warrant such a fine feast.
Finely slice the celeriac and potato. Rub the garlic and some butter on the base of an ovenproof dish. Sprinkle with some of the grated cheese. Start layering up – can do alternate layers as we did, or mix it up. Season each layer (well!). In the meantime, heat the cream and milk along with a bay leaf and a few peppercorns and the remainder of the clove of garlic. Strain through a sieve. Pour the mixture over the potatoes and celeriac layers. Sprinkle the remaining cheese, season once more and place in pre-heated oven (about 180c) for forty minutes. If browning too soon, then cover foil, to remove towards end.
We served ours with some wilted spinach as some kind of greenery is probably required for one’s conscience.