As a wild game bird, pheasant requires to be cooked very carefully if it is not to be served tough, dry and unpalatable. There are several ways in which this can be achieved, usually involving either very quick cooking at a high temperature or long, slow cooking at a lower temperature. In this instance, bacon is employed to lend its fatty content to the incredibly lean pheasant meat and this alternative middle cooking period worked extremely well.
Cherry stuffed and bacon wrapped pheasant breast with sauteed leek mash and apple sauce
Ingredients (Serves 1)
- 1 green cooking suitable apple (Bramley apple used in this instance)
- ½ cup apple cider
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- Juice of half a lemon
- 2 medium sized baking potatoes
- 1 skinless pheasant breast fillet
- 3 or 4 glace (candied) cherries
- 3 or 4 strips of bacon (smoked streaky bacon, UK), or as required to wrap fillet
- Black pepper
- ¼ stick (1 ounce) butter
- 2 inch piece of leek stem
- 1 cup frozen garden peas
Peel and core the apple and chop the flesh in to approximately three-quarter inch chunks. Add them to a saucepan along with the lemon juice, the sugar and two tablespoons only of the apple cider.
Put the saucepan on to a medium to high heat just until the liquid content begins to simmer. Reduce the heat slightly at that stage but not too much and stir with a wooden spoon until the apple has fully broken down and a lush sauce is formed. This should only take a few minutes. Turn off the heat, lift the saucepan to a cool part of your stove, put the lid in place and leave to cool completely while you prepare the rest of the dish.
Peel the potatoes, chop to around one and a half inch chunks and steep for ten minutes or so in cold water. Drain, add to a pot with fresh water and season with salt. Bring to a simmer for twenty to twenty-five minutes until just softened.
Glace cherries are cherries which have been dried and candied with sugar. They are commonly used in baking. They were used here as a sweeter alternative to fresh cherries which can be bitter, especially when cooked. They were however washed thoroughly in lukewarm water before being used to remove some of the sugar.
As soon as the potatoes are on to cook, put your oven on to preheat to 375F/190C/Gas Mark 5.
Wash the cherries as described above and chop in to quarters. Lay them in a strip along the center of the pheasant fillet and season with a little black pepper only.
Carefully lift up the two sides of the pheasant fillet to enclose the cherries and wrap with the strips of bacon.
Lay the bacon wrapped fillet in the base of a casserole dish and pour over the remainder of the cider. Put the lid on the dish and place it in to the heated oven for eighteen to twenty minutes.
Put the butter in to a small saucepan and put the pan on to a low heat. Wash the leek stem piece and slice to discs around a quarter inch thick. Add to the melting butter and season with black pepper.
Saute the leeks in the butter for a few minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon, until they have opened out and are just softened. Turn off the heat and set briefly aside.
Take the casserole dish from the oven and lift the wrapped pheasant fillet to a heated plate with a slotted spoon. Cover with aluminum foil and leave for a few minutes to rest.
Drain the potatoes through a colander at your sink and leave them to steam off for a few minutes. If you don't allow this period of rest before you mash them, your mash will be soggy as the steam represents escaping liquid. Return the pieces to the pot and mash with a hand masher.
Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil and add the frozen peas. Bring back to a simmer for three minutes.
Pour the leek and butter combination in to the mashed potatoes and stir well to fully combine.
Cut the bacon wrapped pheasant fillet in half with a very sharp knife at a slight angle.
Spoon the apple sauce in to the center of a square serving plate, spreading it out just enough that it can serve as a bed for the pheasant.
Lift one half of the wrapped pheasant on to the apple bed and prop the second half partly on top of it as shown above.
The French technique of quenelle was employed to shape the potato and leek mix for plating. This involves shaping them by using two dessert sized spoons in to approximate bullet shapes. One quenelle was placed at each of the four corners of the plate. If you wish, you can simply spoon the mash on to the plate in whichever shape.
Drain the peas through a colander at your sink, season with a little black pepper and spoon on to the four empty sides of the plate before serving.