Wednesday, December 1, 2010

How to Cook a Pheasant

When my father and brother took up hunting several years ago, they automatically turned to me to find ways to prepare the pheasants they brought home. I tried several different ways of preparing the bird, but our family favorite has to be this rendition, based on a classic Italian recipe. I believe that this method could be used with other game birds, or even rabbit.

Be sure to let freshly hunted meat rest for at least 24 hours before cooking with it. Shortly after death, rigormortis causes the muscles to freeze up, making for a tough cut of meat. Letting the meat relax for a day or two produces a much more tender meal.

I sometimes throw in a little fresh thyme or other herbs. Pancetta, an Italian cured meat, keeps the meat moist and flavorful. Serve with pasta - I think orzo would be a particularly nice side with this dish.

Pheasant Farmer's Style (Faggiano Alla Contadina)

2 small pheasants
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
4 sage leaves
2 bay leaves
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 rosemary branches
1 (16-ounce) can peeled tomatoes and their juices, crushed by hand
½ cup chicken stock, preferably homemade
8 slices pancetta
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley


Quarter the birds and season with salt and pepper. In a 14 to 16-inch skillet, heat the oil over high heat. Sear the poultry on all sides, then remove to a plate and reserve.

Add the onion, sage, bay leaves, garlic, and rosemary and cook over high heat 5 minutes. Add the stock and tomatoes, bring to a boil, and return the poultry to the pan, each piece wrapped in pancetta (secure with a toothpick if necessary). Reduce to a simmer and cook, uncovered, 30 minutes, or until juices run clear from a piece of the bird.

Remove bird pieces to a serving platter, check sauce for seasoning, stir in parsley and spoon over pieces.


  1. Whoa- you have just been elevated in your domestic goddess status. Seriously.

    And you get an Italian Dinner Party for guessing Monterey. Woohoo!

  2. Alright! Best pheasant I've ever had was hunting with my cousins:)

  3. I have never cooked a pheasant! This recipe sounds great; and how grand it is to have access to fresh game.

  4. My dad and uncles used to hunt pheasant. I haven't had it in ages. Your preparation looks just right.


Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me!