Herb-infused Pheasant au Jus
This recipe enhances the subtle flavor of pheasant with herbs and a creamy mousse, and the simple sauce of reduced stock reinforces the flavors. The stock may be made up to 2 days in advance and refrigerated, tightly covered. Warm over low heat.
- Pheasants and Stock
- Pheasants - 3, 2-1/2 to 3 pounds each
- Olive Oil - 2 tablespoons
- Onion - 1, cut into 1/2-inch dice
- Carrot - 1, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
- Celery Stalk - 1, cut into 1/2-inch dice
- Bay Leaves - 2
- Salt to taste
- Black peppercorns - 1/2 teaspoon
- Fresh Parsley Stems
- Fresh thyme sprigs - 1
- Garlic Cloves - 6, minced
- Fresh thyme sprigs - leaves from 6 fresh thyme sprigs, minced
- Fresh rosemary sprigs - leaves from 3 fresh rosemary sprigs, minced
- Grated Orange Zest - 1 tablespoon
- Grated Lemon Zest - 1 tablespoon
- Pheasant Breast Tenderloin - 6, from the pheasants above
- heavy (whipping) cream - 1/2 cup
- Egg Whites - 2
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Fresh Thyme - 1 teaspoon, minced
- Olive Oil - 2 tablespoons
To prepare the pheasants: Rinse the pheasants and pat them dry with paper towels. Remove any excess fat. With a sharp knife, cut along the breastbone to remove the breasts. Pull the tenderloins away from the breasts and reserve for the mousse. Pull each leg away from the body of each pheasant, slice through the skin to expose the socket, and then press down on the leg to cut around the socket and remove the leg with the thigh meat intact; the leg meat should remain with the thigh and only the bone be removed. Cover and refrigerate.
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Place the pheasant carcasses in a roasting pan and roast in the preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until brown. Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy pot and saute the onions, carrots, and celery for 8 to 10 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove the pheasant bones from the oven and add these to the pot with the vegetables. Add water to cover, along with the bay leaves, salt, peppercorns, parsley stems, and thyme. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat and simmer for 2 hours, skimming the foam from the top of the pot regularly.
To make the stuffing: Mince the garlic and herbs and combine them with the zests. Insert your fingers underneath the skin of each pheasant breast to loosen it while keeping the sides intact. Stuff 1 tablespoon of the herb mixture between the skin and the breast. Pat the skin back down, distributing the herb mixture evenly, and set the breasts aside.
To make the mousse: Place the pheasant tenderloins in a blender or food processor and puree for about 20 seconds, or until smooth. Add the cream and egg whites, then pulse several times until incorporated. Do not over-process or the cream will separate. Scrape the mixture into a medium bowl.
Season the mousse with salt and pepper and add the minced thyme. Spoon the mixture into the deboned thighs and secure with toothpicks to close. Season the breasts and thighs with salt and pepper on both sides.
To finish and serve: Heat the 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium saute pan or skillet. Add the breasts and thighs and saute for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the skin is crisp and brown. Remove the pheasant pieces to a roasting pan, turn them once, and roast for 10 to 15 minutes, or until just slightly rare (or longer, to taste). Slice the breasts and thighs and arrange on plates. Nap with the reduced stock.