Standing in the fields at Joshua Creek was a special kind of experience. There is a mystical quality in the rooster pheasant as he shoots into the air like a feathered arrow, in all his green and red and purple, and speckled brown-black. The long spike of his tail feathers taper for aerodynamic flight and he leans to his side and paints the wind. You hesitate when you see the rooster, because you are in awe of his faultless beauty.
Sometimes the rooster doesn’t fall. Sometimes he will keep flying because he is a rooster and he is mysterious and will leave only a single feather floating to the ground for you to ponder. That is why you hunt the rooster. Because you must earn him. For wild pheasant hunting, you must walk sometimes for eight hours to earn him, and you must hurt a little, and sometimes you must hurt a lot. You must spend time respecting him before he will relent and fall. And even after he falls, lest you become too proud, he will sometimes disappear, where even the dogs must search for hours until they finally find the scent and drop him in your hands, smooth and handsome.
The meat of the pheasant is just as beautiful tasting. It is slightly sweet, and very tender. But it can also taste tough and chewy if it isn’t cooked properly. For example, you must always keep the breast meat away from moist heat.
The legs however do well in moisture, and so braising is a perfect technique for them. I like to add vegetables that have a little crunch and color, like cabbage, or kale, or even some shaved Brussels sprouts. Color and texture are an important thing to remember along with flavor — I call it the trifecta to a perfect meal. Something sweet is also always nice with pheasant, because the meat itself is slightly sweet. Crushed grapes, currants, a dash of brandy or whatever captures your imagination. And in the end, butter will keep things supple and lemon juice will brighten it to keep it fresh.
Give this a try sometime, this dish is magic.
“Braised Pheasant Legs with Cabbage and Grapes”
Recipe photo by Terry Allen.
Looks like a great recipe Georgia but I was wondering if you had ever made pheasant bratwurst? I take a lot of the shot up pheasant meat and would love to make it into brats. I have had plenty of good chicken and turkey brats so I assume it would be similar but so far my experiments have been disappointing. I have tried mixing with 50% pork and soaking in buttermilk. Any other suggestions?
You should brine the meat before you grind it. It will help it stay moist. I’m guessing what you don’t like about it is that it is dry, right? My book has some good brining recipes.
Thanks for this great sounding recipe. I’m always at a loss as to what to do with pheasant legs, I generally roast my pheasants whole, and the legs are not always the greatest part of the bird. Maybe I’ll try cutting the legs off before I cook my next one and save them for the above preparation.