Back when we lived in San Leandro, our next door neighbor, Bruce, belonged to a hunting club.  Every now and again during season, he would show up on our doorstep with fresh pheasants.  I LOVED those birds.  They were all cleaned and dressed.  All I had to do was figure out how I was going to cook them.  I loved it.  We found one particular recipe from Lidia Bastianich that we liked and made it often.  We made it for my family one holiday and my nieces and nephews asked for it every time we had them over for dinner.  It was a hit.

Alas, we moved and the free birds were no more.  Until today.

I’ve been chatting with one of our customers, Bob, for quite a few years, now.   Bob is a fairly local guy who has been hunting locally all of his life.  He’s watched the area go from wide open and wild to housing developments, and the animals go from free range and wild to hemmed in by housing and traffic.  He’s a fun guy to talk with.  I’m not a hunter myself, and am generally anti-gun, but understand the difference between hunting and eating the catch, and shooting animals out of airplanes and helicopters.  Hunting rifles and AK-47’s are different.  And I most definitely like the taste of food that didn’t come from a refrigerated dislpay case in a supermarket.

So… enter Bob today, with six beautiful pheasant breasts!  I was psyched!  There was no question that we were eating pheasant tonight.  My only dilemna was how…

The Lidia recipe is fairly time consuming, I think – it’s been a while since I made it (Victor’s mom’s 75th Birthday party.  I paid $20 bucks a piece for 4 pheasants at Genuardi’s…)  Soi I did a quick search on Epicurious.  This recipe came up:

Roasted Scottish Pheasants with Apricots and Dates ’21’ Club
Gourmet | November 1995

1/2 cup dried apricots
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (from about 2 large limes)
2 tablespoons sugar
two 2 1/2- to 3-pound pheasants (preferably wild Scottish)*
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 teaspoons dried thyme, crumbled
2 bay leaves
vegetable oil for brushing pheasants
1/2 cup pitted dates, chopped

Garnish: fresh thyme sprigs

In a small heatproof bowl cover apricots with boiling water and soak 10 minutes. Drain apricots and cut into quarters. In a small saucepan simmer wine, liqueur, lime juice, and sugar 5 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Cut off legs of pheasants and reserve for another use. Sprinkle pheasants inside and out with pepper and salt to taste. Put 1 teaspoon thyme and 1 bay leaf in cavity of each pheasant and close cavities with skewers or toothpicks so that pheasants hold their shape.

Brush pheasants with oil and in a roasting pan arrange, breast side down. Roast pheasants 20 minutes and discard any fat in roasting pan. Turn pheasants over and to pan add apricots, wine mixture, and dates. Roast pheasants, adding about 1/2 cup water if all liquid evaporates, 25 minutes more, or until thermometer inserted in thickest part of breast registers 160°F. Let pheasants stand 10 minutes.

Transfer pheasants to a cutting board and cut each in half. Serve pheasants with apricot date sauce and garnish with thyme.

A typical Gourmet recipe.  Convoluted and time-consuming.  But I liked the sauce concept.  I’m a sweet/savory kind of guy.

So…..  here’s what I did:

I pulled the meat from the bone, checking for shot (Bob said there may be a little, so be wary.)  Into a skillet it went with a bit of olive oil and shallots.

After it browned a bit, I added:

  • 2 cups red wine
  • 1/2 cup brandy
  • juice of 1 orange
  • splash of lime juice
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots
  • 1/2 cup dried figs
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp herbs d’provence

I let it simmer a bit but it wasn’t quite there.  I added an 8oz can of tomato sauce and a handful of oil-cured olives to cut the sweetness a bit, and let it cook down and thicken.

All I can say is “wow.”  It came our really good!  I wanted to serve it over spaghetti – and didn’t have any in the house!  (I had angel hair, 2 types of fettuccine, ziti, mostaccioli, and half a dozen others – but no spaghetti.)  So, fettuccine it was.  And a damn fine choice, I might add!

There is enough left for Victor to have lunch tomorrow, too.  Always a bonus.  Thanks, Bob!

Now I think I’m going to go in and make a pumpkin pie.