Pheasant Breast in Cider Sauce

Pheasant is abundant throughout the autumn months in Britain and if you look outside the supermarkets it is also very reasonably priced.  This is a great opportunity to use social media to improve your shopping – I mentioned on Facebook that I needed some pheasant and had an offer from a friend who shoots so I got fresh birds and I knew everything I needed to know about their provenance too.  Big thanks to Rob and Will for supplying our dinner.

I was feeding some “game virgins” so opted for fresh rather than hung birds as an introduction.  Hanging ripens the flavours but not everybody appreciates the more gamey taste.

If you have never cooked pheasant before there are a few things you should know:

It may still have shot in it – check the meat carefully before cooking and again before eating – broken teeth are no fun at all!

The shot can push feathers deep into the flesh so be sure to pull them out.

The meat may well be discoloured in patches – don’t worry this is just bruising but it helps to rinse the meat to remove any clots.

It can dry out easily so fast roasting at a high temperature or slow cooking in a sauce helps to keep it moist.

And finally – it is scrummy and well worth the effort.

Ingredients

4 Pheasant Breasts

4 Rashers of Smoked Streaky Bacon

500ml / 17fl oz Dry Cider

5 Shallots

A knob of Butter

1 tsp Caster Sugar

30g / 1oz Plain Flour

100ml / 7 tbsp full fat Crème Fraîche

Preheat the oven to 200°C / 400°F/Gas Mark 6.

Method

Rub the pheasant breasts all over with butter – this is easiest with very soft butter. Wrap each breast in a rasher of bacon. Place in an ovenproof dish with a little bit of space between them and then put in the oven for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes reduce the oven temperature to 170°C /325°F / Gas Mark 3, pour 250ml / 8 fl oz of the cider over the pheasant breasts, cover with a lid or tin foil, and return to the oven for a further 60 minutes – check occasionally to make sure that they are not drying out – add more cider if necessary.

Put the rest of the cider into a pan and cook until reduced by half.

Thinly slice the shallots and cook gently in a little butter until soft and just golden. Add the caster sugar and continue to cook until caramelised. Set aside until you are ready to finish the sauce.

To make the sauce, return the shallots to the heat and stir in the flour, cook together for a minute or so. If it seems a little dry add a bit more butter – you are essentially making a roux. Now add the cider reduction and cook together over a low heat until the sauce starts to thicken. When the sauce is ready, stir in the crème fraîche and continue stirring until it is completely heated through. Season to taste.

Slice each pheasant breast into five or so pieces and serve with the sauce spooned over it.

Serve with simple steamed veg and potatoes.

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