I have two rules in life: 1) you can fix everything with duct tape and 2) anything else you can fix with bacon. In case you are wondering, the latter is the one that applies here.
Recently I was gifted my first pheasant ever. I am fairly certain I had never eaten a bit of this bird before in my life, and yet I was overly excited about bringing my bird home. I picked it up, interestingly enough, at a mutton party, where I had my first bites of the Owensboro, Kentucky specialty of barbecued mutton. It’s delicious, as a side note for those who are interested. My friend had just shot it that morning and was handing out pheasants like they were party favors. Luckily I had claimed mine the day before (technically, before there was a bird to claim), and had read up on what to do with it.
Between Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall’s Meat book and this amazing website, I had come to the decision to roast my bird and baste it with bacon fat. As soon as I got home from the party, I plopped it in a basic saltwater brine for almost 24 hours. When I retrieved it, I realized a small problem with my bird. First of all, the shot had gone through the pheasant in such a way that there wasn’t really a body cavity to speak of. Additionally, in their cleaning of it, my friend and he buddies had skinned the bird, so I wasn’t going to have any delicious crispy skin. This is where the bacon comes in. It makes up for the skin with crispiness and flavor and holds the bird together in a relatively birdlike shape for the roasting process.
Other than that, I chopped up some onions, garlic and time and scatter those around the pan and in the cavity-like area and put the whole thing in the over for 15 minutes at 450 degrees, then 25 at 325, basting with bacon fat every 10 minutes or so. I took the bird out of the pan to rest under a tin foil tent and added dry white wine (ok, let’s be honest, Franzia) to the pan of onions and bacon fat, sprinkled in a little flour and called it a gravy.
There’s nothing more fun then a first bite into an unknown food. The meat was so gamey, unlike any poultry I’d had, totally different than even gamey ducks, I was surprised. It was a gaminess that resembled a beef flavor, but with a hint of sweetness that duck doesn’t have to the same extent. Thanks to my wonderful pheasant resources, my first one turned out perfectly. B was inspired to learn to hunt so he could get more. I’m all for it.