PHEASANT UNDER GLASS
As I high tail it out of the city by the bay, I'm leaving behind the morel-laden lusciousness of my Pheasant Under Glass recipe. They like fancy mushrooms out here (freshly foraged, of course), the odd fowl (wish I could name-drop a Petaluma farmer lovingly raising some obscure heritage breed, but I can't. Can you?), and the town does share my penchant for Formal Name recipes. After all, SF is the birthplace Crab Louis, Turkey Tetrazzini and as far as I know, ground zero for Baby Gem Lettuce. So here goes.
Mention Pheasant Under Glass and associations of opulence and sophistication leap to mind. Then follows a gnawing uncertainty. "Who's ever had it? What exactly is it?" Slim chance of satisfactory answers there. Most think of it, if they think of it at all, as some pinnacle of rarefied dining from days of yore. A course in a Diamond Jim Brady spread, squeezed in amongst the bushels of oysters, terrapins and a steamship of beef or two.
Nearly all dictionaries agree, "P.U.G is a dish of roast pheasant served in a manner characteristic of expensive restaurants." (What's not to like?) Interesting, while definitions specify roast pheasant, a search of contemporary recipes yields suspiciously similar variations on sautéed preparation, breasts napped with a heady sauce of mushrooms (sometimes truffles), wine, cognac, cream — the usual suspects in the popular notion of what constitutes a 'fancy' French sauce.
Speculation about the 'under glass' element include bringing the plate to table under a glass dome, uncovered under the diner's nose allowing the ethereal aromas to tease the senses before digging in. Reminiscent of, but not as extreme as the fabled French custom of enjoying ortolans with napkin draped over the gourmand's tête, all the better to capture the savory updrafts. Other speculations include an aspic entombment of the bird, the original cold glacée name staying put whilst the recipe itself continued to evolve.
But back to the contemporary recipes with no mention of domes or plate covers (glass or otherwise). To be fair, who on earth has them? I don't. But I do have a glass dome cake cover, so stay with me here.
Wanting to cover all bases, it seemed the right thing to do is roast 'em, sauce 'em, and serve under the aforementioned glass dome for good measure.
No question, pheasant is worth the bit of trouble acquiring. Domestic offerings are exceptionally toothsome. It doesn't taste like turkey, though pheasant meat is about the same distance from chicken or capon, it just goes in another direction. Not ducky or goosey, but full-bodied, deeply flavored with no scary or off-putting notes. (Wild is probably another story, but that's not what we're dealing with here.)
Earlier I said most definitions agree on Pheasant Under Glass. If your sense of humor is anything like mine (stuck in adolescence) this frat boy's "Pheasant Under Glass" will give you a chuckle. You've been warned.
PHEASANT UNDER GLASS
Wild Rice Stuffing
2 c. cooked wild rice
1/2 c. dried porcini mushrooms, reconstituted in hot water
2 scallions, minced
2 T. butter
salt and pepper to taste
2 T. butter
1 large shallot, minced
4 -5 cremini mushrooms, sliced thin
juice of half a lemon
2 large dried morel mushrooms, reconstituted in hot water
1 c. white wine
2 T. cognac
2 dashes Tabasco sauce
3 T. heavy cream
1 t. chicken demi-glace
1 t. cornstarch mixed with 1 T. water
a brace of pheasants, each about 2 – 2 1/2 lbs.
Reconstitute the dried porcini and morel mushrooms in 1 c. boiling water for 20 minutes. Remove mushrooms, keep separate and save the liquid. Chop the porcini well; slice the morels in long thin strips.
Make the stuffing: Saute the porcini and scallions in 2 T. butter until the scallions wilt. Stir in the cooked wild rice. Salt and pepper. Set aside
Roast the pheasants: stuff the pheasants with the wild rice mixture. Tuck the wings behind the backs and truss the legs closed. Pour 2 T. olive oil into a roasting pan, then roll the birds around in the oil, covering all sides. Salt and pepper generously.
Lay the birds on one side and place in a hot 400° oven for 15 minutes. Turn the birds to the other side and roast for another 15 minutes. Turn the birds on their backs and roast for 30 minutes more. Remove and set aside. Pour off accumulated fat in the pan, reserve the pan's brown bits for deglazing for the sauce.
While the birds are roasting make the sauce: sauté the shallots, the morel strips and the sliced cremini mushrooms in 2 T. butter until soft. Remove from pan. Add the reserved mushroom liquid and 3/4 c. of the wine (the rest of the wine is for deglazing the roasting pan). Reduce liquid to 3/4 cup. Stir in the cream, lemon juice, cognac, chicken demi-glace, Tabasco, mix well and bring up to the boil. Stir in the cornstarch mixture to thicken. Return the reserved mushroom mixture to the sauce.
When the birds are out of the oven, deglaze the roasting pan with the remaining 1/4 c. white wine, stir this into the sauce.
TO SERVE: Bring birds to the table side by side under a large glass dome cover, the twins buoyed on large slices of toasted country bread (which will soak up any juices and act as another vehicle for the rich sauce). Spoon out stuffing and carve at the table, the breast meat in elegant slices fanned out on the plate, a thigh served whole. (The drumsticks, while tasty, are full of cartilage, best enjoyed by the cook away from prying eyes.)
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