Roasting an entire bird is a time honored tradition for the holidays. While most people are used to seeing a big, beautiful turkey on their thanksgiving table, it’s certainly not the only option, and there are several alternatives if you’re looking to spice things up a bit. Enter the whole roasted duck, goose, or in this case pheasants. These birds have a unique and savory flavor, and despite what you might think, they also have a good amount of meat. That being said, you will probably want at least two of them if you’re trying to make it a replacement for the more traditional turkey. The following recipe comes to us from an award winning wild game food blog by the name of Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook., and it is sure to be a hit at the dinner table this Thanksgiving.
- 2 whole pheasants
- 8 cups water
- 1/2 cup kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 bay leaves, optional
- 1 tablespoon crushed juniper berries, optional
- 2 tablespoons olive oil or softened butter
- Black pepper to taste
- First brine the birds. Make a brine by bringing the water, salt, bay leaves, juniper and sugar to a boil. Cover and let cool to room temperature. When it cools, submerge your pheasants in the brine and keep it in the fridge for 4 to 8 hours. The longer you brine, the saltier the pheasants will become. Brine pen-raised birds for 4 hours, and older roosters for 8 hours.
- Optional step: If you really want a crispy skin, take the birds out of the brine and set them uncovered in the fridge for 12 to 24 hours. This dries out the skin (but not the meat) and helps you get crispier skin.
- When you are ready to cook, take the pheasants out of the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes or up to an hour. Heat your oven to 500F if possible, but you will want it to be at least 400°F.
- Next apply oil to the birds. You can do this with olive oil or you can smear butter all over them, and then crack some fresh black pepper over the birds.
- Stuff with a piece of onion or apple and a few fresh herbs. A cut lemon is also a good choice. Do not pack the cavity. Truss the bird because it will help the pheasant cook more evenly.
- Roast the pheasants uncovered for 15 minutes at your high temperature. Take the pheasant out and lower the temperature to 350F. Leave your oven door open to speed this process.
- Optional step: Baste the birds with either butter or a glaze. A good option is a boiled-down combination of butter and maple syrup.
- Return the pheasants to the oven and roast uncovered for 30 to 45 minutes. You want the internal temperature of the thigh meat to be about 155F to 160F and for the bird’s juices to run pretty clear. A little bit of pink in the juice is fine. The higher end of this cooking time will give you a well-done bird.
- Remove the pheasants and let them rest for 10 to 15 minutes. This resting time is vital, as it lets the juices redistribute within the pheasant. It will also finish off the cooking process through carry-over heating.
Source: Hunter. Angler. Gardener. Cook.