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Pheasant & Waffles


Every year should start with pheasant!

{or at least something that looks this delectable!}

and waffles…and herbs…and…all manner of delicious things, really!

Although this was not the first meal of 2012…it is worthy of the first post!  It all began back in November of 2011…actually, to really get to the beginning…we have to go back to July 21, 2006…

That’s the day I officially became a gun owner (having never in my life , thought that I would own a gun!)  The next day I got married…and soon(ish) I put that gun to use and became a (bird) hunter.  Let’s not get carried away here…I’m no Ted Nugent…however, I do believe that you should be honest about your relationship with food and be willing to (at least once) participate directly in acquiring meat  for you table that normally comes cleanly packaged with nary a hint of it’s life before Styrofoam, refrigeration and shipping.

While we are being honest…my husband was the hunter who shot the birds for this meal…and our dog is the one who joyfully retrieved them for us…I just cooked them up and took a lot of photos!

We visited family over the Thanksgiving break and spent some time near Heber, UT…the weather was brisk but certainly not cold!  Woody skipped out on a morning of thanksgiving prep and took Cleo (our Braque Français (French Pointer) bird-dog) out to the plains on the south-west side of Utah Valley to hunt for pheasant.  He returned smiling with a couple of birds.

Cleo rested in the sun-warmed truck while Woody took to ‘breasting’ the birds.  Essentially cutting the skin at the breast bone and exposing both breasts and cutting them out without having to pluck the bird as the feathers make it a very messy process.

I think feathers are one of nature’s great beauties…so intricate, light, complex and impressive!

Woody started with a hen.

Then moved on to the rooster pheasant – much more brightly colored.

Pheasants are stunning and happen to taste delicious as well!

This is Pippa very interested in the bird, but not quite sure what to do with it.

Now Golden Retrievers normally retrieve, but Molly, Pippa and Sam have not had opportunities to do so other than with their balls and toys…and that is more for the fun of it than for any real purpose.  Woody was attempting to coerce a retrieval out of at least one of the gold squadron…but it was not a show-stopping performance.  All dogs got very excited at the prospect of something being thrown…and would go right to it…and then sniff and look up confused as to what was supposed to happen next.  Urban retrievers…what are you going to do???…really!

Fast forward a day or so…after gorging ourselves with thanksgiving dinner and playing some cranium late into the evening, the cooking begins!

Start with sautéed onions (never a bad idea)!

Luckily, there were still odds and ends of unused vegetables from the turkey day feast!  Rough-chopped mushrooms – throw them in the pan as well…

Let those soften and cook down a bit, I think I de-glazed the pan with a bit of white wine and some water, and then go ahead and add the smattering of herbs!

Sage and thyme!

I added some heavy cream si it could be gin to thicken and reduce while the pheasant and the waffles get cooking.

The pheasants resulted in a wonderful little nuggets with a few larger breast pieces…which were kept wrapped in wax paper in an unsealed ziplock in the fridge in between being extracted from the birds and making to the hot pan.

Each piece was salted and peppered and coated in seasoned flour.

Knock off any excess flour and place in a hot pan with melted butter and a little oil to increase the smoke point.

Don’t crowd the pan…it’ll cool off to quickly and the breast won’t brown properly.

Continue to check on the ‘gravy’ to make sure it doesn’t thicken up too much.

Waffles were already on the menu for the morning…and the batter was nicely balanced – not too fluffy or sweet.  Start making waffles!

Here’s the kicker…start cooking a fried egg.  In butter.   (you’ll thank me later)

Check on gravy!

Here is where the fun really begins.

1.  Put crispy, toasty waffle on plate.

2.  Top with fried egg (yolk still soft).

3.  Place delicious pheasant breast on top of egg and waffle.

4.  Spoon herby, onion mushroom creamy gravy over the top.

5.  Top with sprigs of fresh herbs!

Voila!

{you know you want to eat this!} {now…right now!!!}

{drool}

Roadblocks and Fettuccine


Dear Reader.  I’ve been neglecting you.  I know, I know…what could be so hard about cooking up some dishes, taking some photos and then writing about it?  In theory…not much.  Add in an unrelenting work schedule, a trip out-of-town, a (pathetic) attempt at getting some regular exercise and it gets more interesting.  But all of those are just excuses.  Yep, I just admitted it…just excuses…which is really no excuse at all.

courtesy of savagechickens.com

More importantly, I’ve been feeling some mental blockage when it comes to posting.  I have thought long and hard about this…which has gone nowhere.   Maybe you too have been thwarted in your projects and tasks.  Alright, I know part of it is wanting to make sure that everything is the best it can be…but being the best and being timely don’t always play nice together.  So…I’ve got to pick one and clearly lately I’ve been on team best without actually doing any work.  Also…I always want to post a lot of photos…and volume + photos I love = time-consuming.  Let’s loosen things up.  New goals: a) post more even if it means posting fewer photos; b) stress less about the words and the photos and get the post up.  Simple, right…?  Let’s start now.

Fresh Fettucine with Pheasant, Butternut Squash, and Bacon

Fresh pasta is a beautiful thing.  From the delicate but firm mouth feel to the slight chewiness…it just might be one of my favorite things…and when I make it I feel like I’m playing with the Play-doh noodle makers again!  This pasta recipe is the same one used in this post and can be found here courtesy of Jamie Oliver.  Obviously, you can cut your own fettucine with a pizza roller or pastry cutter/knife…I went with the KitchenAid attachment since I had yet to use mine! Originally I was planning on drying this pasta for use at a later date – until I realized I didn’t know very much about drying pasta and let’s not forget to mention that it is winter here in Southern California and that means rain, and dampness, and running a de-humidifier constantly in the house…so drying pasta is pretty much the opposite of what was going on in our house.

{Notes to self regarding future attempt to dry pasta:  1.  Air circulation is key – place drying rack underneath pasta.  2.  Although pretty, resist urge to pile pasta in a heap on counter.  3.  Portion out pasta for predicted serving size.}

Okay, moving on.  We threw this dish together with leftovers and items we already had in the fridge – diced and roasted butternut squash, chunked up pheasant breast (shot by none other than Woody himself) and bacon (our house is rarely without an open package of bacon in the fridge).  These ingredients along with some fresh herbs, heavy cream, parmesan and sliced shallots made a fine dinner!

Bon Appétit!

 

 

Pheasant, Partridge & Wild Rice Soup


This is Cleo – our French Pointer – a bird dog – she’s vicious…not really…she’ll lick your face off, nibble your nose and crawl in your lap.

Cleo

I know…why is our dog making an appearance on our ‘food blog’…because she is an important part of our lives…and important in the grand scheme of things.  I realize that whether she howls in the morning when I’m trying to put pants on is not affecting world peace…however…her role as a bird dog is important in participating in (as much as we can, as an urban LA couple) where our food and meat comes from.

I did not grow up hunting…in fact…I don’t recall seeing a real gun…never mind touching or shooting one, until college for a women’s studies class – a whole other story entirely.  Anyway, guns, hunting, bird dogs…all of these are a bit foreign to me.  But knowing where my food comes from, being capable of participating in the collection of food items (not just veggies…but the animals…and the meat they provide), and preparing them in all different manner; all of these things are very important to me, to us.  Don’t get me wrong…I had my vegetarian years, when my mother insisted I felt bad for the cows; and they may have coincided with my women’s studies years…but I do love me some bacon and it doesn’t get much better than duck fat, so I think I should know, actually I think we all should know, and have an appreciation for, not only where our food comes from but what it takes to get that food from the earth/farm/wilderness/etc. to our table.

Ready for Birds

Over the holidays, we visited my family in Utah and brought Cleo along, my parents cats were nonplussed.  Understanding that we live in LA county, Cleo does not get much of a chance to exercise her little bird-hunting brain very often…although Woody tries hard.  So we made sure to get a day of pheasant hunting in, even if it was a crazy snowy day with very cold and blustery winds; even if I forgot to pack my long underwear because I worked up until a few hours before we packed the car to drive to Utah, and even if, I was sick.

We headed out hoping to get some pheasant and Hungarian partridge…planning on using everything and anything we shot in a delicious soup adapted from a recipe from Woody’s dad, Dennis.  First off, Cleo needed no assistance in bringing in the first of the pheasant’s.  No shots were fired…I repeat, no shots were fired.

It went like this:  a pheasant flies out of a bush…continues to fly out into a field and land about 300 yards away (they don’t like to fly in bad weather…just like Delta’s pilots…they prefer to hunker down); Cleo watches this happen and as soon as the pheasant lands…takes off, bounding and leaping through 2-3 feet of deep snow.  At this particular moment, I was not sure a) what would happen when she got there; b) if she’d be too tired to get back to us; and c) what we were going to do with a live pheasant in Cleo’s mouth.  Oh, but not to worry…a) she pounced and nipped at the pheasant she had a good hold of it; b) Woody met her halfway as he pictured her passing out from exhaustion; and c) no need to worry about c) since Cleo rung the pheasant’s neck all by herself and the pheasant was as dead as a doornail.  So let’s recap – we went hunting with our bird dog who is supposed to POINT at birds she smells…then scare them up out of the bushes, so we can shoot them…and then retrieve them for us…and instead – we went hunting, didn’t fire a single shot, Cleo chased, killed, and retrieved a pheasant and we had at least 1 bird in the bag for our soup.  Luckily, Woody’s a good shot and with some help from Cleo we were able to get a few more…otherwise, it would have been ‘soup for one’…maybe two with small portions.  Here is our final take:  5 Pheasants and 3 Hungarian Partridge!

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Okay…on to the actual cooking part.  The birds were cleaned for us…is a shockingly quick manner, might I add (perhaps a little too graphic this early in the life of this blog…details to come).  All that was left to do was to give ‘em a quick rinse and once over to make sure we removed any shot that could be embedded in the meat.

please excuse the pink plastic cutting board...

We roasted the meat after seasoning it liberally with salt and pepper and giving it a few aromatic herbs.

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I cut up a standard french mirepoix of onions, carrots and celery.Then we cubed the pheasant and partridge, sweat all the veggies, cooked the wild rice in a separate pot until it was al dente…and then the soup really comes together.  I love this soup for many reasons.  It is a great creamy comforting dinner, it gets better the next day and even the day after…and 1 recipe makes a large quantity of soup…it’s like a never-ending soup bowl as the wild rice continues to soak up moisture, so when reheating, it is easy to heat on the stove and add broth to thin it back down to soup consistency.

Sweat the veggies, season, all the cubed partridge and pheasant, combine, season again, add broth and cooked wild rice…add a touch of cream…and Voila!

simple mirepoix, meat, broth and rice

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Puff Pastry and Kale Chips

Pheasant, Partridge and Wild Rice Soup

We topped it with a square of golden puff pastry and kale chips (aka oiled and salted kale leaves that have been roasted until crisp).

the final dish

and those who enjoyed it!

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