Last week I shared some photos of my cat vs. a pheasant. Now, before you go thinking my cat Webley is a brilliant hunter and retriever (wouldn’t that be something), I do have to reiterate that she is a cat. Webley has generously brought many a “present” home, but mostly the results of her hunting escapades are, to put it kindly, mauled. Any “left overs” she leaves at the door are by no means suitable for human consumption.
Webley’s encounter did get me thinking about pheasant dishes though and the birds I have in the freezer. I do have a confession. I have never been pheasant hunting despite living in a part of Montana renowned for upland game. It was on my to do list for this fall and winter, but with the baby on board that has been tabled for next year and is back on the bucket list. Fortunately for us, this fall we scored some raised pheasant from the Hutterite stand that sells fresh veggies, bread, salmon, eggs and, on occasion, this feathered and feast worthy fowl.
The pheasants I have on hand are on the small side, already plucked, skinned and cut into pieces. Though convenient for some dishes, it also means I have fewer preparation options. I can debone and use the meat in pieces or, because they have no skin, either mummify them in bacon or slow cook them in a dutch oven or tajine. I often choose a slow cook method because the results are not only very tasty, but such dishes are easy to make.
For those of you who may not know what a tajine is, it’s basically a funny looking clay pot used in north African cooking. The bottom portion is a shallow dish. The lid is shaped like a cone with a knob. A small hole near the top releases just the right amount of steam resulting in the most incredible aromas coming from the kitchen and both tender and moist offerings under the hood. Traditionally used on a fire, modern tajines can also be used in the oven.
If you don’t have a tajine, you can make the same recipe in a dutch oven or even try it in a crock pot. If you like slow cooked meals though, you might want to add one to your wish list. Not only does it make a great meal, but a tajine is a nice conversation piece to display and use for entertaining.
Now, I don’t have a plethora of spice and vegetable options where I live, but I did score some Meyer lemons at a large grocery store on my way home from SHOT Show. I have read about these little gems, a tangy and sweeter version of the lemon, but I confess I have never cooked with them. Many tajine recipes call for preserved lemons but I didn’t have any of those lying around and I didn’t have three weeks to prepare them either. So, to counter the sweetness and mimic the saltiness of preserved lemons, I tapped into my green olive supply.
Yes, you read that right, supply.
Hello. My name is Julie and I am addicted to green olives.
The bun in the oven seems to be too. That’s three confessions today! Before I reveal any more secrets, I better just get to this yummy recipe.
With the lemons and olives, a combo featured in many Mediterranean dishes, I also added garlic, shallots, saffron and some white wine. Not your traditional tajine recipe, but one I was confident would make fine dinner fare. If you have some pheasants ready to cook up, consider giving this one a try.
The first step in any meat dish is to prepare the protein. I rinsed and patted dry two pheasants. Next up I took my knife to the garlic, shallots and Meyer lemons and preheated the oven to 275. After that I was ready to get cooking and cranked up the stove to medium/high heat with about three tablespoons of olive oil. When the oil was good and hot, I added my pheasant pieces.
Once the pheasants finished searing on both sides, I turned down the heat to medium low and removed the pan from the stove for just a few minutes while I transferred the birds to the tajine. I returned the pan to the burner and added sliced garlic, shallots and a pinch of salt along with the juice of two Meyer lemons.
Next up I added a cup of dry white wine and a healthy pinch of saffron (pricey but SO worth it) and turned the heat off to let the pan simmer a little. Meanwhile I added my chopped up lemons and olives to the tajine base. Back to the stove I poured the pan contents into the tajine as well.
I popped on the lid and slid the tajine into the toasty oven and let it do its thing for three hours. I served with some of Munchkin’s favorites, couscous and fresh baby spinach leaves.
Here’s the full recipe:
- 2 small pheasants cut into pieces (either with skin or without)
- 3 shallots chopped
- 5 garlic cloves sliced thinly
- 3 T extra virgin olive oil
- 12 -15 large green olives
- 2 Meyer lemons cut up into smallish pieces
- juice of 2 Meyer lemons
- pinch of salt
- generous pinch of saffron
- 1 cup dry white wine
- Preheat the oven to 275 degrees.
- Rinse and pat dry the pheasants.
- Chop and slice the garlic, shallots and two of the lemons.
- Add the olive oil to a pan set at medium/high heat. When rippling hot, add pheasant pieces and let cook for 2-3 minutes for a good sear before flipping and searing the other side.
- Remove the pan from heat and place pheasant pieces in the tajine.
- Return the pan to the stove at medium/low heat and add garlic, shallots, salt and the juice of two lemons. Pour the wine into the pan and add the saffron, letting all simmer for a couple of minutes.
- Add the olives and lemon pieces to the tajine with the pheasant.
- Pour the contents of the pan into the tajine, place the lid on top and put in oven to cook for 3 hours.
- Serve pheasant on a bed of baby spinach leaves with couscous, spooning hot tajine juices over the entire dish.