Roasted Wild Pheasant With Cranberry Port Jus

Executive chef Jim Gelzheiser of Rivers Club in Pittsburgh serves these brined and roasted pheasants with a tart and savory cranberry port gravy.

2 cups water
1 cup honey
1 orange, zest and juice
1 lemon, zest and juice
2 small cloves garlic, smashed
1 sprig sage
2 sprigs rosemary
6 sprigs thyme
1 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
8 black peppercorns
4 teaspoons brown sugar
4 teaspoons kosher salt
2 whole pheasants (2 pounds each), skin on
1 tablespoon cold butter
3 tablespoons softened butter
salt and pepper
paprika
Cranberry Port Jus (recipe follows)

To make the brine, in a large saucepan combine water, honey, citrus juices and zest, garlic, fresh herbs, cinnamon stick, bay leaf, peppercorns, brown sugar, and kosher salt and bring to a simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Add pheasants to a gallon zip-lock
bag and add brine. Refrigerate for
4 to 12 hours.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Remove pheasants from the brine and discard brine. Pat pheasants dry with paper towels and place breast side up in a roasting pan. Place 1/4 tablespoon cold butter under the skin on each side of the breasts. Then brush the softened butter over the skin on top. Season with salt, pepper, and paprika. Roast 1-1/2 hours, basting frequently, until
the temperature of the thigh and breast reads 165 degrees. Remove
the pheasants from the oven and cover to keep warm. Rest for 10 minutes before carving.

To serve, add a pool of Cranberry Port Jus to each plate and top with carved pheasant.

Yield: 6 servings

CRANBERRY PORT JUS

1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup port
1 shallot, minced
3 cups chicken stock
salt and cracked black pepper

In a small bowl, combine cranberries and port. Steep until the cranberries are plump, about 30 minutes.

Remove excess fat from the roasting pan used to cook the pheasant and place the fat in a deep saucepan. Add shallots and the plumped cranberries and port mixture and cook on medium-high heat until reduced by half. Stir in chicken stock and simmer for 15 minutes or until thickened. If needed, the sauce can be thickened additionally with cornstarch slurry (made with 1 teaspoon cornstarch and 1 teaspoon water or port). Season with salt and cracked black pepper.

CHEF’S TIP: Brining Pheasant
“It’s important to brine before cooking because it brings out natural flavors, imparts aromatics and spices, and helps retain moisture in meats, especially lean wild birds.” — Executive chef Jim Gelzheiser, Rivers Club, Pittsburgh

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