Roast pheasant with morels, vermouth
I first learned to make this sumptuous and undeniably rich recipe as a school-holiday apprentice in the kitchens of a French restaurant, at the age of 16. Even for this keen and (relatively) fearless teenager, the pungent pong of a dried morel mushroom was, how shall we say, novel.
However, once it was reconstituted into the sauce for the finished dish, novelty was ins-tantly transformed into Nirvana. Quite possibly one of my earliest magic moments, culinary-wise.
Note: a hen pheasant will always be more tender and succulent than a cock.
1 oven-ready hen pheasant
A little softened butter
Salt and pepper
1 large shallot, coarsely chopped
Juice of half a small lemon
A few sprigs of thyme
200ml dry vermouth-plus a little extra
20g dried morels
200ml whipping cream
A little finely chopped parsley
NOTE: Pre-heat the oven to 220˚C/gas mark 7.
Using your hands, smear the pheasant with the butter and then generously season. Place it into a solid roasting dish, sprinkle the shallots around it, squeeze the lemon juice over it, tuck the thyme into its cavity and pour the vermouth over it.
Cover the dish with foil, slide into the oven and cook for 25 minutes. Put the morels into
a small bowl and cover with boiling water by about 1cm. Leave to soak for at least 10 minutes.
Take the pheasant from the oven and remove the foil (don’t discard it). Baste it with the
buttery juices and reduce the oven temperature to 190˚C/gas mark 5.
Cook the bird for a further 20 minutes, uncovered, and occasionally attend to it by more basting, while also observing as to whether the liquid surrounding the bird needs topping up; if so, add a splash more vermouth. Once the skin of the pheasant is nicely burnished and the breast meat feels firm to the tweak of a finger, remove from the roasting dish and keep warm, loosely covered with the reserved foil.
Now, place the roasting dish directly onto a moderate flame and tip in the soaked morels, together with their soaking juices and stir together. Bring up to a simmer and allow to reduce until slightly syrupy and deeply flavoured; this should take about 15-20 minutes.
Once you’ve dipped in your finger and are happy with the taste, pour in the cream and stir together. Bring back to a simmer and leave to quietly bubble away until the sauce is unctuous and creamy, but not too thick.
To serve, carve the pheasant and arrange on a heated serving dish. Spoon the beautiful morel cream sauce over it, sprinkle with parsley (just to pretty the thing) and offer nothing more than a dish of simply cooked green beans, say, at table.
Salmis of mallard
An exact sauce bigarade recipe traditionally calls for bitter oranges (Seville), but I’ve always found that everyday oranges will work just fine here, as well as offering up more juice than a Seville.
1 oven-ready mallard
A little oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2tbspn Port, plus a little extra
1tspn red-wine vinegar
1tbspn dark marmalade
2 oranges-the juice and grated
zest of one; the zest of the other thinly pared with a potato peeler into strips
1tspn potato flour, or arrowroot, slaked with a little extra Port
Preheat the oven to 220˚C/gas mark 7. Rub the mallard with a smear of oil, then season well (the oiling simply helps the seasoning to adhere). In a small and solid roasting tin, cook on the top shelf of the oven for 25 minutes, basting once. Remove and leave to rest for at least a further 20 minutes or until cool enough to handle. Keep the oven switched on. Remove the breasts and legs from the bird and put onto a plate.
Roughly chop up the carcase with a heavy knife and return to the roasting tin. On a moderate heat, stir it all around until well crusted. Add the Port and Cognac and ignite them. Once the flames have died down, pour in enough water to just cover the bones and add the vinegar.
Introduce the orange zest and juice from the first orange, stir everything together and allow to simmer for about 45 minutes; if you wish, you could do this in the oven.
Take the strips from the second orange and slice into a fine julienne. Put into a small pan and cover with boiling water. Leave for a few minutes and then strain. Put to one side.
Once the duck stock is ready and you’re happy with the flavour-it should be good and ducky-strain it through a fine sieve into a shallow pan. If you feel that the flavour is a touch insipid, reduce over a high flame.
Check for seasoning and then lightly thicken the gravy with the slaked potato flour (or arrowroot) until of a coating consistency, but take care not to over-thicken. Add the res-erved orange julienne and stir in.
Now, slide the duck pieces into the sauce and quietly reheat for no more than 3-4 minutes, or so; they need to remain pink. Once hot, place onto two hot plates, spoon the sauce over them and serve with a sprightly garnish of watercress. Very good indeed with a buttery celeriac purée.
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