One of the finest of the game birds, pheasant is found mainly in Europe and the United States. In Britain, pheasant has its season from October to February, and is at its prime in October. The main breed killed for consumption is the Com-mon
Pheasant, but Silver and Golden Pheasants are also still occasionally eaten.
Like most game birds, the older pheasants are, the tougher their meat will be, so they are best eaten when not more than one year old (a wild pheasant will live for up to 15 years, by which time it is virtually inedible!).
Pheasant flesh tends to be very dry and rather flavourless and hanging has been found to increase flavour and improve texture. It is therefore never eaten straight after it has been killed, but is hung for at least one week (or less in warmer weather) before eating – though for those who like their game ‘high’, pheasant may be hung for two weeks 01 more, again depending on the weather.
Pheasant should not be plucked until after it has been hung, as the feathers help to retain the flavour and moisture of the flesh. To counteract the natural dryness of the flesh, pheasants are always larded before being cooked – most butchers sell them ready-larded. If you are using pheasant you have shot yourself, tie slices of bacon over the breast.
The oven-ready weight of a young pheasant varies from If to 22- pounds – generally speaking, the hen pheasant is smaller.
Allow one pheasant for two people.
To roast a young pheasant, have it thoroughly plucked, drawn, larded and trussed. Brush the pheasant all over with melted butter and sprinkle over 1 tea-spoon of salt, 4- teaspoon of black pepper and any other seasoning to taste. Place the pheasant, on its back, in a roasting tin and place it in the centre of the oven, which has been preheated to moderate 350 °F (Gas Mark 4, 180 °C). Roast the pheasant, basting it every 15 minutes with a little melted butter, for 1 hour or until the juices run clear when a thigh is pierced with the point of a sharp knife.
Alternatively, rub the pheasant all over with the salt and pepper and brown it in a little butter in a frying-pan for 6 to 8 minutes, over moderate heat. Then transfer the pheasant to the roasting tin and roast it as in the basic method.
When the pheasant is cooked, remove it from the roasting tin and transfer it to a carving board. Remove and discard the trussing string and larding and carve it like any game or poultry. Traditional accompaniments for roast pheasant in-clude
BREAD SAUCE Or CRANBERRY SAUCE, GAME CHIPS and braised celery.
Pheasant may also be boned or jointed, stewed, casseroled, grilled , fried in batter, or used in pies and pates.