Breast of Pheasant with Wild Mushroom Ragout and Chervil Salad

See the RecipeArthur Meehan

At last year's Bracebridge Dinner, this dish was made with cold-smoked pheasant breast. See Smoked Pheasant Breasts below for a cold-smoking method—or use unsmoked breasts, also very good.

Breast of Pheasant with Wild Mushroom Ragout and Chervil Salad
One year at the Bracebridge Dinner in Yosemite, this dish was made with cold-smoked pheasant breast.
Yield: serves 8

For the Pheasant

  • 14 cup kosher salt
  • 8 (4-oz.) boneless pheasant breasts
  • 5 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 12 lb. various mushrooms, such as shiitake, oyster, cremini, black trumpet, and matsutake, cleaned, trimmed, and sliced
  • 14 cup dry white wine
  • 14 cup rich veal or beef stock
  • 4 tbsp. butter, cut into pieces
  • Salt and freshly ground white pepper

For the Salad

  • 12 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • Leaves from 4 bunches chervil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. For the pheasant: Dissolve salt in 8 cups water in a large bowl. Add pheasant and soak, refrigerated, overnight. Drain, pat dry, and set aside.
  2. The following day, heat 3 tbsp. of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots and cook, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until lightly browned, 1–2 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring constantly, until mushrooms are soft and mushroom liquid has evaporated, about 3 minutes. Add wine, scraping any browned bits stuck to bottom of skillet, and reduce by half, about 2 minutes. Add stock and reduce by half again, about 2 minutes. Add butter, a few pieces at a time, swirling skillet over heat until melted and sauce is velvety, about 1 minute more. Season to taste with salt and pepper and keep ragout warm over lowest heat.
  3. Heat the remaining 2 tbsp. oil in another large skillet over medium-high heat. Add pheasant, skin side down, and cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Turn breasts over, reduce heat to medium, and continue cooking until just cooked through, 3–5 minutes. Transfer breasts to a cutting board, loosely cover with foil, and set aside for 5 minutes.
  4. For the salad: Mix together lemon zest, lemon juice, and oil in a medium bowl. Add chervil, season to taste with salt and pepper, and toss until leaves are well coated. Adjust seasonings.
  5. To serve, slice each pheasant breast on the bias into 14''-thick slices. Divide mushroom ragout between 8 warm plates and arrange 1 sliced pheasant breast on top of each. Divide salad between the plates.

SMOKED PHEASANT BREASTS
This technique works with fish and chicken, too. Soak 1 cup applewood chips in a bowl of water for 30 minutes; drain. Line a wok with two 24'' x 18'' pieces heavy-duty foil, allowing excess to hang over sides. Divide 8 boneless pheasant breasts between 2 wire racks that just fit inside wok; set aside. Spread chips out in wok. Cover wok with a lid and heat over high heat until smoke seeps out, 10-15 minutes. Working quickly, uncover wok, put 1 rack into wok, cover wok with lid, and seal with overhanging foil. Remove wok from heat and set aside, undisturbed, for 30 minutes; remove rack. Reheat chips until smoking, as above, and repeat process with the remaining breasts. Serves 8.