Breast of Pheasant with Wild Mushroom Ragout and Chervil Salad
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.
For the Pheasant
- 1⁄4 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 1⁄2 lb. various mushrooms, such as shiitake, oyster, cremini, black trumpet, and matsutake, cleaned, trimmed, and sliced
- 1⁄4 cup dry white wine
- 1⁄4 cup rich veal or beef stock
- 4 tbsp. butter, cut into pieces
- Salt and freshly ground white pepper
For the Salad
- 1⁄2 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- To serve, slice each pheasant breast on the bias into 1⁄4”-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.