Breast of Pheasant with Wild Mushroom Ragout and Chervil Salad

  • Serves

    serves 8


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

  • 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


Step 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.

Step 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.

Step 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.

Step 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.

Step 5

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.

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.

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