2nd February 2012
Pheasant and Butterbean Stew

Well, it's the end of pheasant shooting season, so last chance for that game dinner I'd promised Flora.

She reckoned she could get pheasant from her hunting people (ah, to have hunting people!), and I promised to cook what they shot, but it seems either they have really bad aim, or are greedier than expected, and Flora ended up buying her pheasant from the butcher like a plebeian.
It's all the same to the chef I guess.

I had some difficulty deciding how best to cook it though - ideally I would attempt to channel Keith Floyd whilst making a long slow pot-roast with red wine and pig's trotters, but this being a Thursday evening, and seeing as how Flora is actually bringing the pheasant with her and expecting dinner sometime tonight that isn't feasible.
So I decided to try a poaching approach instead - based around my Mum's Fasolia which I thought would complement the pheasant nicely.
A Pheasolia if you will.
It worked quite well I thought.

I made up some apple mashed potato to go with, but to be honest it made it awkward to eat. I think bread would have worked better. What about apple bread?

I was in two minds about whether to add some chorizo to the beans, and throw in some parsley to finish, but in the end I forgot about the parsley and decided to skip the chorizo to see how it came out pure.

In any case I had plenty of leftovers so I fried up some chorizo slices and threw them into it when I reheated it to try the best of both worlds. I even remembered the parsley this time!
The leftover mash made a really good leftover stew thickener, and the result was extremely tasty. I'm not sure which I preferred to be honest, it's a deeper, darker, richer stew with the chorizo, but on the other hand I quite liked the lemony freshness of my original.

You pays yer money, you makes yer choice.

Pheasant Poached in a Butterbean Stew
main fowl stew
Pheasant poached in a butterbean and celery stew
A sort of pheasant Fasolia

Serves 4

Soak the beans overnight, if you want to speed up the cooking process.
Make up some celery stock: simmer a chopped head of celery and a chopped onion until the vegetables soften. Then strain out the stock.
Though if you can't be bothered you can just skip the celery stock and use chicken stock. Or water.

Meanwhile, bring the beans just to the boiling point in a large pot of water, skim away the scum, then drain and rinse the beans in cold water. Put them back in the pot, add a few bay leaves, a pinch or two of thyme leaves, a bottle (500ml) of cider and push in the pheasant. Cover with celery stock and chicken stock, if you have any. Bring to the boil, covered, and simmer gently with the lid slightly open to concentrate the flavours.
If you want to add some chorizo slices to the beans you can - it will make deeper, richer stew, but you'll lose some of the lightness.

Simmer for about 45 minutes, then remove the pheasant and set it aside to cool.
Leave the beans simmering, give them a taste and season them if they need it.
When the beans are softened (maybe another 15 minutes), add about half their volume of celery in fat slices - most of a head. Continue to cook until the celery is soft: 20-30 minutes.

Meanwhile separate the pheasant legs and breasts. Cut between the thigh and breast, pull the leg away until the joint pops then cut it free.
Slice along the breastbone to free the breast, then cut around it prying gently with your fingers: the breast should come away whole.
Heat a generous amount of butter in a wide frying pan, add a little olive oil (to help stop the burning) and quickly brown up the legs and breasts (skin still on) on both sides, then pour in a generous measure of calvados, let it bubble away to coat the pheasant, then set the meat aside to rest.

To serve:
Stir a generous dollop of olive oil through the beans to coat them, ladle into bowls, drizzle with lemon juice, place some pieces of pheasant on top (slice them up nicely if you like), pour over any of the calvados deglaze, and eat with some crusty country bread. Or apple mash if you're a masochist.
A pretty good way to cook the pheasant - I poached mine for an hour, and the legs were perfect, but I thought the breasts were a little dry. Try poaching for 45 minutes.
I had some parsley ready to stir through the beans at the end, but I forgot to add it. I'm not sure it would have helped, particularly as I made it without chorizo.

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