A good marinade helps tone down the gaminess of wild pheasant, making a flavorful and tender roast. This recipe from Kim includes a rich seasoned port wine marinade. Garlic, a bay leaf, and onion are added to the wine for flavor. Marinate the pheasant for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours for best results. Farm-raised birds generally have a milder flavor.
If you are roasting a very lean wild pheasant, feel free to tuck a bit of butter or duck fat under the skin or drape a few strips of bacon (unsmoked if possible) over the birds to keep them moist.
If you are cooking for two, cook only one pheasant. Hen pheasants average about 2 pounds, or up to 3 pounds for farm-raised, while wild male pheasants range from 2 to 3 pounds. Older farm-raised male pheasants can weigh up to 4 to 5 pounds.
- 1 onion
- 1 bay leaf (large)
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 cups port wine (ruby)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 3 tablespoons melted butter
- 2 pheasants (approximately 2 pounds each)
- Peel the onion and cut it into quarters. Give the garlic a rough chop.
- In a saucepan, combine the onion quarters, garlic, bay leaf, wine, salt, and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove the marinade from the heat and let stand until cooled.
- Place the pheasants in a large plastic zip-close food storage bag; pour the cooled marinade mixture over them. Seal the bag and refrigerate for 8 to 24 hours. Try to make sure the marinade completely covers the birds. If necessary, turn the bag frequently to keep them coated with the marinade.
- Remove the pheasants from the bag and discard the marinade.
- Heat the oven to 375 F.
- Brush a casserole or baking dish with some of the melted butter; place the pheasants—breast side up—in the pan and drizzle with the remaining butter.
- Roast the pheasants for about 45 minutes, or until the juices run clear. They should register at least 165 F on an instant-read thermometer.
- Let the birds rest for about 10 minutes before carving. Remove the backbones and cut them in half for serving.
- Serve the pheasant with roasted potatoes or a wild rice side dish mixture.
Port wine is a Portuguese fortified sweet wine typically served as a dessert wine. Because of the sugar content, it is also higher in alcohol, about 19% to 20%. If you have to substitute, use a somewhat sweet red wine, like Merlot, Chianti, Syrah, or Shiraz.
For extra flavor, add wedges of a cut-up orange and a coarsely chopped onion to the cavities of the pheasants just before they go into the oven. If you have fresh thyme or rosemary, add a few sprigs to the cavities.