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The Ring-Necked Pheasant
The ring-necked pheasant is chicken-like bird from Asia. The pheasant was brought to the United States before the 1800s, for game hunting. Wild pheasants have become established in the central and northern regions of the country. Pheasants are still one of the most popular upland game birds to hunt. Populations of pheasants are managed by reintroduction programs.
Cock (males) ring-necked pheasants are brightly colored with blueish-green heads, red face wattles, and a white ring around their neck. The hens (females) are plain brown. Both the cocks and hens have long, pointed tails.
Preparing and Cooking the Pheasant
It is important to determine the birds age; the age of the bird makes a difference in how tender the meat will be, impacting the cooking method selected. If the bird is young it will have a flexible breast bone, gray legs and a large pointed feather at the end of the wing. If it is a cock it will have short rounded spurs. The older bird will have longer, sharper spurs, much like those of an older rooster chicken.
Some people age older birds, though I never do. To do this they hang the pheasant for about three days, it will develop a slight odor. Aging may leave the meat greenish in color, none the less the older bird must be cooked for a longer time in a covered baking pan or in a slow cooker.
There are three different methods of preparing the bird for cooking. Before gutting it, you can simply skin the bird, dry pluck, or scald and then pluck;
Skinning is the quickest and easiest method of preparing the bird and may be preferred because the skin of a pheasant is thin, however, you lose a some of the moisture and flavor that the skin provides, when cooking.
Dry plucking foul may be preferred over scalding or soaking the bird to prepare the bird for plucking. To dry pluck the pheasant thoroughly cool it first. The bird can be placed in the freezer for 30 to 60 minutes before plucking. If the bird is not completely cooled leave it longer. You can also hang the birds overnight at 34-38 or put it in the refrigerator. Because the skin of most game birds it thin and easily torn having it cooled makes the skin adhere to the muscle.
Scalding requires dipping the bird in boiling water, containing paraffin wax. Hold it by its feet and submerge it head first, this loosens the feathers. Scolding breaks down the fatty tissue in the skin, this makes storage less optimal if the pheasant is to be kept in the fridge for a period or to be frozen.
When plucking start at wings or the back and remove the pin feathers first. Then move on to the smaller feathers and down. Only remove a few feathers at a time and use caution, this helps to keep the skin from tarring. It may take some time, be patient.
The final step before cooking your bird is to look it over for bird shot pellets. Examine the body for holes where the bird shot entered the body. Pellets can be removed with a sharp thin bladed knife or any other sharp pointed utensil, such as tweezers.
Ingredients for Roast Pheasant:
¼ tsp black pepper
½ tsp sage powder
½ tsp oregano powder
1/8 tsp dried chili pepper
½ cup wild black rice
½ cup lentils
1 cup baby carrots
¼ cup celery
½ Large onion
2 cups hot water
Cooking instructions; pre-hear oven to 450 degrees. Once oven is finished preheating reduce heat to 350 degrees. Place Pheasant in a glass baking dish or cast-iron baking pan that can be covered. Cut the apple into chunks approx. ½ inch square and fill the chest cavity of the bird with them. Mix black pepper, sage and oregano in 2 cups of hot water (apple juice can be substituted for the water, for added flavor). Mix rice and lentils, carrots, onion, and celery; place around the pheasant. Pour hot water and spice mix over the pheasant and rice mixture. Cover pan and bake for approximately 45 minutes or until the pheasant meat is tender and comes off the breast bone easily. The rice and lentils should be soft. The meat will have a mild flavor.
"The hunting partnership between man and dog developed thousands of years ago and from it came a deep bond of affection. I suspect it was the dog's idea."— Aaron Fraser