Monday, June 22, 2015

Confit de Faisan

     Pheasant Confit!   
     Those who are familiar with Duck Confit will certainly like the flavor of Pheasant Confit.  Confit is a very old method of cooking and preserving duck, goose or game birds.  A properly made confit can be sealed in a glass canning jar and then safely stored in a refrigerator for 6 months.  
     Confit is a method of salting bird meat to help preserve the meat.  Whole legs are the preferred meat for making confit.  After salting, the bird meat is placed in a casserole dish and it is covered with its own rendered fat or a mixture of pork lard and rendered game bird fat.  The confit is then slowly baked at a low temperature for a few hours.  Part of the fat in the baking vessel is poured off and then the exposed skin is roasted till it becomes a little bit crisp.  Confit is best when it is stored in the refrigerator for a few days, before reheating the confit for a meal.

     Pheasant Confit meat is very tender and full of rich wild pheasant flavor.  The confit cooking method is just about the best way to prepare pheasant legs.  Pheasant leg meat is very tough, because pheasant spend most of their day on their feet.  Rendering the meat in its own fat turns tough leg meat into a very pleasant tender texture.  
     Whole pheasant is very expensive to purchase.  Those who are hunters have the edge on cutting cost!  Most modern gourmet chefs only purchase pheasant breast sections for their entrée creations.  The pheasant legs are sold as a byproduct.
     Because pheasant leg meat is less desirable than breast meat, it sells for a very low price.  I purchased 6 pheasant legs at a wild game store for $5.00!  Old school classic gourmet chefs would be pleased to see a modern chef make use of the pheasant legs, instead of just going for the glory by only featuring the costly breast meat.  Classic French cuisine wastes nothing and makes use of every item, especially when it comes to preparing wild game birds.

     One classic whole pheasant recipe is Pheasant Under Glass.  Pheasant under glass is rarely served in restaurants that have less than 3 Michelin Stars.  Pheasant under glass is a classic entrée that is still cooked by chefs that work at wealthy private estates and mansions.  Pheasant Poêle is another classic recipe that guarantees that the leg meat will be tender.
     Pheasant legs are popular with both the wealthy clientele and casual down home cooks who have a hunter in the family.  Private chefs at estates often feature pheasant leg entree creations for casual afternoon meals.  Marinated roasted pheasant legs or stewed pheasant legs are nice comfort food items.  Confit de Faisan is well liked in England and Europe and it is usually served as a light afternoon meal.  Confit de Faisan is classic country estate comfort food at its best!

     Rendered Pheasant Fat:
     This recipe yield enough rendered fat for 2 pheasant legs.
     • Usually a cook or chef will continually make small amounts of rendered duck fat or pheasant fat over a period of time, till enough rendered fat is stored to make confit.  
     • Home cooks that do not build up a collection of pheasant fat can add or substitute rendered duck fat.  A small proportion of roasted pork lard can also be added.  Store bought rendered duck fat never has as good of a flavor as home made rendered duck fat.  
     • Small batch roasted pork lard that is sold at Mexican markets is like a home made product, but only a small proportion should be used or the confit will taste like pork!  The same goes for smoked bacon or lardons.  These items are only added for aromatic flavor.  Truffle oil can be added for flavor too.
     Step 1:  Trim all the fat off of 6 to 8 pheasant legs.  (About 2 1/2 to 3 cups is needed.)
     Place the pheasant fat in a sauce pot over low heat.  
     Add 2 strips of smoked bacon. 
     Add 2 tablespoons of white truffle oil.  (Only add 1 tablespoon if the white truffle oil has a strong flavor.)
     Step 2:  Gently and slowly simmer the pheasant fat and smoked bacon, till the pieces of fat become crispy and all of the grease has been rendered free.    
     Step 3:  Pour the liquified pheasant fat through a fine mesh strainer into a container.  
     Keep the flavored pheasant fat warm on a stove top or chill it for later use.
     *Any excess pheasant fat can be used for cooking Austrian style Schnitzel or to flavor vegetables.

     Confit de Faisan: 
     • Every chef that makes confit has their own preference in how the meat is seasoned and flavored.  Today's pheasant confit recipe has a classic European flavor!  
     • Every chef and customer has their own preference as to how crispy they prefer the pheasant confit skin to be.  Many traditionalists prefer minimal browning and no crispiness, because the succulent tender meat is the main attraction.  It it just a matter of personal choice.
     Step 1:  Place 2 whole pheasant leg sections in a container.
     Heavily salt the legs with coarse Kosher Salt.  About 2 tablespoons.  
     Season with black pepper.
     Refrigerate the salted pheasant legs for 1 or 2 days.  (2 days is enough time to completely cure the meat.)
     Step 2:  Remove the pheasant legs from the bowl.
     Rinse off the excess salt and brine.
     Step 3:  Select a ceramic soufflé ramekin that is barely wide enough to fit the pheasant legs in.  (Use the smallest casserole dish possible, so the least amount of rendered fat will be needed.)
     Place the 2 pheasant legs flat on the bottom of the ramekin, with the outer skin side of the legs facing up.
     Place 3 garlic cloves in the casserole dish.
     Add 4 bay leaves.  
     Add 6 black peppercorns.
     Add 2 pinches of thyme leaves.
     Step 4:  Pour the reserved rendered pheasant fat over the pheasant legs.  The legs must be completely covered with the fat.  
     Place the casserole dish on a roasting pan.  
     Loosely cover the casserole dish with a lid or foil.
     Slowly roast the confit in a 275ºF oven till the meat becomes very tender.  (About 2 hours.  When the meat is gently pressed with a spoon, the grain of the meat should easily split.)  
     Step 5:  Remove the lid from the casserole dish.
     Pour off just enough of the rendered fat to barely expose the skin on the pheasant legs.
     *Save the rendered fat that was poured off for later in the recipe!
     Step 6:  Return the ramekin to the 275ºF oven.
     Roast the uncovered confit for 20 to 30 minutes, so the pheasant skin lightly browned and a little bit crisp.
     Step 7:  Remove the confit ramekin from the oven and let it cool to room temperature.
     Pour the reserved rendered fat from step 5 over the confit.
     Cover the ramekin with a lid or plastic wrap.
     Place the Confit de Faisan in a refrigerator for at least 2 days.      

     Confit de Faisan Lunch Presentation: 
     Step 1:  Remove the lid from the chilled confit ramekin dish.
     Place the casserole dish on a roasting pan.
     Reheat the pheasant confit slowly in a 275ºF oven.
     Step 2:  Remove the pheasant confit legs from the hot fat.
     *The flavored rendered pheasant fat can be saved for flavoring vegetables.
     Gently pat the excess fat off of the pheasant legs with a dry pastry towel.
     Step 3:  Place the 2 Pheasant Confit Legs on a plate. 
     Garnish the plate with condiments of your choice.
     Garnish with an Italian Parsley sprig.
     Serve with warm bread, toast points or crackers.
     *The plate in the photos was garnished with warm pita bread (khubz arabi), Chicago Neon Pickle Relish, dijon mustard and capers.
     Pheasant Confit is the best!  Classically delicious!

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