Home pheasant cookers often complain about the dryness of the cooked breasts.Considering that they have very little fat, you just can’t cook them like flabbier chicken breasts. For some, the answer to dry, chewy upland birds is to sink them into a slow-cooker with a can of salty canned creamed soup. After several hours, they’re tender and juicy with unmistakable flavor of super-salty canned soup.
Of course, you’ll never really know what a pheasant breast tastes like if you bury it in canned goo. Cooking pheasant breasts quickly with ingredients that enhance, not disguise the natural flavor of pheasant, well, that’s my preferred method.
It should be no surprise that I usually brine my pheasants before cooking. The mildly salt solution adds moisture and flavor and actually speeds up cooking time a bit. Hi Mountain Game Bird and Poultry brine is my favorite. They’re a sponsor of my TV show so I do get a better deal on the brine than most people, however, it’s worth paying retail prices for a product that makes upland game and waterfowl taste better. If you’d rather make your own, combine 2 cups water with 1/2 cup each kosher salt (or any coarse salt) and brown sugar. Heat the mixture in a saucepan until the salt has dissolved. Allow it to cool completely, then add to 1 1/2 cups ice water. If you want to add dry seasonings, fresh garlic, onions, pickling spices or other dry ingredients to add flavor to the brine, go nuts. Just don’t dilute the water-to-salt ratio. Brine your birds for at least 6 hours. Pat dry and proceed with your recipe. Plan on using a little less salt when seasoning since the brine will add salt to the meat.
One Skillet Pheasant Breasts
4 – 6 boneless pheasant breasts, skin on or off
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons onion, finely diced
2 tablespoons capers, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup rice or white wine vinegar
1/4 cup black olives, chopped
1 cup small tomatoes, quartered
1/4 cup fresh basil or parsley leaves, chopped
1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1. Rub breast fillets with 2 tablespoons olive oil and season liberally with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add pheasant and lightly brown on both sides. Add garlic and next 5 ingredients. Cook for 2 – 3 minutes.
2. Remove pheasant when just cooked and keep warm. Whisk in remaining oil. Add olives, tomato and basil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon tomato mixture over cooked breasts and top with cheese.