Glazed Roast Pheasant

There’s more than one way to cook a goose, the old saying goes. The same could  be  true for just about any kind of fowl — wild or domestic — including pheasant.

I got to thinking about this after looking at a recipe that was shared recently by Facebook friend Jeni Flaa, an HR assistant, food blogger and writer,  who lives in Fargo. The recipe was for pheasant, which was roasted with its skin on and glazed with a prickly pear sauce.

I’ve cooked a lot of pheasant over the past 20 years but never once did one that hadn’t been skinned. That’s because I figured it would take too long and be too much work to pluck a bird.

But after looking over the recipe from Jeni, I’ve decided to give the method a chance. (My brother-in-law, Dean Lutz, would approve. I’ve seen him pluck a number of pheasants when we’ve hunted together.) And actually, I’m quite enthused about the prospects.

Roasting, for the cooking novice, is a method that uses dry heat, whether an open flame, oven or other heat source. I’ve known from roasting other types of meat (most notably chicken) that it can enhance flavor through caramelization and Maillard browning on the surface of the food.

Here’s Jeni’s recipe, if you also would like to try it.

Glazed Roast Pheasant
1 pheasant, plucked with skin on
¼ cup kosher salt
4 cups water
¼ cup prickly pear syrup, or any other syrup
1 large sprig of sage (optional)
1 teaspoon cayenne powder
Ground black pepper
Mix the salt and water together and whisk to dissolve the salt. When it is dissolved, pour it over the pheasant in a plastic or ceramic container, cover and leave in the fridge for at least 4 hours and up to 8 hours. Remove the pheasant and pat it dry. Let it rest on a cutting board while you preheat the oven to 450 degrees, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Put the sprig of sage into the pheasant’s cavity and dust the pheasant with cayenne pepper. Place the bird breast side down on a rack in a roasting pan. If you don’t have a proper rack, rig something up with halved onions, carrots or the like. I arrange potatoes around the pheasant, which serve as a good side dish.
Roast the pheasant for 15 minutes at 450 degrees, then drop the heat to 375 and roast for another 20 minutes. Turn the pheasant breast side up and baste with the syrup. Roast for another 30 to 40 minutes, basting twice in the first 20 minutes. Keep watching the glaze and remove the pheasant immediately if it burns too much — expect some burning at the edges of the legs and wings.
When the pheasant is done (thigh should be 160 degrees when poked with a thermometer), remove to a cutting board and tent loosely with foil. Don’t mess with it for 10 to 15 minutes. To serve, carve the bird and grind some black pepper over it.
Yield: Serves 2.