Peasant Pheasant

My intermittent perambulations of area farmers’ markets are something I’m trying to make more mittent as I research some things for future projects. Recently, these more deliberate peregrinations made me the happy owner of a pheasant. Since it was a lovely cool evening, I roasted it on a bed of fennel, onion, and new potato. While it roasted, I took full advantage of summer’s influence on the various nightshades outside; I dug other potatoes, picked a variety of tomatoes, and grabbed a serrano pepper as well. The eggplants are coming along nicely, but need a couple more days to get big enough so that the first batch will make a substantial dish. I sautéed onion and pepper, then added chopped tomatoes, some smoked paprika, Espelette pepper and a few herbs and let it all simmer, covered, until the spuds were tender. I added a bit of salt and pepper and took it off the heat, leaving the lid on.

In a different pan I did the wilted greens with garlic thing, and I mixed some leftover green mash with a dollop of basil pesto and some Dijon mustard to make a nice sharp raw condiment. The pheasant was tasty, with a nice gamy quality that clearly distinguished it from chicken, and the vegetables on which it roasted has a luscious melted quality. But the star of this plate was hands down the potato and tomato stew. The Basque affinity for nightshades is never more apparent than with simple preparations like this; when the components are as fresh as possible and cooked simply, the result is a transcendently rich and satisfying dish made from next to nothing. I ate the leftover mixture at bedtime standing over the sink; it’s one of the best things I’ve made in a while. It’s going to be hard to leave any potatoes in the ground until fall after making this.

Using the carcass, I made several quarts of pheasant stock, which are in the freezer, and then added the remaining meat to some lentil soup-turned-minestrone to make a very nice pheasant pot pie the other night. Thus was the higher price of the bird amortized across multiple meals, making it a relative bargain.

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I'm a painter who happens to also spend a lot of time growing, making, and writing about food. I'm particularly interested in the intersection of frugal peasant cooking techniques and haute improvisation. And I have a really great personality.

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