Friday, November 19, 2010

"Improv" in the Kitchen

We had a pal over for lunch and we planned an Autumn menu:  Two pheasants, a braised cabbage with smoked bacon, pureed parsnips .  It all sounded great.

None of us had ever done the recipes together ....or separately for that matter .  But we had a beautiful Savoy cabbage and some jaunty little parsnips we had found on the Cours Salaya on Sunday and two handsome birds from the butcher .

We found a pheasant recipe from Elizabeth David's FRENCH PROVINCIAL COOKING.

If you don't know Elizabeth David,  and you like french food, then you should look into this English "Julia Child".  As the cover of the book says, "one could cook for a lifetime on this book alone. "

Our choice from the book was "Faisan A La Cauchoise" or Pheasant with cream, calvados and apple.

We have three sizes of heavy iron Le Crueset "cocottes" and the two birds fit happily into the big one with about a 1/4 cup of butter to cook it in. E. David says to cook it for 40-45 minutes but I always test the meat after 25 min. ( it's better to be sure.... NOthing worse than dried out poultry or game.)

Done,  So now that's on a medium flame.


This is an important step and makes for a necessary if not accurate rendering of all of your efforts.

Next:    Monsieur gets intimately involved in the peeling and dicing of the parsnips.

Our "bon ami" then starts dicing 4 apples to saute in butter for a side dish.  Gibier or game, as you know, is often happily accompanied with a fruit taste like apples, citrus or berries.

 Well and good, he is going great guns with the apple corer and extra peeler.

We tell some jokes, some stories and drink some more .  KCSM radio from the bay area jazz station is playing in the background.  Perfect.

The birds are half-way done and turned over, golden brown, before we realize that we are all going at a different pace.  There is no way that we are going to be ready with either the parsnips or cabbage whose recipes we want to prepare the first time with some care.

Running around, searching the fridge for a green substitute and "a starch".  As one of my relatives says, "Where's my starch?!!" translated as rice, bread or potatoes.

The birds are now ready after 35 minutes and Monsieur takes the meat off and puts it in the oven to stay warm while he prepares the rich sauce.  We take the fat and scrapings from the pot and pour in a little warmed cognac ( no calvados in the house) .

 After 2 matches it won't light for the big "flambee" number to burn off the alcohol.  After 4 matches it still won't really  light.  What is the secret here? .....who knows and frankly who cares!

 This is going to be such a killer sauce.  Next we add the cream to the sauce and "bubble it" until it starts to thicken.

 By some small miracle our greens and our starch (Asian red rice) are ready at the same moment and so are we.  It's 2PM and we are hungry.

Best pheasant I ever had!  Sincerely.   The secret is in the sauce...pun intended.


  1. I love your photos and your food story. How fun. I wish I was there.

  2. great, great, great cooking!!!xxxx

  3. Fabulous. I love the " jaunty little parsnips".

    Mary M.