Monday, October 28, 2013

Another Weekend, Another Pheasant and Another Pheasant Recipe

4:30 PM Sunday

Our friend Rich went out hunting again and came back with another pheasant. This time he wanted to make soup. The pheasant itself had a lot of very visible fat on its body; Rich commented he'd never seen one with so much fat on it. Still, it is a wild bird, so it was expected to be a bit on the lean and dry side. He cleaned the bird and I started in on the vegetables. Unfortunately, it took about 3 hours to get the bird to the point I could take the meat from the bones, so we had leftovers for dinner last evening. I let the soup cool and saved it for today. Rich wanted to serve the soup with egg noodles. All this made me reminisce a bit about going to my Grandma's house when I was young, smelling her soup cooking away on the stove, the scent of saffron in the air. Saffron comes from the Crocus sativa flower; the 3 tiny stigma of each flower are removed to dry and the flower is discarded. Saffron gives beautiful golden color to soups and pastries and a most wonderful flavor. Cooking with saffron is something I grew up around, so of course, I added saffron to the soup! 

Rich is also a big fan of pumpkin pies. Since I have had frozen portions of pureed pumpkin and squash in the freezer, along with portions of pie dough, it is a pretty simple matter to get a pie together in no time. I like freezing pie dough. I really do not like making it with all the mess it entails, but my Never Fail Pie Crust recipe makes enough for four 9-inch single crust pies or two 9-inch double crust pies. This means I can freeze portions for later, allowing them to thaw on the counter for an hour or so when needed. I made my Pumpkin Pie recipe last year for Thanksgiving, so I used that recipe last week when making a pie. As I tasted it, I felt it needed more spices than it had, even though I followed my own recipe. Rich was of the same mind about it, so I amended the recipe and we will be testing out the flavors after dinner this evening. 


Rich and my husband had been out and about for a while today and when they got back, the pie was fresh out of the oven. Rich came in and said we just couldn't ask for a better Fall meal than Pheasant and Wild Rice Vegetable Noodle Soup and Spicier Pumpkin Pie!  
My Traditional Pumpkin Pie
My Traditional Pumpkin Pie

Spicier Pumpkin Pie
Spicier Pumpkin Pie

Spicier Pumpkin Pie

Makes one 9½ - 10-inch pie

1 single-crust 10-inch unbaked pie shell
2 cups pumpkin or squash puree
2 cups whipping cream (can substitute evaporated milk)
1 cup white sugar
¾ teaspoon salt

3 teaspoons ground cassia cinnamon  
3 teaspoons ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon allspice
4 eggs, slightly beaten
2 tablespoons Brandy or Cognac, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (325 if using convection). With a whisk, hand held mixer or stand mixer, mix together all the ingredients until combined. Pour into prepared pie shell and bake for about 1 hour and 5 to 10 minutes, or until a knife inserted halfway between center and edge comes out clean.


After making the Spicier Pumpkin Pie, I thought maybe I should just mix up my own Pumpkin Pie Spice. It can be used in either of my pie versions. Here is that recipe:

Pumpkin Pie Spice

Pumpkin Pie Spice
Pumpkin Pie Spice
Makes about ¾ cup

6 tablespoons good quality ground cassia cinnamon
6 tablespoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Stir all the spices together thoroughly and store in a tightly sealed glass jar in a cool, dark place.

To use in pies: For a regular pie, such as Chris's Pumpkin Pie or one using a label on canned pumpkin, substitute any spices called for with 1 to 1½ teaspoons of this mixture. To make my Spicier Pumpkin Pie above, use half the total amount of this mixture, or 7 teaspoons.

8:30 PM Sunday

Pheasant and Wild Rice Vegetable Soup
Dinner was just delightful. The Pheasant and Wild Rice Vegetable Soup was full of earthy flavors and wonderful textures. We served it over wide egg noodles. I had made my Multi Grain and Seed Bread earlier in the day and I served that alongside for another great texture to add to the mix. The Pumpkin Pie was revised from what I have posted on my website and I will be amending that a bit later. I nearly doubled the spice quantities. Keep in mind, the pie was made in a 9½ inch deep pie plate and the filling is ample. It tasted much better this time around, so that is my new go to recipe. Meanwhile, here is my Pheasant Soup recipe, which will serve a lot of people or be a meal for days: 

Pheasant and Wild Rice Vegetable Soup

Pheasant and Wild Rice Vegetable Soup
Pheasant and Wild Rice Vegetable Soup

1 pheasant, cleaned and drawn
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions,coarsely chopped
3 carrots, sliced in rounds
3 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 green pepper, chopped
1 large potato, cut in small cubes
2 bay leaves
2 - 4 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, minced
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped finely
3 - 4 teaspoons salt (start with the smaller amount)
few grinds pepper
pinch of saffron, crumbled
1 teaspoon smoked paprika (Pimenton de la Vera)
¼ ounce dried porcini mushrooms
¾ ounce dried shiitake mushrooms
3 cups boiling water
9 cups water
1 cup wild rice
cooked egg noodles, for serving

Set the dried mushrooms into the boiled water, cover and set aside to soak. In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil. Add in the onions, stirring occasionally while prepping the other vegetables. Add in the carrots, celery and garlic and continue to stir occasionally. Add in the whole bird, allowing to brown on each side. Add in the green pepper and potato, the bay leaves, thyme, parsley, salt, pepper saffron and smoked paprika. Add in the 9 cups of water, stir and bring to a simmer.

Remove the mushrooms from their soaking water, reserving the water. Cut stems from the shiitakes and slice. Check the porcinis for any that are too hard and woody, shopping any larger pieces. Add both kinds of mushrooms to the pot. Check the mushroom soaking water for dirt or grit in the bottom. If there is any dirt, strain the liquid through a coffee filter or paper toweling and add to the pot. Cover the pot and allow to simmer for about 3 hours, or until the pheasant is ready to freely come off the carcass. Remove the pheasant from the soup and allow to cool enough to handle. Meanwhile add the wild rice to the pot and bring to a medium simmer for at least 45 minutes. Once the pheasant is cool enough to handle, remove all the meat and discard the bones. Return the meat to the pot. Once the wild rice is completely tender the soup is ready to serve. This soup is wonderful served over egg noodles.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

It's Pheasant Hunting Season; time for delightful recipes

Our friend Rich came to visit for the opening of pheasant hunting season. His first day out was unsuccessful, but on day two he did get one young bird. I have had the experience of killing and cleaning both chickens and turkeys in my life, but never a pheasant. I was informed that one does not need to pluck feathers from a pheasant as the skin is so easy to just rip off with the feathers still attached. I came outside to watch Rich skin and clean the bird and then came the time to think what to do with it.

Dried Shiitake Mushrooms
Rich and I collaborate well on food matters. We both have wonderful ideas, but vastly different ones, so it is especially fun to bounce ideas back and forth. His first idea was that he wanted to brine the bird. I have only brined once - a turkey. I was unimpressed. I did understand the reasoning behind brining a wild bird such as this, so we agreed on that, for both better flavor and tenderizing. He also wanted to subsequently soak it in buttermilk as an added insurance against too gamy a flavor. Once the bird was cleaned we set it to soak overnight in brine. Next morning (yesterday) he removed it from the brine, cleaned out the container and set the pheasant pieces back into the container with 2 cups of buttermilk. We left that to soak for a few hours.

Assembled casserole, before baking
Meantime, we started to work out the flavors we wanted. I had only eaten pheasant once in my life, at a restaurant over 20 years ago. I recall loving the dish, but was unsure if that was an accurate representation of the flavor of a wild bird. I told Rich that I knew juniper berries were supposed to be good with wild game, so we agreed to use a little of those. We both love the flavors of fresh thyme, so we decided to use that. Rich wanted rice with the casserole, and particularly to have wild rice be a part of it. What we ended up doing is cooking wild rice in one pot, brown rice in another and white rice in a third. I made ¾ cup (dry) of each variety of rice, with a teaspoon of olive oil, 1¼ teaspoon of salt and 1½ cups of water, cooking the brown and the wild rice for 50 minutes, and the white rice for 15. The wild rice did not soak up most of the water it cooked in, and I drained and saved that water to use for the sauce later. Rich dislikes the use of flour to thicken things and suggested using bread crumbs instead. We were looking for a creamy mushroom base for the sauce, but without using a canned mushroom soup (we are both purists on that score). I had some artisan style homemade bread on hand so I cut two thick slices and put into the food processor to make crumbs. We wanted mushrooms to be a part of it, so since my husband and I love dried shiitakes, we used those, which are delightfully chewy when reconstituted. I used 10 of them, soaked in boiling water for about 20 minutes. I saved the about 3 cups of water from the mushroom soaking to use as part of the liquid for the sauce. Rich also wanted to add chicken to the whole dish, as chicken is more fatty than pheasant and would lend some of the fattiness to the dish.
Rich, serving his pheasant creation

Okay, so now we had a working idea and had started prepping. Rich chopped an onion, a carrot and 2 stalks of celery, along with about 6 or 8 large cloves of garlic. I sautéed that mixture in a frying pan in olive oil until they were wilted, then removed that to a large roaster pan, spread over the bottom of the pan. Meanwhile, Rich blotted all the pheasant and chicken pieces dry with paper toweling, then sprinkled with salt and pepper and I followed with browning all the pheasant and chicken pieces, which were then removed to the roaster pan, in one layer. We removed the stems from the soaked mushrooms and sliced them, strewing them over the meats. I sprinkled in about a teaspoon of juniper berries, and then the bread crumbs. Over top of this I evenly sprinkled the wild rice, then the white rice and then the brown rice. Rich was interested in a smoky flavor element, so I sprinkled on 1 1/2 teaspoons of smoked paprika (Pimenton de la Vera).
Pheasant Chicken Casserole with Three Rices

Back in the frying pan, I added about 1½ tablespoons of fresh thyme leaves and a cup of dry white wine, cooking quickly over high heat, stirring up all the browned bits in the bottom, to reduce to less than a half cup, total. We added in the mushroom cooking water and the wild rice cooking water and cooked briskly to reduce to about 2 or 2½ cups of total liquid. To this we added 2 cups of heavy cream, off the heat. After tasting, we added another teaspoon of salt to the sauce. I poured this sauce over the whole casserole, covered the pot and baked it for 1½ hours at 325 degrees.

It may have taken a while to assemble, but I have only one word for the outcome. YUM! The casserole was unctuous from the cream and perfectly flavored. The smoked paprika was just enough to give that hint of smokiness without overwhelming. The pheasant was absolutely not gamy though it retained the flavor of a wild bird, and it was very tender. Both the pheasant and the chicken were juicy and perfect. It may have taken a while to assemble, but oh great heavens, it was good. 

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Family, Food and Fun: Cooking with Family

Guacamole and Chips with tiny tomato roses
Family is very important to me, so our youngest sister turning 50 was an "event." The first of these "turning 50" parties was an utter surprise. The second - almost. And after that, it was just a matter of how much could be kept secret - not the party itself. So for Laura, it was no surprise at all. That said, the ultimate decision on the décor and food was relatively secret. My sister Anita has a real talent for making a table look almost too pretty to touch. I say almost, because all the food was irresistible.

Chicken Stuffed Sweet Peppers

Anita had already prepared almost everything, so the rest of us only had assembly work to do prior to the party. I was in that situation myself nearly 10 years ago when I hosted a 50th party for her, so I know the amount of work ahead of time, and sympathize. No matter how much you love doing it, it is still a lot of work, and appreciated. She played taxi service for the 4 of us who do not live nearby, shuttling us to and from the airport.

Carrot Cake Cheesecake
The party was a wonderful event, with a lot of the same hilarity that always goes on when we are together. I am so fortunate in my sisters that we all get along well and have so much fun when we are together. Some of the dishes that were prepared were Roast Beef with Gorgonzola Walnut Spread on Flat Out Rosemary Breads, Scallop Ceviche, Guacamole (of course), with tiny "roses" made from cherry tomatoes, Beef Satay, a Boboli with Spinach Dip, topped with Italian 4-cheese blend and baked (yum!), Chicken Stuffed Sweet Peppers, Chiles Rellenos casserole, Curried Pork stuffed into Pita breads, a trifle made with Angel Food Cake and fruits. Diana brought her Sugared Pecans, there was a cheese plate and of course cake! 

There were two cakes. The party was Zebra themed, and Diana had two zebra photos printed on edible material. One was a colorful picture and was placed onto the red velvet cake. I piped the shell borders. The other, and main cake was a Carrot Cake Cheesecake. This was covered thinly with cream cheese frosting and the zebra closeup photo was placed onto this. Diana also brought zebra striped design peel off applications which we used on the sides of the cheesecake. Again, I piped shell borders. In tune with the zebra themed cake decals, were Anita's zebra decorations and table top decor.
Boboli with Spinach Dip

Needless to say, everything was just fantastic. The table was beautiful, including the table outside by the pool. Unfortunately, I have no recipes to include here, except the Boboli. Take a boboli bread, cover it with Spinach Dip, then coat with a 4-cheese Italian blend and bake until hot and cheese is melted. Slice as desired. I never would have thought to bake Spinach Dip, but this was so very good. 

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest