Holiday Feature


Calvados Pheasant

by John Manikowski


The natural sweetness of apples cooked down in apple juice and combined with an apple brandy makes for an aromatic as well as a delicious treatment for pheasant. The delicate white meat becomes tenderized when braised in the apple essence and caramelized sweet onions. Try it with other game birds such as turkey or guinea hen or with any old bird that you suspect may be tough.

Serve with garlic-mashed potatoes and lots of bread.

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2-1/2 to 3 cups canola or vegetable oil
  • 2 large pheasants, cut into 8 pieces each
  • 2 medium white onions (preferably Vidalia), coarsely chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 3/4 cup Calvados (or an apple-flavored brandy such as Applejack)
  • 3 cups fresh apple cider
  • 4-6 medium Macintosh apples, peeled, cored and sliced
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine flour with salt and pepper in a large brown paper bag. Shake to mix and add the pheasant pieces, 3-4 at a time. Shake well. Remove the pheasant, shake off excess flour and set aside.

Heat the oil in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat (375 degrees F). Brown for 6-8 minutes on both sides in small batches to avoid crowding. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside to drain on paper towels. (Recipe can be prepared ahead up to this point and refrigerated.)

Drain off all but about 1/4 cup of the oil from the pan and reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the onions and reduce by two-thirds, about 45 minutes or until they begin to turn brown and caramelize. Remove the onions from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Pour off any excess oil and deglaze the pan with the apple brandy, scraping together the browned bits in the bottom of the pan. Reduce about 1-2 minutes and add the cider. Bring to a boil, immediately reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 4-5 minutes.

Return the pheasant and onions to the pan, stir, covering the pheasant with some sauce and onions. Cover and place in the oven for about 1 to 1-1/2 hours. About 30 minutes before completion, turn pheasant pieces, add the apples, stir and cover.

Serve pheasant with a generous amount of apples, onions and sauce ladled over each plate.

Serves 6-8.

Wine Recommendation

Duckhorn Vineyards in the Napa Valley make a Merlot rich with currant and fruit with a strong enough leathery quality that does not overwhelm the apples nor the delicate pheasant meat. The 1987 should be at its peak now.


John Manikowski's Game Recipes

Grilled Duck Breasts with Orange, Ginger and Balsamic Sauce
Upside-Down Roast Canada Goose
Roast Guinea Hens Stuffed with Mangos and Scallions
Smoked Mallard Duck Legs with Hoisin Sauce Over Couscous
Breast of Mallard with Morels and Pistachio-Encrusted Figs
Calvados Pheasant
Pheasant with Olives and Fresh Plums
Smoked Breast Of Pheasant Salad with Pistachio and Date Dressing
Leeky Pheasant
Quail Sautéed with Melon, Thyme and Red Onion
Grilled, Butterflied Wood Duck with Dried Cherry Sauce
Sources for Wild Game
About John Manikowski
An Introduction to Turkey Alternatives

Thanksgiving Recipes
Christmas Recipes


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