Holiday Feature


Leeky Pheasant

by John Manikowski


First discovered in the Caucasus Mountains of Asia—whose extreme western border is the Black Sea and on the east, the Caspian Sea—this colorful bird is cousin to the equally dramatic peacock.

Two of the most striking examples of the gallinaceous birds (over fifty species exist), the exceptionally long-tailed Golden and the Lady Amherst can be found on menus in many of China's tourist restaurants. The adventurous diners choose their own entree from a selection of live exhibits, a reflection on patience and a commentary on preferred quality and freshness in that country's cuisine.

We in North America have only recently developed a taste for the Asian descendent whose history stems back centuries to sparsely laid tables of Himalayan foothill peasants but whose culinary treasures are also sported by opulent European hunters, still.

I find the blend of leeks and champagne, together with the natural sweetness of parsnips and pears, a combination duly suited for the glorious pheasant.

Serve with roasted yams and sautéed green beans with toasted pecans.

  • 3 medium leeks, thinly sliced, well cleaned, white parts only
  • 6-8 scallions, trimmed and finely chopped
  • 4 thinly sliced pieces proscuitto, chopped
  • 1 pheasant, 2-1/2 to 3 pounds
  • 1 medium parsnip, peeled and thickly sliced
  • 1 medium pear, peeled, cored and thickly sliced
  • 1-1/2 cups champagne
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, stemmed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix together 1 cup of the leeks with the scallions and proscuitto in a small bowl. Set aside.

Pull away the breast skin of the bird by carefully inserting a finger under the skin at the neck, creating a space between the breast meat and the skin. Do the same on the other end, below the ribs. with a sharp knife make 2-3 slits in the skin and flesh of both legs on all sides. Stuff as much of the leek, scallion and proscuitto mix under the breast skin and into the slits as you can. Combine any excess with the remaining 1 cup of leeks with the parsnips and pear slices and stuff inside the cavity. Pour some champagne into the cavity and truss with butchers twine or secure with 1 or 2 bamboo skewers.

Place the bird in a large roasting pan and pour the remainder of the champagne over the bird. Rub olive oil over the skin and sprinkle salt, pepper and chopped parsley on top.

Cover and roast for about 1 hour. Remove cover, baste and return to the oven uncovered until the internal temperature registers 165 degrees F when a meat thermometer is inserted into the drumstick, touching the leg bone.

Serve with the pan drippings and the leek and scallion mixture ladled over the meat.

Serves 4.

Wine Recommendation

Chateau De Beaucastel's Chateauneuf-du-Pape (a white Rhone) has almond, peach and spicy flavors that drink exceptionally well with pheasant and with the champagne sauce.


Another fine French wine that has a floral nose with intense fruit with a lingering, spicy finish: Domaine Zind-Humbrecht's.


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

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Christmas Recipes


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