The pheasant breast in this dish is concealed under a cornmeal crust, a pleasant surprise when guests break through the crust to reveal its contents.
I use clay flowerpot bases as serving dishes for this recipe. They are readily available from any garden supply store and are inexpensive. I find a 7-inch base about 2 inches deep makes an adequate serving size. They also may be used for many other purposes in the kitchen: two of them, one inverted over the other, make individual baking pans for rolls, or use them for small pizzas for the children.
Green and yellow squash sautéed with pine nuts and scallions makes a fine vegetable side dish with a salad of tomato, red onion rounds, and orange wedges dressed with orange flower water and extra virgin olive oil. (You can serve the salads in the ceramic dishes, too.)
You can easily substitute the breast meat from turkey, guinea hen, grouse, or most any poultry.
Brush the red pepper with the vegetable oil and hold over the flame of a gas burner with a skewer (or place on a broiling pan 2-3-inches under a broiler). Roast until blackened on all sides. Transfer to a paper or plastic bag, seal, and set aside for about 10 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Heat the milk and 1/2 cup of water together in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until it comes to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and slowly sprinkle in the cornmeal, stirring until it resembles a paste. Add salt and pepper, stir, and remove from the heat. Set aside.
Place 2 tablespoons of the butter in a sauté pan. Add the onion, green pepper, and jalapeño peppers and sauté for 6-8 minutes, until soft. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Remove the red pepper from the bag and peel away its blackened skin. Cut the pepper in half, remove the seeds and veins, and cut into 1/4-inch-wide strips. Set aside. Brush the bottom and sides of each clay base with the remainder of the melted butter.
To assemble, lay 1 breast in the center of each base. Equally divide the onion-pepper mixture, tomatillo sauce, tequila, red pepper strips, cumin, and oregano among the 4 dishes, completely covering the pheasant breasts. Fill each dish with the cornmeal using a rubber spatula, leveling it neatly
Set the pots on an oiled baking sheet in case they bubble over. Bake uncovered for about 45 minutes, until the cornmeal is browned on top. Remove with pot holders and set each clay pot on a liner on a larger plate. Squeeze some lime juice over the top of each and serve immediately, cautioning your guests about the hot ceramic bases. Serve extra lime wedges on the side.
To Drink: Serve this Southwestern-style dish with margaritas made with gold tequila and fresh lime juice. Or try Pedroncelli Zinfandel from California. Its lush, ripe berry flavors won't be cowed by this dramatic dish.
Wild Fish & Game Cookbook
by John Manikowski
Photography by Zeva Oelbaum
192 pages; October 1997
Reprinted by permission.
This page originally published as part of the electronic Gourmet Guide between 1994 and 1998.
Copyright © 2007, Forkmedia LLC. All rights reserved.
Modified August 2007
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