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.
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.
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.
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