Let’s Not Choke on These Birds

the gang roasting in the oven

My friend Tucker and I visited some friends in Manhattan a couple of weekends ago. It was a meeting of DC-transplants, as no one seems to settle in this transient city. So while we were all together, and with JH living so close to the Union Square farmers market, we decided to make dinner.

Most of our friends are students, including the gracious host, so we knew we didn’t need to impress — beans on toast would have done! But JH is a stickler for “etiquette” – it had to be seasonal fare with absolutely no repeat dishes. We started planning the menu a few days in advance, with a few options in mind (farmers markets can be unpredictable.)

Our key ingredients were onion, beets, leeks and pheasant. We cooked three pheasants, which we named Judy, Angela and Patrick. Yes, we’re a little loopy.

I mentioned in the comments of a previous posting that I wanted to cook a dish around Jerusalem Artichoke and up until this trip I had never even seen the damn vegetable. Clearly, it was going to be an interesting feat. We named this the “Challenge of the Chosen Choke!”

Dinner to feed ten… See menu after the jump.

Judy, Angela & Patrick:
3 x 3.5lb Pheasant.

We created a simple garlic sage butter rub which was stuffed underneath the skin of the birds. S&P, thyme and sage was rubbed over the top of the skin.

The birds were stuffed with leek, carrots and onion, then placed in a roasting dish with olive oil. This was cooked at 375f for about 2.5-3hrs, basting (more than) regularly.

We ate leftovers the following day, it oddly tasted more like chicken after a day of sitting in the fridge, who knew!!

The “Chosen Choke” – Sunchoke & Sage Gratin:

If you’ve ever worked with Jerusalem artichokes then you know the pain I went through: peeling these things is a joke. But, it was also hilarious. Little stubby things, except for a root they are surprisingly soft and taste like water chestnuts when raw.

Anywho, dice the chokes (once peeled) and then boil/light simmer for about half an hour.

Once these have cooked to soft, throw them in a food processor and add some sauteed onions and a little garlic with about 4 tsp of chopped sage.

You’ve basically now got a goo, so pour this into a shallow dish and top with some breadcrumbs, heated.

Bake for 30 minutes on 350f. There you go, your “Chosen Choke.”

Jeruselam artichoke and sage gratin

Shitake Mushroom & Leek Risotto:

I had never made risotto before and had always heard it was a very difficult thing to cook, but apparently not. Epicurious helped me out here, I took a basic recipe and aimed to make it my own. I don’t feel bad, it’s risotto and it was my first try at it, so don’t judge:

I took 2 leeks, chopped and boiled, then simmered in 3/4 cups of whipping cream with s&p for about twenty minutes. This can be done ahead of time so don’t stress about timing. Just be sure to re-heat the cream before adding it to the risotto.

Slice an onion and 1lb of shitake mushrooms (stemmed).

Place on a baking sheet, sprinkle with a couple of teaspoons of thyme and pour on 1/2 stick of melted butter.

Roast for about 45 mins on 375f, take out, let cool, then chop into smaller pieces.

Now, the rice aspect was a little more tricky, you really have to be attentive. A guest was late so I had to be a bit more delicate with this.

Chop an onion, fry in a little butter, and add roughly 1 1/2 cups of arborio rice (give or take – if you make more rice, then use more stock).

Throw in about half a cup of white wine – if you have some bad stuff then use that, it’s cool. Add a cup of stock.

Let the rice absorb the stock and keep stirring, don’t put down that spoon. Once the stock has been absorbed, add half a cup of stock every few minutes, constantly stirring, using at least 5 cups…I used about 9 due to the untimely delay, but it made for a great rice.

Throw in a little s&p, add the leek cream sauce, the roasted mushroom and onions and a handful of Parmesan. Simple 😉

Shitake mushroom and leek risotto

A meal like this shouldn’t go without something in the dessert category, Tucker made his signature Flourless Chocolate Cake, and my friends who had never met him before went on to call him “flourless chocolate cake guy” for the rest of the weekend. I’ll write about this another time (when I have better pictures) so stay tuned.

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  • BS February 7, 2008  

    wow great photos…I might try that ‘choke dish…what made you choose pheasants instead of some other fowl?

  • Britannia February 7, 2008  

    We actually wanted to cook with Cornish game hen but we were would needed to have bought four of those and I don’t think we would have had room in the oven for that.

  • gansie February 7, 2008  

    what does pheasant taste like (dont say chicken!)

  • Britannia February 7, 2008  

    It didn’t taste too much like chicken, perhaps a little sweeter. It’s a lot tougher and chewier than chicken, darker, but not as dark as duck.

  • very very good girl February 7, 2008  

    Congrats on the risotto and helping to debunk that it is hard to do (I think that rumor was instigated by the 30-minute meal fans). I regularly experiment with different risotto ingredients…for my most recent fav added peeled shrimp towards the end, stirred yellow curry powder in the last ladle of stock, and topped with lots of scallions. I’m getting hungry looking at your photos…

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