A good marinade helps tone down the gaminess of wild pheasant, making a flavorful and tender roast. This recipe includes a rich seasoned port wine marinade. Garlic, a bay leaf, and onion are added to the wine for flavor. Marinate the pheasant for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours for best results. Farm-raised birds generally have a milder flavor.
If you are roasting a very lean wild pheasant, feel free to tuck a bit of butter or duck fat under the skin or drape a few strips of bacon (unsmoked, if possible) over the birds to keep them moist.
If you are cooking for two, cook only one pheasant. Hen pheasants average about 2 pounds, or up to 3 pounds for farm-raised, while wild male pheasants range from 2 to 3 pounds. Older farm-raised male pheasants can weigh up to 4 to 5 pounds.
- 1 onion
- 1 bay leaf (large)
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 cups port wine (ruby)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 3 tablespoons melted butter
- 2 pheasants (approximately 2 pounds each)
Peel the onion and cut it into quarters. Give the garlic a rough chop.
In a saucepan, combine the onion quarters, garlic, bay leaf, wine, salt, and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove the marinade from the heat and let stand until cooled.
Place the pheasants in a large plastic zip-close food storage bag; pour the cooled marinade mixture over them. Seal the bag and refrigerate for 8 to 24 hours. Try to make sure the marinade completely covers the birds. If necessary, turn the bag frequently to keep them coated with the marinade.
Remove the pheasants from the bag and discard the marinade.
Heat the oven to 375 F.
Brush a casserole or baking dish with some of the melted butter; place the pheasants—breast side up—in the pan and drizzle with the remaining butter.
Roast the pheasants for about 45 minutes, or until the juices run clear. They should register at least 165 F on an instant-read thermometer.
Let the birds rest for about 10 minutes before carving. Remove the backbones and cut them in half for serving.
Serve the pheasant with roasted potatoes or a wild rice side dish mixture.
- Port wine is a Portuguese fortified sweet wine typically served as a dessert wine. Because of the sugar content, it is also higher in alcohol, about 19% to 20%. If you have to substitute, use a somewhat sweet red wine, like Merlot, Chianti, Syrah, or Shiraz.
- For extra flavor, add wedges of a cut-up orange and a coarsely chopped onion to the cavities of the pheasants just before they go into the oven. If you have fresh thyme or rosemary, add a few sprigs to the cavities.