Pheasant Confit: Delicious Juicy Goodness
I imagine that if you took one of your ancient relatives (just a couple hundred years back) and brought them to the present day, and then showed them the inside of your refrigerator, they’d probably scratch their head in bewilderment.
“Why?” you would ask them. They would point to the bottles of pickles and jellies, cured sausages and maybe that package of bacon, and then turn to you and ask, in the same tone, “Why?”
A lot of the stuff we cook with (and don’t necessarily think about) has a specific reason for being the way it is. That reason almost always boils down to preservation, or namely the lack of a proper method. – at least before the advent of refrigeration, and that’s really a rather recent accomplishment.
This week we cover pheasant confit (not the usual duck or goose). Confit is one of those old-school methods of preserving food, and it’s unique in that it really uses two methods. The first is brining, which is a method of increasing the amount of salt in a product, thereby making it less hospitable for bacteria. The second part of a confit is the storage – in the fat it was cooked in. The procedure originated in France, and like a lot of other unique foods, was originally designed to dramatically increase the shelf life of a product.
We’ve grown so accustomed to these items as staples that we continue to practice the same techniques developed hundreds of years ago, but now simply for the development of their flavors. That great flavor of a ruben, with the smoked meat and sauerkraut, is almost entirely thanks to old preservation techniques.
So enjoy your confit, and take a moment to thank those old French chaps for not having a fridge of their own.
6ea Pheasant Legs
16c Rendered Duck Fat
2ea Oranges (cut into 8 pieces)
2ea Lemons (cut into 8 pieces)
½ c Kosher Salt
½ c Sugar
1c Orange Juice
10 Garlic Cloves
2 Bay Leaves
1oz Fresh Thyme
1oz Fresh Rosemary
1oz Fresh Parsley
6 Black Peppercorns
Place all ingredients for brine in an 8qt sauce pan and bring to a simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove from flame and cool. Once brine is cool, pour into a 2 gallon container and place legs into the brine and let set for 12 hours covered in the refrigerator. If running short on time you do not have to simmer the brine as we demonstrated.
Pour brine through a colander and discard liquid. Place pheasant legs in a roasting pan and cover with some of the remaining mixture from the colander. Melt the fat and pour over the duck.
Place pan in a 250 degree oven for 4to6 hours or until the meat falls of the bones. Start with 4 hours and check in 30 minute increments. Cool and store in duck fat. (You may leave it in the fridge for several weeks; just make sure the legs are covered completely in fat)
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