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Pheasant Legs with Mushrooms

French style braised pheasant

Photo by Holly A. Heyser

This is an adaptation of a chicken recipe that appears in Paula Wolfert’s The Cooking of Southwest France, only I am switching out a few things to make it more appropriate for pheasant or partridge; not that this isn’t good with chicken — I first made it with rooster thighs.

It is important to have good meat here. Pheasant or chukar or partridge legs and thighs are ideal, as would those of a relatively old chicken or rooster. You could do this with wild or domestic turkey thighs, too. If someone tries this with a sage grouse, let me know, as I think it’d be sublime.

It is also vital to have quality stock (homemade if possible), a variety of mushrooms (not just buttons), and a wine you would drink by itself. And, of course, the dish is best with verjus, the juice of unripe grapes. You can buy verjus here for the real deal, or sub in lemon juice or a smidge of white wine vinegar. As for the mushrooms, you can buy an excellent selection of fresh and dried mushrooms online from Earthy Delights.

This recipe serves 4 with a salad and some roasted potatoes.

  • 4-6 large chicken or turkey thighs, or whole leg-thighs of pheasants
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 12-24 whole peeled garlic cloves
  • 1/2 to 1 pound fresh mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 quart chicken, turkey, pheasant or vegetable stock
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 6 tablespoons verjus
  • 2 tablespoons minced parsley
  1. In a large Dutch oven or pot, heat the butter over medium heat, then brown the thighs well. Take your time and keep the heat on medium so the milk solids in the butter do not burn.
  2. Remove the pheasant legs and add the garlic cloves and mushrooms. Turn the heat up to medium-high and stir well. You may need another tablespoon of butter, as mushrooms soak up a lot. Cook, stirring often, until the garlic begins to brown. Do not let the garlic burn.
  3. Deglaze the pot with the white wine; turn the heat up to high. Cover and steam for 2 minutes, then uncover and let the wine cook down by half.
  4. Heat the stock to a simmer in another pot.
  5. Make some room for the pheasant in the pot and nestle them in, skin side up. Pour in the hot stock up to the level of the skin and cover. Do not submerge the crispy skin. Turn the heat to low and simmer for 30-60 minutes, depending on how old the pheasant was, how large the turkey is, if you are using chukars, etc.
  6. Uncover and simmer for another 10-30 minutes, again, depending on the age and size of the thighs. Basically you want to simmer the meat until it is tender and cook the sauce down.
  7. When the thighs are tender, remove them and place under the broiler until the skin crisps up, about 2-3 minutes.
  8. Meanwhile, add the verjus and the parsley, stir well and cook over low heat. 
  9. To serve, spoon some of the garlic and mushrooms out with a slotted spoon and place a pheasant thigh on top. Spoon some sauce underneath and enjoy with a dry white wine.

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3 responses to “Pheasant Legs with Mushrooms”

  1. Braised Pheasant with Pears—Slow cooking to soften up a running bird

    […] out with fruity flavours in the braise. Apples, sweet Madeira wine, or even sharp verjus (the juice from unripe grapes). For my dish, I went for another great match – the pear. […]

  2. Tim Quinn

    I don’t have verjus, and would like to cook the pheasant (sold as pheasant, but actually guinea hen) tonight. What would you suggest as a subtitute for it? I do have some grapes growing outside, but likely not 6 T. worth.)

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