Pheasant Piccata

5 from 18 votes
Comment
Jump to Recipe

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Finished pheasant piccata recipe on the plate
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

I did not enjoy an especially lavish childhood — in fact, times were downright hard in some of my early years. But the one little luxury my mother and stepfather allowed themselves was eating out at restaurants. In fact, it’d be fair to say that I grew up in restaurants. And in one restaurant in particular: The Sleepy Hollow.

I can’t exactly remember where in New Jersey it stood, although Scotch Plains or Fanwood rings a bell. I am pretty sure it closed years ago, alas.

But you know what it looked like. Every town had a place like this in the 1970s and early 1980s: Big, dark, wood panels, a great bar with sports always playing, a fireplace that was never lit, and a white-linen dining area where all the hoary greats of the age were served: Duchess potatoes, asparagus with hollandaise, shrimp scampi, a prime rib so good it remains the standard to which I measure all others — and, if you are feeling like a lighter dinner, chicken piccata.

Chicken piccata is one of a triumvirate of similarly prepared classics, the others being saltimbocca and marsala. They were always either veal or chicken, and when I was not allowed to order the prime rib (it being reserved for special dinners) I would order these dishes in procession week after week.

You heard right. My parents lived in that restaurant. My stepfather Frank used to hold court at the bar almost every day after work, and for a time we ate dinner there almost every night. I became an expert at whichever video game the restaurant had tucked into its one quiet corner; I remember being a god of an odd game that involved a mouse named Mappy.

I drank gallons of some sort of “virgin” cocktail variant of a Tom Collins, then had my way with Shirley Temple before settling on straight ginger ale. I liked ginger ale. It made me feel like an adult, and it was the same color as Frank’s J&B. I ordered my ginger ale in exactly the same glass with exactly the same amount of ice as he did. It’s a wonder I never developed a taste for J&B…

I loved The Hollow. Watched many a football game there; it’s where I developed my Monday Night Football habit. Grew from a boy into a man at there, actually. Hit on my first waitress at the Hollow, snuck my first drink there and grew so comfortable in the place I was practically the restaurant’s mascot. It’s probably why I became a cook, and probably why I love being in restaurants so much today. I miss it.

And I miss those old dishes. They’re like that special blanket you had as a kid that mom would throw on the bed when it was extra cold. You may not cook the classics for years — decades, even — but you know that they’re in the closet of your mind, waiting to warm you when you need a little comfort.

I don’t cook with chicken much anymore, as I don’t buy meat these days. But I do have pheasants in the freezer, and a pheasant is just a wild chicken, after all. It is a perfect bird for piccata. Any white meat bird is, actually. And I see no reason not to make this with a pounded wild boar loin cutlet, or maybe even a fish fillet.

A classic piccata recipe starts with a veal or chicken cutlet, the thinner the better, which is lightly floured (not breaded) and sauteed in olive oil and butter. You want both fats in there, not because of some smoke point issue, but for flavor.

Once the cutlets are done, you add lemon juice and white wine to the pan, deglaze it, add capers, boil it down, turn off the heat and swirl in some more butter. Garnish with parsley. Curly parsley, if you want to be very 1978.

Finished pheasant piccata recipe on the plate
5 from 18 votes

Chicken or Pheasant Piccata

Piccata is a very easy dish to make, except for one point: To make the sauce properly, it must be finished with sweet (unsalted) butter off the heat. Skip this and the sauce will break. Have everything ready to go before you start cooking because this dish comes together quickly. Chicken and veal cutlets are classic here, but I use pounded pheasant breasts. Slices of a turkey breast would be good here, too, as would a cutlet made from wild boar or bear loin. You could also do it with grouse or partridge breasts.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 4 people
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients 

  • 4 to 8 pheasant, chicken, partridge or grouse breasts, skinless and boneless
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, divided
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons small capers
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Instructions 

  • Put each breast between two sheets of plastic wrap and pound them flat with a rubber mallet, empty wine bottle or meat mallet. You want them about 1/4 inch thin if you can. Better to err on being too thick than thin. Salt and pepper the cutlets well and dust with the flour. White flour is traditional here, but I like to pair darker flours with game, so I use whole wheat, rye or spelt flour.
  • Get the oil and half of the butter hot over medium high heat, and saute to the floured breasts for 3 minutes on one side, 2 minutes on the other. You may need to do this in batches. Move to a plate and tent with foil.
  • Pour in the lemon juice and white wine and scrape any brown bits off the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Add the capers and boil this down by half over high heat, maybe 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and put the pheasant breasts on serving plates. Put the remaining butter in the saute pan and swirl it around until it melts. The sauce should be emulsified and smooth. Pour over the pheasant and garnish with the parsley.

Notes

Serve with mashed potatoes or good bread. An austere white wine, like a Chenin blanc or a Pinot Grigio, would be typical, but I ate most of my piccata with ginger ale. Of course, I was 10 years old at the time...

Nutrition

Calories: 377kcal | Carbohydrates: 14g | Protein: 26g | Fat: 22g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Cholesterol: 103mg | Sodium: 247mg | Potassium: 467mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 557IU | Vitamin C: 7mg | Calcium: 15mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe? Tag me today!Mention @huntgathercook or tag #hankshaw!

You May Also Like

Green Chile Chicken Soup

A recipe for Southwestern style green chile chicken soup, with roasted green Hatch chiles, white beans, greens and a rich broth.

British Game Pie

How to make hand-raised pies with game. This one is a huntsman’s pie, an English classic hand pie made with a hot water crust.

Ethiopian Doro Wat

A recipe for Ethiopian doro wat, a spicy stewed chicken dish. This recipe is how we made doro wat when I worked at an Ethiopian restaurant.

Fried Pheasant

Yes, you fry pheasants! Here’s a recipe for pickle-brined, fried pheasant you’ll love. Works great with grouse and partridge, too.

About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating




26 Comments

  1. I somehow hit 40 years having never heard of chicken piccata. My wife was incredulous when I ran ran this recipe past her with the pheasant in the fridge in mind. She couldn’t believe I’d never heard of the recipe. I had to try it and when I did, I couldn’t believe I’d never heard of it either. It is SO GOOD!

  2. This was so tasty! I rushed my pluck on my new GSP puppies first wild pheasant so I decided to try this and it was SO GOOD!

  3. This recipe is bomb. I was not doing doing the pheasants I shot justice with how I cooked them until I found this recipe and brined them. Thank you author

  4. Recipe was simple and fantastic. Paired it wil some mashed potatoes, and converted some leftover cauliflower soup into gravy for the spuds. I was in and out of the kitchen faster than she could say “That’s what she said.”

    Instead of browning in olive oil I had my cast iron which was left with mornings bacon residue. (Because I was too lazy to clean the pan, not because I subscribe to the wrap all wild game in bacon culture.)

  5. My boys and I were out the day after Thanksgiving and got a couple of birds that we just prepared for the family last night. Sorry Hank, we didn’t hang them as you’ve suggested but I can’t imagine them being any better than if we had. This is an excellent recipe that allows the true taste of pheasant without compromising it with adulterous additions. Thanks for another fantastic recipe

  6. I made this with a wild turkey breast. 5 stars! Tip: you have to cut the breast up into smaller pieces in order to pound the meat out very thin. I used maybe 7 or 8 pieces. I loved the crispy outside, tender juicy inside. And the tangy sauce. The directions are exactly right, including the cooking times.

  7. This is a great recipe…i used a similar one on chukar last week….awesome. Funny about the restaurant and the 70’s reference…i grew up in bucks County, pa. Similar establishments there were the chalfont inn and the blue bell which was out in valley forge.

  8. Hank, I first came across your website a few years ago while looking for olive curing info. Love your site and got a kick out of talking about you with my co-worker John O’Dell at AGFD. Just tried your pheasant piccata recipe this weekend. Fantastic! I also loved the Doves a la Mancha. So glad you’ve helped me like dove! Making your pheasant and dumplings tonight!
    Thanks for all the great info.

  9. I love piccata, its a standard for me and so simple. I’d imagine wild boar would be wonderful with this recipe, as I frequently use the thin cut pork lions you find at markets in place of chicken. Given the superior taste of wild pig, it will probably be even more tasty than standard recipes. Another alternative I’ve used is fresh albacore loin; its meaty texture does well, and its not unlike chicken or upland game birds. I done this with bluefin too, but….its rare I get a chance to bring home really fresh bluefin from the SoCal grounds, so I feel they deserve something a little more complicated.

  10. Hank,
    I love Chicken Piccata and the recipe looks amazing. One drawback, I hate capers! I first had this dish in upstate NY and I don’t remember them having capers in it. Do you have to have capers? Is there a paste I can use instead? I’m not a pea person either so you can see where this is coming from. I would really appreciate your opinion for I’d love to have this dish again.
    Pam

  11. Hi Hank,
    I really enjoyed the walk down memory lane with you, especially the Prime Rib. The 70’s really had their share of great prime rib places on the west coast too. Off course, sorry. Love the pheasant recipe, as well. Will try it for sure. In fact, all the recipes that I read sound scrumptious and the pics are great. Thank you so much for sharing!

  12. “A pheasant is just a wild chicken, after all.” Yes! Thanks for saying that, as I now feel a little better about the fact I sub pheasant for chicken in any recipe with great results. 🙂

  13. Hank you are always interesting. Wondering how well this Piccata might pair with a really good Ginger Ale and just the right amount of ice.

  14. Bless you for all your wonderful and rather delicious pheasant recipes. Can be a rather challenging bird to cook at times. You do this beautiful and noble bird justice on the table.

  15. The Chicken Piccata looks mouthwatering. I can’t wait to try out this dish on my own. I am not a kitchen type of a man but my wife would surely love a nice and lovely homemade Piccata for a romantic dinner. Thank you for sharing this.

  16. Timely recipe as bird hunting season is only a week and a half away for me. I putting this recipe on my queue.