Pheasant with Apples
January 22, 2013 | Updated April 29, 2020
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There is something about the combination of pheasant and apples that just sings. For that matter, chicken with apples, or hell, any poultry with apples is pretty awesome.
I have no idea why it works, but it just does. Duck and Apples is another one of my go-to dishes in winter. This dish is properly called Pheasant Normandy and is a wild game variation of a French classic done with chicken.
I first learned about chicken Normandy while watching Emeril Lagasse, of all things; he made it on his stand-and-stir show nearly 20 years or so ago. Been making it ever since.
This recipe is a simple mix of sweet onions, gently cooked apples, cider, cream, brandy and chicken… or pheasant in this case. There is no special technique involved here, no great difficulty or esoteric ingredients.
Obviously you will want decent ingredients: Brandy you’d be happy drinking, good cream, fresh cider — regular cider, not hard cider — as well as cooking apples like Fuji or Gala. Granny Smiths work, too.
You will enjoy this more if you use pheasant thighs, leaving the legs, with all their sinew, for another dish. That said, as you can see from the picture, legs are fine, too, especially if you know the trick to removing pheasant tendons.
This is comfort food, and all it asks of you is a little time.
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 cooking apples, cored and sliced into wedges
- Flour for dredging
- 4 to 6 pheasant legs with thighs
- 1 large onion, sliced root to top
- 1/2 cup Calvados or other apple brandy
- 2 cups apple cider
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
- Salt the pheasant legs and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of the butter in a Dutch oven or another large, oven-proof pan over medium heat. Add the apple slices and sauté until they turn a little brown around the edges, turning occasionally. Sprinkle the apple slices with a little salt. Set aside on paper towels.
- Dust the pheasant in flour and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter to the pan. Brown the pheasant for 3 to 5 minutes per side. Remove from pan and set aside.
- Add the onion and increase the heat to medium-high. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until they just begin to brown, about 5 to 8 minutes.
- Take the pan off the heat and pour in the brandy. Put the pan back on the heat and, using a wooden spoon, scrape any browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Let the brandy boil until it has reduced by about half. Add the cider and bring it to a boil. Add the thyme. Lay the pheasant legs in the pan, cover and simmer gently until tender, anywhere from 90 minutes to 2 1/2 hours.
- Fish out the pheasant legs and strip the meat off the bones if you want to. Turn the heat to high, add the apples and boil down the sauce by half. When the sauce gets a little syrupy, turn off the heat and add the cream. Add salt to taste. Serve by spooning some apples and onions on everyone's plate and topping it with the pheasant.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
I first saw a recipe for this in a fancy cook book belonging to a friend. It called for two whole pheasants , which were browned on the range top, and then onion, apple, brandy, some lemon juice and the cream (no cider that I remember) were added and is was slow 300-325 in the oven in a dutch oven. The liquid, which was well curdled, was then run through a blender or food processor to get a smooth appetizing finish. The result was delicious old school French. I would move that way for whole pheasants, but Hank’s approach looks like the way to go for pieces.
This recipe is great, one of my favorites to make every year.
I had boneless, skinless pheasant breasts from a friend’s recent hunt, so I did a riff off your recipe. I pounded the pheasant breasts thin (like a veal cutlet), lightly dredged them in flour with salt, and pan fried them quickly in butter (just 2-3 minutes cooking time per side). Once done, I set them aside and used a used a little brandy to deglaze the pan. Then, I reserved the sauce (in a small bowl). Next I cooked the onion with a little more butter, then added the apples with the time and sautéed for a few minutes. Finally, I added back in the reserved sauce (from deglazing) with a little extra water and chicken base (I didn’t have any cider on hand); I rapidly simmered until the apples were soft and the sauce was the consistency of a thin gravy. I added the whipping cream and nestled the breasts back in the pan to warm up a little. My family RAVED about this dinner. Thanks so much – I know you cooked yours a little differently, but this is an AMAZING recipe for pheasant! Very versatile!
If you want to take it up a nautch try this: 1) dredge the apple wedges in cinnamon. allspice and real nutmeg. 2) Fry the wedged apples each side to get a crust on each. 3) use calvados instead of brandy. 4) after cooking legs use calvados flambee’ the plan. 5) do not add apples back into this stew until legs are soft and ready. I cook this with Shallots, sometimes add celery too. but its always good. If you have a good source of hard cider use that instead of plain. cheers
Made this a few weeks ago. Was very approachable for a French recipe. My wife and I both loved it. Doing again tomorrow night to share with friends.
I have fallen in love with this website and all the recipes just leave me feeling sooo hungry. I have a friend whose hunting trip yesterday yielded 7 undressed pheasant for my deep freezer. I am looking to use one whole one skinned and am wondering if I can do this recipe with a whole skinned pheasant if cut into pieces?. Would I need to add breast meat last to the pan? Or should I just roast the bird and make a apple/cider gravy for the side?
I made this recipe last night and served it with pan fried rosemary potatoes, oven roasted carrots with peas, and a bottle of Albemarle Ciderworks Virginia Hewe’s Crab hard cider. My wife declared it one of the best meals she’s eaten, and who am I to argue? The meal was made even more satisfying by the fact that almost all ingredients were our own.
Made this today and it was fabulous! Both my little ones mopped up their plates. Amazing flavors!
Best website ever!
I’m a farmer and an avid outdoors man who loves to cook.
This is simply the best site ever.
So would this recipe be doable with pheasant leg confit?
Allan: Either way is fine.
Do you leave the skin on the apple slices?
That’s some darned rustic looking flatware! I like it.
We just happened to have all the ingredients for this in the house….(well, not calvados, but we have a great neighborhood liquor store just around the corner)…it was wonderful! Great start for cooking up my son’s first few pheasants, I hope he has a long life of such tasty eating before him. Thank you!
This is one of my husband’s signature dishes and it is truly delicious. Pheasants are quite hard to come by in Provence, but in the UK in the countryside they are very cheap during the pheasant shooting season. We usually eat this at least once during the season, haven’t had it yet, so think it will be on the menu soon!
Noah: Yep. It’ll work, but don’t cook them long. Maybe 15 minutes, tops.
Would this recipe work for pheasant breasts? I have some in the freezer (used the legs to make pheasant and dumplings). I have a couple of whole birds that I plucked, but have other plans for them.
Oh Thanks. I have been dreaming of a recipe for using my raw milk/cream and my cache of brandy, and you nicely shared yours. Thanks.
Great idea, I’ve just got myself a couple of partridges so ill try it this week end. Here in the uk there’s a food writer called Diana Henry. In her book “food from plenty” she does a similar dish with apples and cider, I add some stock and pearl barly to it. She also does a variation with ale
And bacon which is worth checking out. It’s a great book.