This is a rustic but delicious pheasant pie recipe I was inspired to make after reading Fergus Henderson’s The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating. Fergus has a recipe for pheasant and pig’s trotter pie, and this is reasonably close to that recipe, but not quite; I can’t help messing with things, I guess.
All this pheasant pie recipe is is a thick stew of pheasant, pork broth and shredded pigs trotters, with some potatoes thrown in for heft and a top crust that is essentially a pie crust with some goose fat in it. Can you use chicken? I suppose, but find a stewing hen from an ethnic market.
The key to success here is really the pig trotters. No, there’s no real meat on them, but I can think of nothing that has more ooey collagen and rich fat than a hog trotter; you can get them from a butcher, or a Latin or Asian market. You first make a broth with the trotters, along with other cheap pig bits (tail, ears, etc.) if you have them, carrots, celery, carrots, and herbs.
This broth becomes the glue for the stew. There’s so much gel in it that the pie sets up even while hot. Trust me, it’s not like Jell-O — although it is when cold. It’s really the perfect foil for the pheasant, which, while flavorful, can tend toward dryness.
If you don’t have access to pig’s trotters, I suppose you could use other bones, or you could slip a sheet of gelatin into the broth.
The pie crust is thick and acts more like a drop biscuit dough, but even though it’s very rich, it sops up some of the stew juices and becomes an integral part of the dish. Can you skip it and just eat this as a stew? Sure. But then it wouldn’t be a pie…
Make this dish when it is cold out. It is a perfect lunch after shoveling snow or walking in a winter wood.
One more thing: Guinness stout is probably the best accompaniment I can think of for pheasant pie, but I suppose you could drink a burly, tannic wine. Maybe a Petit Verdot or a young California Cabernet Franc?
- 4 tablespoons lard or goose fat, divided
- 1 pheasant, cut into large pieces but on the bone
- 2 pig's feet
- 2 quarts chicken stock
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon crushed juniper berries
- 1 tablespoon cracked black pepper
- 1 pound Yukon Gold or other waxy potatoes, cut into chunks
- 2 shallots, minced
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped roughly
- 1 celery stalk, chopped fine
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1 tablespoon thyme
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 stick butter chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
- 1/4 cup duck fat or lard
- 2 egg yolks
- Heat 2 tablespoons of the duck fat in a pot and brown the pheasant pieces. When they are browned, add the pig's feet, stock, juniper berries, pepper and bay leaves, adding more water as needed. Simmer this until the meats are falling off the bone, which should take about 2 to 3 hours.
- Pick the skin, fat and other yummy stuff from the pheasant and trotters and cut them into rough, 1/2 inch pieces.
- Put the potatoes in the broth and cook until tender. Remove and reserve. Cook the broth down by half, strain it and salt it to taste.
- While the broth is simmering, mix the flour and salt, then the butter in a food processor. The butter must be very cold, so put the chunks in the freezer for 15 minutes before pulsing the mixture together 4 to 6 times. After this is done, add the goose fat or lard and pulse a few more times until the mix looks like polenta.
- Add 3 to 5 tablespoons of water to the dough and buzz it a few times. Remove and clump it into a ball, then flatten it somewhat/ Dust with flour and cover in plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough while the pheasant and pig's feet cook.
- Preheat oven to 350°F. In a shallow casserole, heat the other 2 tablespoons of duck fat over medium-high heat and cook the celery, shallot and garlic until soft. Add the potatoes, meats, thyme and wine. Add a bit of salt. When everything is in, move everything to a pie dish, then add the stock up to the level of the meats.
- Roll out the dough flat enough to cover the pie dish. Cover the stew with the crust. Cut some holes in the top to let steam escape. Paint the crust with the egg yolks. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes; the crust should be nice and brown. Remove and let stand for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.