Pheasant fillet dries out easily, but with sous vide it is a piece of cake to prepare it tender and juicy every time. The idea for the sauce comes from restaurant Le Due Lanterne in Nizza Monferrato, Italy. There the sauce was served with guinea fowl, but pheasant (wild game) has more flavor than guinea fowl (farmed). But you could definitely use guinea fowl or partridge instead to prepare this recipe; the time and temperature will remain the same.
An important ingredient for the sauce is pheasant stock, made from the carcass of the pheasant. You could omit it, but then the sauce will not have the same depth of flavor. If you can acquire a whole pheasant (or guinea fowl or partridge), you could first serve fresh pasta with pheasant as primo piatto followed by the fillet as secondo piatto. That way you have two wonderful dishes for a holiday feast! In yesterday’s post I have explained how to cut up the pheasant and prepare the stock.
In Italy the sauce was made with fresh porcini mushrooms. Those are hard to come by in most places. That is why I used a combination of dried porcini mushrooms and fresh oyster mushrooms (which you could replace with regular button mushrooms). The soaking liquid of the porcini provides another additional layer of flavor to the sauce.
4 pheasant breast fillets
200 grams (7 oz) oyster mushrooms, roughly chopped
30 grams (1 oz) dried porcini mushrooms
80 ml (1/3 cup) Marsala
reduced pheasant stock, from yesterday’s recipe
125 ml (1/2 cup) heavy cream
salt and freshly ground black pepper
butter or clarified butter
Season the pheasant fillets with salt on both sides and vacuum seal them. Allow them to rest for 8 to 24 hours in the refrigerator to allow the salt to penetrate into the meat. This is important for the juiciness of the pheasant.
Cook the pheasant fillets after resting sous vide for 3 hours at 55C/131F. Then chill them in the bags in cold water with ice cubes. This is important to prevent the pheasant from drying out when you sear them.
Place the dried porcini mushrooms in a bowl and add 250 ml (1 cup) of boiling water. Allow the mushrooms to soak for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, fry the coarsely chopped oyster mushrooms in olive oil in a frying pan on medium-high heat.
After 15 minutes of soaking, strain the porcini mushrooms and reserve the soaking liquid.
As soon as the oyster mushrooms are almost cooked and start to turn golden…
…add the reconstituted porcini mushrooms and fry everything for another minute.
Sift the porcini soaking liquid using kitchen paper to remove any sand…
…and add the sifted liquid to the mushrooms.
Bring this to a boil…
…then allow to reduce over medium heat until almost all (but not all) of the liquid has gone. Turn off the heat and season the mushrooms to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Up to this point, the dish can be prepared in advance. You can store the sous vide cooked pheasant fillets and the cooked mushrooms in the refrigerator.
Take the pheasant fillets out of the bag and pat them dry with kitchen paper. Before searing meat, it is always important to dry the meat well to get a good sear.
Heat clarified butter or a mix of butter and olive oil in a frying pan, and sear the pheasant fillets over high hear for 1 minute per side. This will render them golden brown and crispy on the outside, and warmed up on the inside. They have already been cooked sous vide and since the fillets are so thin, 1 minute per side suffices to bring the inside to serving temperature (see this article for an explanation). After searing, take the pheasant fillets out of the pan and wrap them in aluminum foil to keep them warm. (Place this package on a wooden surface, not metal or stone, as that will make it cool off more quickly. You could wrap the package in a towel or put it in the oven at 60C/140F to retain the heat better, along with the plates that can thus be preheated.)
Deglaze the pan with the Marsala.
Allow the Marsala to reduce to a half.
Then add the reduced pheasant stock…
…and allow it to reduce a bit more.
Now add the cream…
…and the mushrooms.
Allow this to simmer until the sauce has the desired thickness. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Take the pheasant fillets out of the aluminum foil and serve them with the sauce on preheated plates.
This is great with a full-bodied buttery oaked white wine, such as a Meursault or similar Chardonnay. If you insist on picking a red wine instead, take a red Burgundy or other Pinot Noir.
Fusilli with spinach, ricotta, and parmigiano is one of our favorite dishes that I make on a regular basis.