Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Whenever I purchase parsnips in the grocery store, I'm always mystified by their thick coating of wax. Is there something precious and delicate about parsnips that this seemingly hardy root vegetable needs to be waxed before transport? Does the parsnip company somehow think that thick coats of chunky whitish wax somehow increase the appeal of the humble parsnip? I'm still trying to figure that one out, but now, thanks to my CSA share, I happily get parsnips with good old-fashioned dirt on them instead of that weird waxy stuff.
But regardless if your parsnips have wax or dirt, wash them, peel them, and make this. This is one of those dishes where I sat down for dinner, poured my small weeknight glass of wine, took a bite and let out a little groan of "oh my goodness this is yummy" pleasure. The wine-based sauce is wonderful, and by simmering the pheasant with the parsnips, the parsnips lend a sweetness to the pan sauce that's unexpected and delicious.
The original recipe from Food & Wine magazine originally included chicken thighs, but pheasant pieces worked great. Our family hunts pheasant in stubble fields of northern North Dakota and it's one of my favorite game meats. I find I can substitute it for chicken with a few tweaks:
- As pheasant can be tough, I often braise it in some sort of liquid or sauce.
- As with all lean game meats, I'm extra sensitive to overcooking and try to time it right to discourage any additional toughness in the meat.
- I prefer to let the flavor of the pheasant come through, with lighter sauces and more herbal seasonings rather than drowning it out in canned soup or too much seasoned salt.
The original recipe braised in a hot oven, but I just let the pot simmer on the stovetop. And while dinner was cooking, I took another sip of chardonnay, composted my parsnip peels, and made space for a quiet moment of thankfulness.
Chardonnay-Braised Pheasant with Parsnips
2 Tbls. butter
2 Tbls. olive oil
2 lbs. pheasant pieces
Salt and pepper
2 small onions, roughly chopped
1 lb. parsnips, peeled and cut into 3 and 1/2" batons
1 rosemary sprig
1 cup Chardonnay or other dry white wine
1 cup chicken broth
In a Dutch oven, melt the butter in the oil. Season the pheasant with salt and pepper. Add the pheasant and cook over high heat, turning once, until browned but NOT cooked through, 5 minutes total. Transfer to a plate. Add the onions, parsnips and rosemary to the skillet and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the wine and boil until reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Nestle the meat side up in the skillet, tucking it between the parsnips. Lower heat to a slow simmer and braise the pheasant half-covered for about 20 minutes, until cooked through. Remove the meat and vegetables; return the skillet to high heat and boil until the sauce is thickened, 5 minutes. Discard the rosemary sprig and serve.