Saturday, March 11, 2006

Braised Pheasant w/ Sauerkraut

A few years ago, I had an ideal roommate: she was an amazing baker while I was the meat and potatoes of the operation. Together we created some tantalizing meals that impressed all around us. We were an unstoppable duo, especially in the kitchen. She moved out, we move on, and now she lives half a continent away. On a recent visit, she imparted onto me the most precious gift of all: The Art of Eating by M.F.K. Fisher.

It is a hefty volume, almost 800 pages; a collection of Fisher’s best writings on food. But its cover was the most seductive image I had laid eyes on that I eventually cracked it, finishing it in one week’s time. Today I will not indulge the reader in a full review; that is for another time. I will say it is one of those books once picked up is impossible to put down. The writing is so voluptuous is calls to be read aloud to an audience.

With each sitting I grew hungry, not only for more of Fisher’s writing, but physically. Throughout the book, recipes wrapped in Fisher’s memories are found. Before I passed this book on to another friend, I copied a few of those recipes down to satiate my appetite another day. Many seem almost archaic today (in the United States at least)—roasted pigeon-- these are recipes that must be indulged at some point in one’s lifetime.

Today I unfurl one of those copied recipes with more to come. This one if found in the section “How to Cook A Wolf.” First published in 1937, this section is a guide for the housewife on how to scrimp and save in the bowels of wartime, as well as after. How does one continue to live a life of luxury when there is none to be found?

I must suppose pheasants were easier to come by in those days. A young boy could go on a hunt with his father and return with a sack of pheasant to feed the family for a week, nary a penny spent. Today, pheasant is a luxury (at least in New York City). I was determined to create this dish (and if I could not find pheasant, Cornish Hen or something of that sort would have to do). Low and behold today at the Green Market I found Game Dealers: Wild turkeys, chickens, geese, and of course, my dear pheasant! A little on the expensive side ($20 for a good sized bird!) but it was destiny to find and had to be bought. Add to that 1pound of fresh bacon (also from the Green Market) this meal is hardly a hungry wolf—it can now pass as a starving millionaire fare.

Serving Size= 4 persons. Active Time= 45 minutes. Inactive time= 2½ - 3 hours.
This is the recipe as it appears in The Art of Eating.
* salt and pepper
* 2 small or 1 large bird (or 1 rabbit)
* bacon slices
* 3 tablespoons butter or good oil
* 1½ pounds sauerkraut
* 1 cup peeled and sliced apples
* 1 cup dry white wine (or half and half with water or vegetable stock)
* 1 tablespoon flour

Rub birds with cut lemon, and salt and pepper them. Wrap with the bacon and tie securely with twine. Heat the fat and brown the birds.
Wash the drained sauerkraut (unless it is very mild, [t]hen just drain it). Place a layer of it with the apple slices in the bottom of a casserole and imbed the birds. Cover with the rest of the kraut and apple, add the liquid, and cover closely. Let simmer very slowly for about 2 hours.
Put the birds on a hot plate, and thicken the kraut with the flour. Make nests in it, and replace the birds in them, ready to serve.

On non-food related musings, here is WCB # 40 over at Eat Stuff. Below we have Whiskey and Kitty BoJangles sitting at the first open window of the year...

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