Appetites: A Cookbook - Anthony Bourdain (2016)

10. BIRDS

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ROAST CHICKEN WITH LEMON AND BUTTER

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Everyone should know how to roast a chicken. It’s a life skill that should be taught to small children at school. The ability to properly prepare a moist yet thoroughly cooked bird, with nicely crisp skin, should be a hallmark of good citizenry—an obligation to your fellow man. Everyone walking down the street should be reasonably confident that the random person next to them is prepared, if called upon, to roast a chicken.

It seems like a simple thing. Yet there’s a reason this task was a traditional test of a new cook’s basic skills when auditioning for the great kitchens of Europe. It’s as easy, if not easier, to fuck it up as to do it right.

Respect the chicken!

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Serves 4

1 best-quality chicken (about 2½ pounds), preferably organic

Sea salt to taste

Crushed black peppercorns to taste

4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter

10 sprigs fresh thyme

1 fresh bay leaf

½ lemon, cut into 4 wedges

1 cup dry white wine

Juice of 1 lemon (about 2 tablespoons)

1½ cups chicken stock

¼ cup finely chopped fresh parsley

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Pommes Anna

SPECIAL EQUIPMENT

Butcher’s twine (optional)

Preheat the oven to 450˚F.

Rub the bird inside and out with salt and crushed peppercorns. Stuff a ½-tablespoon knob of butter under the skin of each side of the breast, and under the skin of each thigh. Stuff the thyme, bay leaf, and lemon wedges into the chicken’s cavity.

Use the tip of a paring knife to poke a small hole in the skin just below each of the chicken’s legs, and tuck each leg carefully into that hole. (You may also truss the chicken with butcher’s twine if you know how, but this is much simpler.)

Place the chicken in a flame-proof roasting pan and roast for 30 to 40 minutes, rotating the pan, moving it to different parts of the oven to account for hot spots, and basting the bird two or three times with a bulb-top baster or long-handled metal spoon. Reduce the oven’s heat to 300˚F and continue to roast, basting frequently, for another 30 to 40 minutes or until the bird is done: When you poke the fat part of the thigh with the paring knife, the juices should run clear.

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Remove the bird from the oven, let it rest 15 minutes, then remove the breasts and legs from the carcass, reserving everything. Use a ladle to skim off and discard as much surface fat from the pan juices as possible. Place the roasting pan on the stovetop over high heat and stir in the wine and lemon juice, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to dislodge and dissolve the browned bits. Bring this mixture to a boil and cook until it is reduced by half. Stir in the stock with the wooden spoon, bring to a boil, and reduce again by half. Remove from the heat and strain this sauce through a sieve into a medium, heavy-bottom saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons butter, a tablespoon at a time, until the sauce is thick and glossy. Fold in the parsley and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper as necessary.

Serve the chicken—half of the breast plus a drumstick or a thigh per person—with the sauce ladled over, pommes Anna alongside, and any remaining sauce in a sauceboat on the table.

CHICKEN POT PIE

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The model, the Platonic ideal for this recipe, is the Horn & Hardart version. My dad worked two jobs in those days—managing Willoughby’s camera store in Manhattan by day and being a floor manager at the nearby Sam Goody in the evenings. Sometimes my mom, my brother, and I would pick him up after work, and we’d go for late dinner at Horn & Hardart in the Garden State Plaza in Paramus, New Jersey. The chicken pot pie was delicious, though it never had enough chicken. This one addresses that problem.

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Serves 4 to 6

3 cups Dark Universal Stock or chicken stock

3 pounds chicken thighs, with skin and bones, visible fat trimmed and discarded

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 pound russet potatoes (about 3 large potatoes), peeled and diced

6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter

8 pearl onions, peeled, trimmed, and quartered lengthwise

2 medium carrots, peeled and diced

2 ribs celery, diced

Leaves from 5 to 7 sprigs fresh thyme

4 to 8 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped

½ teaspoon celery salt

¼ cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

1 cup whole milk

½ cup frozen sweet peas

1 batch Savory Pastry Dough, rolled to ¼-inch thickness

1 egg, beaten

In a medium, heavy-bottom saucepot, bring the stock to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and add the chicken. Poach the chicken in the stock for about 10 minutes, then remove from the heat, cover, and let sit for 25 to 30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken from the stock with tongs; do not discard the stock. Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove and discard the skin and bones, and shred or coarsely chop the chicken, keeping large chunks mostly intact. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 400˚F.

Add the potatoes to the warm stock and bring it back to a high simmer. Cook the potatoes in the stock for 5 to 8 minutes, until they are somewhat tender but not cooked through, as they will continue to cook in the oven. Remove from the stock with a slotted spoon and set aside with the chicken.

In a medium, heavy-bottom sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium-high heat until it foams and subsides. Add the onions, carrots, celery, thyme, sage, and celery salt and cook over medium heat until the vegetables are somewhat tender but not completely cooked through. Remove from the heat, season the vegetables with salt and pepper, and set aside with the chicken and potatoes.

Make sure you have both a whisk and a wooden spoon nearby, and something to rest them on. You will be switching back and forth between the two utensils as you first make a roux and then build on that to make a béchamel.

In a clean saucepot, heat the remaining 4 tablespoons butter until it foams and subsides, then stir in the flour with the wooden spoon and continue to cook and stir for 1 to 2 minutes, until the flour is slightly fragrant and just beginning to brown. Whisk in the milk and 1 cup of the reserved stock, whisking constantly to break up the flour and butter paste and quickly incorporate it into the milk. Switch to the wooden spoon and continue to stir, reaching all corners of the bottom of the pot to keep any flour from sticking and scorching, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. Remove from the heat, season with salt and pepper, and stir in the reserved chicken, potatoes, cooked vegetables, and peas. Add a splash of the reserved stock if necessary to keep the matrix loose and liquid.

Transfer the mixture to a 9 x 13 (or similar size) baking dish and use a rolling pin to roll out the dough to roughly 10 × 14 inches, dusting liberally with flour. Roll the dough onto the rolling pin and carefully roll it out over the chicken mixture in the baking dish, folding over the edges and fluting with a fork. Cut four 1-inch slits in the top of the dough with a paring knife. Place the baking dish on a sheet pan and bake in the oven for 20 minutes, then remove from the oven and brush the dough with the beaten egg. Bake another 10 to 15 minutes, until the dough is golden brown and the liquid has begun to bubble and steam through the slits. Serve hot from the oven.

SAVORY PASTRY DOUGH

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Makes one 10 × 14 crust

12 ounces (approximately 2⅓ cups) all-purpose flour

Pinch of salt

½ pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

½ cup ice water

SPECIAL EQUIPMENT

Food processor

Place the flour, salt, and butter in the bowl of the food processor and turn the machine on, processing until the ingredients form a cohesive whole. With the machine still running, add the water all at once; turn off the machine as soon as the dough binds and comes away from the sides of the bowl. Roll it all into a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, then roll out and bake as directed.

KOREAN FRIED CHICKEN

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There are many ways to make tasty fried chicken, and I like them all, but I’m particularly enamored of the Korean way, which requires some planning ahead but is extremely satisfying. The blanching and freezing technique was lifted from Danny Bowien at Mission Chinese, who does this with his chicken wings. The freezing step makes this dish into a two-day affair, and you’ll need to clear some room in your freezer, but it’s essential for extra-crisp results.

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Serves 6 to 8

FOR THE MARINADE

1 cup roasted chili oil

¼ cup kosher salt

1 tablespoon medium/fine gochugaru (ground Korean red pepper)

FOR THE CHICKEN

4 pounds chicken legs, separated into thighs and drumsticks

About 4 quarts peanut or soy oil, for frying

1 cup potato starch or tapioca starch

FOR THE SAUCE

1 cup gochujang (fermented Korean pepper paste)

8 garlic cloves

½ cup pure maple syrup

1 tablespoon soy sauce

2 teaspoons fish sauce

¼ cup cheongju (Korean rice wine)

¼ cup Frank’s RedHot sauce

2 teaspoons MSG (optional but recommended)

TO SERVE

Korean-Style Radish Pickles

SPECIAL EQUIPMENT

Deep-fry or candy thermometer

2 sheet pans lined with newspaper

2 cooling racks, each approximately the same size as the sheet pans

Food processor or immersion blender

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the chili oil, salt, and gochugaru. Add the chicken and toss to coat with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to an hour.

Add frying oil to a large, deep, straight-sided frying pan (or other vessel suited to frying chicken) so that it is no more than half full. Bring to 300˚F over medium heat, monitoring the temperature with a deep-fry thermometer.

Place the potato starch in a shallow bowl. Working in batches, remove the chicken from the marinade, letting the excess drip off, then toss into the potato starch to coat.

Set the cooling racks over each lined sheet pan.

Working in batches, carefully transfer the chicken to the hot oil. Blanch in the oil for 6 to 8 minutes per side, turning the chicken as necessary. The chicken should be opaque looking, and about 75 percent cooked through. (If you’re unsure, cut into a piece of chicken to inspect the doneness from the inside.) Use tongs or a slotted spoon to remove the chicken to the cooling rack, and continue until all of the chicken has been blanched.

Once it is completely cool, transfer the chicken to a clean sheet pan (or remove the rack and discard the newspaper from one pan), wrap it tightly with plastic wrap, and freeze for 8 hours or overnight.

The next day, combine the gochujang, garlic, maple syrup, soy sauce, fish sauce, cheongju, hot sauce, and, if using, the MSG in the food processor and blend well. This is the sauce that you will brush the chicken with as it comes out of its finishing fry.

Pull the chicken from the freezer and unwrap it about 1 hour before cooking.

Add frying oil to your pan or pot so that it is no more than half full. Bring it to 350˚F over medium heat, again monitoring the temperature with the thermometer. Set up your lined sheet pans with the cooling racks. Working in small batches, fry the chicken for 10 to 12 minutes, rotating in the oil as needed, until golden brown. Let drain and cool slightly on the cooling rack, then use a pastry brush to coat each piece with the sauce. Serve with the radish pickles and cold beer.

CAST-IRON GRILLED CHICKEN

Outdoor grills, and the space to operate them safely, are tough to come by in New York City, but anyone can use a cast-iron grill pan to get real char on their food. Chicken thighs are tender and forgiving, and don’t necessarily require a marinade, so you could simply season them and throw them on a hot cast-iron grill with great results. However, the yogurt marinade here lets you add to the flavor with spices and herbs that would otherwise get scorched in cooking, and the texture of cooked chicken that’s been marinated in yogurt reminds me of street meat, without the explosive diarrhea.

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Serves 4 to 6

1½ cups plain whole milk yogurt

¼ cup olive oil

1 tablespoon ground cumin

15 cardamom pods, crushed

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 to 2½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs

1 to 2 tablespoons canola or grapeseed oil, for brushing the grill

Salt to taste

Frank’s RedHot sauce (optional)

SPECIAL EQUIPMENT

Cast-iron grill pan or grill

Instant-read thermometer

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the yogurt, olive oil, cumin, cardamom, oregano, and pepper. Place the chicken in a plastic zip-seal bag or nonreactive container with lid, and pour the yogurt mixture over, making sure each piece of chicken is evenly coated on all sides. Seal or cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.

Preheat the oven to 400˚F (or if using an actual outdoor grill, light it).

Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes. Rub a grill pan with 1 to 2 tablespoons canola oil, depending on its size. Begin to heat the grill pan over high heat; you’ll know it’s ready to go when you can see waves of heat shimmering off it. This would be a good time to turn on your kitchen vent and turn any other fans on.

Remove the chicken from the marinade, letting any excess drip off. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and season it liberally with salt. Place on the hot grill pan and let cook, undisturbed, for 6 to 7 minutes, so that it is distinctly grill marked. Using tongs, turn the chicken to cook on the other side for about 5 minutes, then transfer the chicken, still on the grill pan, to the hot oven to finish cooking for about 10 minutes. The internal temperature should be 150˚F at the thickest part. Remove from the oven, let rest for a few minutes, then serve, sliced or whole, with hot sauce if desired.

POULET “EN VESSIE”: HOMMAGE À LA MÈRE BRAZIER

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This is a riff on a French classic, perfected by the legendary Mère Brazier in Lyon. The original calls for a heavily truffled chicken to be painstakingly steamed inside an inflated pig bladder. As pig bladders are increasingly difficult to come by, I give you this alternate version.

It’s a perfect combination of extravagant and austere. It’s basically a steamed chicken, after all. But what a chicken!

If you don’t fuck this up, it will impress the shit out of your guests.

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Serves 4 to 6

1 small leek, white and light green parts only

1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into 3 pieces

1 rib celery, cut into 3 pieces

3 garlic cloves, peeled

1 cup dry white wine

1 sprig thyme

1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

1 teaspoon white peppercorns

Freshly ground white peppercorns to taste

4 black summer truffles

1 Bresse or other high-quality chicken (about 3½ pounds), preferably with feet intact, wing tips removed at the first joint

4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 cup heavy cream

4 ounces foie gras

SPECIAL EQUIPMENT

Dutch oven or similar vessel with lid and steaming basket large enough to hold the chicken

2 yards cheesecloth

Butcher’s twine

Blender

In a large, heavy-bottom stockpot, combine the leek, carrot, celery, garlic, wine, thyme, 1 teaspoon salt, and peppercorns with 2 quarts cold water. This is your court bouillon. Bring to a boil, and cook at a boil for 15 minutes. Strain through a sieve into the Dutch oven.

Cut 1 truffle into thick slices—you’ll need enough slices to cover the chicken breast. Slip the truffle slices under the breast skin, and place 1 tablespoon butter under the skin of each side of the breast. Season the cavity with salt and black pepper and truss the chicken. Wrap it in the cheesecloth and secure it with the twine.

Bring the court bouillon to a boil, then reduce to a high simmer. Steam the chicken in the basket until cooked through, 45 to 50 minutes. Let it rest for 10 minutes before carving.

While the chicken rests, make the sauce. In the blender, combine ½ cup hot court bouillon, the remaining 2 tablespoons butter, heavy cream, foie gras, and 1½ to 2 remaining truffles (leaving enough to garnish the finished dish), cut into chunks. Season with salt and pepper and puree until smooth. Transfer to a small, heavy-bottom saucepan. Thin the sauce with additional court bouillon as needed. Warm gently for service.

Portion the chicken and serve with the sauce and sliced truffles for garnish.

ROASTED QUAIL WITH POLENTA

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Just after I first met Ottavia, I asked her about the place in Italy where she grew up. “So . . . what are the specialties of the area? Like for food?”

She looked at me like I was simple-minded, and said, “What do you mean? In the summer, we eat the feesh from the lake. In the winter, we eat the birds from the mountains!”

Later, on my first visit to the Lago di Garda area, my new father-in-law took the family to an agriturismo popular with the locals. They served game birds, roasted on spits over coals, nestled into mounds of polenta. Atop each mound was a depression, a carefully shaped crater, containing a pool of the birds’ rendered fat and juices.

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Serves 4 to 8

6 cups Dark Universal Stock

1 cup medium-coarse polenta (also known as “corn grits”)

6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter

8 whole quails (about ¼ pound each)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

8 sprigs fresh rosemary

8 sprigs fresh thyme

1 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley leaves

SPECIAL EQUIPMENT

Stovetop-safe roasting pan, preferably cast iron

In a large bowl, combine 5 cups of the stock and the polenta, stir a bit, cover, and refrigerate at least 4 hours and up to 12. (You may skip this step, which will just mean a longer cooking time—closer to 60 rather than 30 minutes. Your call.)

Preheat the oven to 500˚F. While the oven heats up—this may take 20 to 30 minutes—melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a small saucepan. Season the inside of each quail with salt and pepper and stuff them with 1 sprig each of the rosemary and thyme. Use a pastry brush to coat each quail with the melted butter, then season the outside with salt and pepper and transfer to a stovetop-safe roasting pan. Set aside—the quails will cook quickly, and you’ll need to start cooking the cornmeal first so that everything is done and hot at the same time.

Take the polenta and stock out of the fridge and transfer it to a large, heavy-bottom saucepot. Give it a quick stir and bring it to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring regularly but not necessarily constantly, for about 15 minutes. Slide the quails into the hot oven. Cook and stir the polenta for another 5 minutes, then turn the quail roasting pan and rotate the quails within it to keep them cooking more or less evenly. Let the quails roast for another 5 minutes, while you tend to the polenta, then remove them from the oven and let rest for another 5 to 10 minutes, while you finish the polenta.

Once the polenta is tender, creamy, and has absorbed all of the liquid, stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and the cheese, whip well with a wooden spoon, taste and season with salt, then remove from the heat and transfer to the center of a serving platter. Use a ladle to fashion a volcano-style depression in the center of the polenta, then arrange the quails around the edge of the platter, in the polenta.

Transfer the roasting pan to the stovetop over medium-low heat. Whisk in the remaining stock and the oil and reduce slightly, until the sauce lightly coats the back of a wooden spoon. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then fill the volcano depression with the hot sauce. Cover the whole platter with parsley and serve immediately, with napkins.

PAN-ROASTED DUCK WITH RED CABBAGE

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Do not overcook the duck breast. And you can make the cabbage the day before. It only gets better overnight.

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Serves 4

FOR THE DUCK

1 whole Muscovy duck (about 4 pounds)

1½ tablespoons kosher salt, plus more to taste

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste

6 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced, plus 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

2 sprigs fresh rosemary

6 to 8 fresh sage leaves, coarsely chopped

2 bay leaves, crumbled

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped

8 to 10 cremini mushrooms, diced (about 2 cups)

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

⅓ cup dry red wine

2 cups veal or duck stock or Dark Universal Stock

FOR THE CABBAGE

½ pound slab bacon, cut into lardons

1 large yellow onion, peeled and finely sliced

½ small head of red cabbage, cored and cut into chiffonade (about 5 cups)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1½ cups dry red wine

¼ cup red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon caraway seeds

½ teaspoon ground allspice

2 teaspoons sugar

2 cinnamon sticks

1 bay leaf

1 sprig fresh rosemary

1 sprig fresh sage

SPECIAL EQUIPMENT

5-inch square of cheesecloth

Butcher’s twine

Instant-read thermometer

With a heavy chef’s knife or boning knife, remove the breasts, with wing joint intact, from each side of the duck. Remove and save the wings tips for the duck stock and save the tenderloins for the sauce. Lightly score the skin on the duck breasts in a cross-hatch pattern, taking care not to cut into the meat.

Remove the whole leg (including the thigh) from each side of the duck carcass. Set aside the carcass with the wing tips for stock.

In a small bowl, combine the 1½ tablespoons salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper, the sliced garlic, the rosemary, sage, and bay leaves. Rub this mixture on the surface of all of the duck pieces. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.

Preheat the oven to 300˚F. Remove the duck legs from the refrigerator, rinse off the salt and herb mixture, and pat dry. Heat an ovenproof sauté pan over medium-high heat and add the legs, skin side down. Sear the legs for 5 to 7 minutes per side. Turn the legs so that the skin side is facing up. Cover the pan with foil and transfer to the oven. Roast for 1½ to 2 hours, then remove the cover, turn the legs, and roast for another 30 minutes, until the skin is crisp and the meat is very tender.

While the legs are in their last hour or so of roasting time, begin the cabbage. Heat another sauté pan over medium heat and add the bacon. Cook over medium heat until the bacon has rendered much of its fat and is golden brown. Add the onion and cook over medium heat in the bacon fat until it is translucent and soft but not yet browning. Add the cabbage, season with salt and pepper, and cook over medium-high heat until the cabbage begins to wilt and soften, about 5 minutes. Increase the heat to high and stir in the wine and vinegar. Bring to a boil and continue to cook until the liquid is reduced by half. Add the caraway seeds, allspice, and sugar. Make a sachet out of the cheesecloth and secure the cinnamon stick, bay leaf, rosemary, and sage inside it with the twine; add it to the pan. Stir well, reduce the heat to a simmer, and let cook until the cabbage is very tender and fragrant, about 30 minutes, adding a splash of water as necessary if the mixture begins to seem too dry.

While the cabbage simmers, remove the duck breasts from the refrigerator. Rinse off the salt and herb mixture and pat dry.

Remove the duck legs from the oven and set aside on a plate, covered with foil to keep warm. Increase the oven’s heat to 450˚F.

Heat an ovenproof sauté pan over medium-high heat, then add the duck breasts, skin side down, and sear well, for about 5 minutes. Add the duck tenderloins to the pan and cook through, 2 to 3 minutes, then remove them and set them aside. Transfer the pan to the oven to finish cooking to medium-rare, when an instant-read thermometer reads 135˚F at the thickest part of the breast, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the oven and set the duck aside on a cutting board to rest while you make the sauce—the breasts should rest at least 5 minutes.

In a medium, heavy-bottom saucepot, heat the butter over medium-high heat until it foams and subsides. Add the shallots, chopped garlic, and mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat, stirring regularly, until the mushrooms have released their juices and the vegetables have been nicely browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and mix well to coat, scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. Add the wine, continuing to scrape and stir until the liquid has largely evaporated, which won’t take long. Stir in the stock, bring to a boil, and reduce by half. Strain the sauce through a sieve and into a clean small bowl. Chop the reserved tenderloins and add them to the sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.

Slice the duck breasts on an angle. Separate the duck thighs and drumsticks at the joint. Divide the meat evenly among four dinner plates, add a portion of cabbage, and ladle the sauce over the meat.

BRITISH-STYLE PHEASANT WITH BREAD SAUCE

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The British do old-school game cookery really, really well. Shoot a bird in the brain, hang it until funky—then cook it and serve it like this. Doesn’t get any better.

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Serves 4

12 whole cloves

1 white onion, peeled and sliced in half

1 quart whole milk

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

Several gratings of fresh nutmeg

4 medium beets, peeled and cut into quarters or sixths, depending on size

8 medium parsnips, peeled

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 whole pheasants (2 to 3 pounds each), wing tips trimmed and reserved

10 sprigs fresh thyme

6 to 8 tablespoons (¾ to 1 stick) unsalted butter

6 thin slices pancetta

½ cup dry red wine

1½ cups game stock or Dark Universal Stock

1 slightly stale loaf white Pullman bread, crusts removed, cut into cubes

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

1 bunch of watercress, washed, for garnish

SPECIAL EQUIPMENT

Ice-water bath (large bowl filled with ice and cold water)

Instant-read thermometer

Press 6 of the cloves into the cut surface of each onion half and place them in a large, heavy-bottom saucepot. Add the milk, bay leaf, peppercorns, and nutmeg to taste, bring nearly to a boil—keep a close eye on this, because milk boils over quickly—then remove from the heat, cover, and let sit for 30 minutes, to infuse the milk with the flavors of the aromatics.

While the milk infuses, fill a medium, heavy-bottom stockpot about halfway full with salted water and bring to a boil. Add the beets and parsnips to the pot and cook until penetrable with a paring knife, 10 to 15 minutes for the parsnips and 15 to 20 minutes for the beets. Transfer the vegetables to the ice-water bath to stop cooking. Once they have cooled, remove from the ice-water bath, cut the parsnips into smaller lengths, and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Season the pheasants inside and out with salt and pepper and stuff each bird’s cavity with 5 sprigs of the thyme.

In a large, heavy-bottom sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium-high heat until it foams and subsides. Place the birds in the pan and sear in the butter on all sides, basting them with the butter in the pan as they cook, and adding an extra tablespoon of butter if necessary. When they have been browned on both sides, transfer the birds to a roasting pan, ideally one that has a rack, and lay 3 slices of the pancetta over each bird, covering as much surface as possible and tucking the ends in as best you can to keep the birds covered. This is called barding the birds. Transfer to the hot oven and cook for 45 to 60 minutes, until the thickest part of the thigh registers 155˚F on the instant-read thermometer. Let the birds rest 15 minutes before carving.

While the birds roast, pour off all but about 1 tablespoon of the butter in the pan you used to sear the birds, then return the pan to the stovetop over high heat and deglaze it with the wine, scraping and stirring to dislodge the browned bits. Once the wine has been reduced by half, pour in the stock, bring to a boil, and reduce by half. Whisk in ½ to 1 tablespoon of the butter, taste, and season with salt and pepper as desired and set aside, keeping warm.

To make the bread sauce, strain the infused milk through a sieve into a mixing bowl and discard the solids. Return the milk to the saucepot and bring it to a simmer, then add the bread cubes in batches and stir frequently to help the bread break down and thicken the sauce. Add 1 tablespoon of the butter and mix it in, then taste and season with salt and pepper and top with more grated nutmeg if desired. Set aside, keeping warm.

Remove the birds from the oven and rest for at least 5 minutes. The final step is to finish the vegetables. In a clean sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium-high heat until it foams and subsides, then add your reserved parsnips and beets and the thyme leaves and toss over high heat for a few minutes, until the vegetables begin to caramelize and the thyme is fragrant. Season with salt and pepper and remove from the heat.

Divide pheasant breast and leg meat among four dinner plates and ladle some of the pan sauce over it. Add some bread sauce and root vegetables to each plate, garnish with watercress, and serve.

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