Pheasant Confit
6 legs and thighs of pheasants, grouse, quail or chukars
1/4 cup kosher salt
1 tbls dried thyme
1 tbls ground black pepper
Zest of a lemon, minced
2 bay leaves
1 cup olive oil, lard or butter

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This recipe works best with a vacuum sealer, alternative directions are at the end. Mix the salt, thyme, black pepper & lemon zest. Pack the pheasant legs with the mixture. Press it into the skin & exposed meat, & make sure every part is covered. Refrigerate for at least 6 hrs but no more than 24 hrs. The longer you go, the saltier it will get & the longer it will preserve. When done curing the legs, rinse, then pat dry with paper towels. Put on a rack to dry further while you make the vac-bags. Make 2 vacuum bags large enough to hold 3 legs or wings. Put a little butter, lard or oil into the bottom of bags; about 2 to 3 tbls. Add the pheasant legs & bay leaves, then divvy up the rest of the fat between the 2 bags. Seal bags & place in a large pot 2/3 filled with water heated to 170°F to 180°F. The large pot will keep the temperature stable.. Poach legs 4 - 8 hrs, flip if they float. 4 hrs for young birds or pen-raised birds longer for older birds. Remove bags from water, plunge into bowl of ice water. When they’re cool, store in the fridge.
When you are ready to eat your confit roast skin side up at 400°F oven 15 - 45 minutes.
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Pheasant Confit, What you need to know
Many of you know about duck confit, pronounced “con-fee.” It’s a classic French method of slightly curing meat, then poaching it gently in fat until it is meltingly tender. With ducks or geese, it’s a natural: I’ve confited domesticated duck legs with only the fat on the legs themselves — no added fat needed! Upland game birds, however, being lean, require special care.

You should know the process takes hours, or even days if you are looking to preserve the meat for months. So why bother with it? Because the end result is so wonderful you will change your perspective on eating pheasants: Done this way, the legs and thighs of a ringneck are far better eating than the breast meat. Really.

Here’s why. Start by thinking about people for a moment: The older we get, the more interesting we are. Talking to an 18-year-old is not nearly the same experience as drinking whisky with someone in her 50s, right? Well pheasants are the same way. The meat of an old rooster, which can be several years old, will be way more flavorful and memorable than the legs of a domestic chicken, which is typically less than 2 months old.

But in this case, as in most cases, flavor comes at a price. Sinew. Tendons. Tendrils of tissue so tough you can use them as dental floss. It’s as if all that deliciousness is imprisoned by those sinews. Confit is a way to deal with this.

By slowly cooking the legs and thighs, you break down an awful lot of connective tissue. By cooking them in fat or oil, and not a broth, you infuse a normally über-lean bird with luxurious fat. Not a bad thing to my mind.

Still, I am not going to lie to you: Nothing on this earth will break those tendons down completely. That means the legs of pheasants and turkeys (not so much with quail, partridges or grouse) will still be best eaten shredded off the bone. But fear not. Serve the thighs in one piece and shred the leg meat and put it into…

…well anything. A bitter green salad is a nice choice, but then so is a taco. Or you can shred, reform into patties and make into “pheasant cakes” that are so good you will wonder why on God’s Green Acre you have not saved the legs from your pheasants before. The possibilities are myriad.
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