Sometimes it takes me a while to get around to a cooking project; in this case it took over a year. I concluded my post about trotter gear by saying “There’s a pheasant pie I’m thinking about…” – this recipe is for that pie. It took me a year because I kept forgetting to buy a second pheasant during my occasional trips to H Mart, but I can assure you it was worth the wait.
Although the method (and the title for this post) first appears in The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating, Fergus Henderson revised it in Beyond Nose to Tail: More Omnivorous Recipes for the Adventurous Cook. By separating out the trotter gear preparation, it becomes an ingredient that can be added to other recipes, much like stock. My method is a hybrid of both books, taking advantage of the shortcuts in the later “Pie Possibilities.” (A similar revision occurred with the Eccles Cakes recipe.)
With the correct number of the main ingredient, I assembled the rest: bacon rind, a quart of salted duck stock, a bit more than a pint of trotter gear, half a bottle of red wine, fourteen whole peeled shallots, and a pound of slab bacon cut into chunks.
I added some duck fat to a roasting pan and browned the pheasants, bacon, and shallots.
I added the wine, brought it to a simmer, added the trotter gear, and then the duck stock, going for Henderson’s “alligators in a swamp” level of liquid in the pan.
I covered the pan with foil and placed it n a 325°F oven for two hours. When the braise was finished, I removed the pheasants, let them cool, and picked all of the meat from the bones.
I also strained the cooking liquid, let it sit for a bit, and skimmed a considerable amount of fat from the top. I know, I willingly threw fat away, but I didn’t want the pie to be greasy. Besides, there was more and better fat still to come. I returned the shallots and trotter bits to the pheasant meat, poured the cooled liquid over it, and let the mixture sit overnight in the fridge, “allowing it to come to terms with its new role in life, and improve in flavour.”
The next day I assembled the ingredients for the crust: 250 grams of self-rising flour, 125 grams of beef fat (which I had previously rendered from beef suet for just such an occasion), a pinch of salt, and 150 milliliters of ice water.
I pulsed the flour, fat, and salt together in a food processor, then added enough water to form a firm paste. I formed the dough into a disc, wrapped it in plastic, and let it sit in the fridge for a few hours.
To assemble the pie, I had to re-warm the filling, which had converted to pheasant-pig jelly overnight:
I set a marrow bone (left over from this dish) into the center of a deep pie dish, then surrounded it with the filling, retaining the excess liquid for later use.
I rolled out the dough, cut a hole in the center, and fit it over the top. After crimping the dough to the edges of the dish, I coated it with an egg yolk wash.
While the pie baked, I braised and glazed whole Brussels sprouts in butter and some of the extra cooking liquid.
After forty minutes, the pie was ready:
I served up a slice with some of the sprouts; the dish needed nothing more.
If you’ve been following my adventures with Chef Henderson’s book, you should recognize the method as being similar to the Chicken and Pig’s Trotter or the more recent Guinea Fowl, Red Cabbage, Trotter, and Prune: braise a game bird with sweet aromatics and trotters. The dishes all have that background sweetness from the trotter gear and the shallots, but this pie differs in having a rich, beefy component from the crust. It was flaky, crispy on top, and had just begun to soak up the cooking liquid underneath. The crust was the star of the dish, creating what Henderson calls “a most rich and steadying pie.”