Sometimes the most satisfying meals are born out of chaos. My friend Jim and his daughter were deer hunting with my son and I a couple of weekends ago. The snow was deep and by mid-morning both kids were dragging and, truth be told, so were the adults. We had planned on hunting the entire day but decided to take a few hours off for lunch and pulled into the house for a bite.
The house was in a shambles as unknown to me (or more likely forgotten) my father in law and wife were installing a drop ceiling in the basement. So it was noisy and dusty with a decidedly frosty climate that was evident in the looks I received from my wife who for some strange reason felt that my priorities were a little askew. Despite 15 years of marriage to a hunter, she still occasionally thinks that scheduling home reno projects during that precious three month window from September 1 to November 30 is a good idea. Now she knew I wouldn’t be helping yet there were still palpable waves of disapproval emanating from the matron of the family. Any man who has ever sat around watching the game while their wife has been doing laundry or washing floors will know what I’m talking about.
Due to the hostile environment and imminent marital storm clouds, lunch needed to be quick. Since I had guests I also wanted it to be good. I scanned the fridge and spied a bag of pheasant breasts that I had defrosted for another purpose. There was a red onion on the counter, a small wheel of Brie cheese in the dairy bin and a day old loaf of French bread in the pantry.
The result was a pheasant grilled cheese that was surprisingly good served with a little Sriacha hot sauce for dipping. The unique flavor of the pheasant is complemented by the bite of the onion and the funkiness of the Brie (or Camembert) while the buttery crunch of the bread brings back memories of childhood comfort food. The Sriacha makes for a very grown-up ketchup for this grown-up grilled cheese. I see an ice cold lager or pilsner as the only acceptable beverages to accompany this sandwich.
Ruffed grouse would work very well in this too and (sigh) chicken is the obvious domestic substitute though spending more on a farm raised pheasant or guinea fowl would make for a much more interesting meal than would chicken – the tofu of the meat world. If I had to use chicken I would probably use boneless and skinless thighs.
In the pensive atmosphere we ate quickly and made our escape for the deer fields. Unfortunately, the wifely wrath was only delayed and ultimately exacerbated by the fact that I hadn’t given her a taste of the sandwich.
Oh well. I have all of December to try and get off the couch and back into the bedroom.
Grilled Pheasant and Brie Sandwiches
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes
- 4 pheasant breast fillets (breasts of 2 pheasants)
- 8 slices French bread
- 1 small red onion thinly sliced
- 10-12 ounces Brie cheese (or other soft cheese)
- salt and pepper
- Sriacha (optional)
- Take each pheasant breast and lay it between two sheets of plastic wrap. Using the smooth end of a meat tenderizer (flat frying pan or even a bottle) pound the meat gently to flatten it out and make it roughly uniform in its thickness. You should be aiming to make each breast slightly larger in area than the bread it will be lying on.
- Season the pheasant breasts liberally with salt and pepper and let sit while you heat a large cast iron pan on med-high heat for a couple of minutes. Add a table spoon of butter to the pan and once it has finished frothing add in the breasts, keeping them well separated from each other. Saute on one side for 2-3 minutes until well browned and then flip them and cook for a further 2 minutes.
- Meanwhile, slice your onion and the cheese.
- Once the pheasant breasts have cooked through, assemble the sandwich by putting a layer of cheese on the bread , topping that with a layer of sliced onion and topping that with the hot pheasant breast. Place the other bread slice on that and spread a layer of butter on the outside of the sandwiches and fry them in a dry non-stick pan over med heat until the bread is crisp and brown, gently flipping it as needed to get the other side done as well.
- Take off the heat and slide onto a plate with a small dollop of Sriacha on the side.