Pheasants, particularly hen pheasants, are large and plump by January, the end of the season. Even though they have, by this time, accumulated more fat than early in the season and can thus be roasted without barding, I still prefer to pot-roast them, preferably on a bed of onions, garlic and root vegetables, which caramelize nicely. The bitter-sweet juice of the Seville orange replaces the more usual lemon. Chicken and guinea fowl also respond well to this treatment. Before roasting a duck, prick it all over, and rub with the juice of a Seville orange, tucking some of the zest inside the body cavity.
Trim off any feathers and excess fat from the bird. Peel the zest from the orange and put it in the cavity. Halve the orange, discard the seeds, and squeeze out the juice. Rub the bird all over with the cut orange, season it, and put the bay leaves and parsley stalks inside the cavity. Peel the vegetables and cut into even-sized pieces, about the size of a cork. Heat the butter or oil, and fry the vegetables all over. Transfer them to a casserole, brown the bird all over, and place it on top of the vegetables. Pour the brandy over the bird, and, standing well back, light it. Deglaze the frying pan with sherry and the orange juice, and pour the juices over the bird. Cover and cook in a preheated oven at 180°C/ 350°F/gas mark 4 for about an hour.
Joint the pheasant, and serve it with the vegetables. Strain the juice into a jug, and serve separately. It can be enriched with cream if you like. A bunch of watercress or flat-leaf parsley will brighten up the dish, as will a few wedges of orange. When I picked the oranges in Jerez, I also came across a tree with pretty palmate leaves, the Schinus terebinthifolius, whose fruit is the pink peppercorn. Not a member of the pepper family, the pink seeds, nevertheless, add a pleasing piquancy to meat and fish dishes, as well as a note of colour. I used a few in the pot-roast bird recipe.
© 2000 Frances Bissell. All rights reserved.