You don’t see pheasant on restaurant menus very often these days, but at one time it was considered the height of elegance and every fine restaurant had its own preparation. I think it’s due for a revival, because the rich, lean meat pairs perfectly with some of my favorite foods: foie gras, truffles, and bacon. You could make this with chickens or even a turkey, but if you have a source for pheasant, give it a try. The stuffing is really beyond.
Make the stuffing: Place the bread cubes in a mixing bowl and pour the milk over them, stirring to combine. Set aside.
Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the carrots, celery, onions, leeks, fennel, and garlic, and cook, stirring, for 10 minutes, or until the carrots are beginning to soften and the onions are translucent. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
Place the pork in a large mixing bowl and add the cooled vegetables. Drain the brioche and gently squeeze out the excess milk. Add the bread to the bowl along with the pistachios, thyme, foie gras, truffle, and Cognac and mix gently. Season with salt and pepper.
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Rinse the birds inside and out with cool water and pat dry. Place the pheasants on your cutting board breast side down and use kitchen shears to cut all the way along each side of the backbone, freeing it completely. Discard the backbones and open up the birds, then grasp the breastbone with your fingers and gently pull it away from the breast meat; discard the breastbones. (You can also ask your butcher to “spatchcock” the pheasants for you if you prefer.)
Fill each bird loosely with stuffing. Reshape the bird around the stuffing and top with a strip of bacon. Use kitchen string to tie it in a neat bundle. Rub the birds all over with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and place in a large roasting pan.
Roast uncovered for 1 hour, or until the internal temperature of the meat (not the stuffing) registers 160°F. Let the birds rest for 15 minutes before serving halved or sliced crosswise.
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