Yield
Serves 4 to 6

Maple–Juniper Roast Pheasant | Čhaŋháŋpi Tiktíča na Ȟaŋté úŋ Šiyóša Čheúŋpapi

When I was growing up on the Pine Ridge Reservation, we stocked our freezers with pheasant and grouse. We’d see them darting across the dirt roads into the dry brush. They were as common as the red-winged blackbirds perched on the fence posts. Overnight dry brining seasons and helps this especially lean bird to become tender and succulent. The technique also works with grouse and guinea hens.

Ingredients

  • 2 small pheasants
  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt
  • 2 tablespoons maple sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sumac
  • 1 teaspoon crushed juniper
  • 1/4 cup Rendered Duck Fat (see note below) or sunflower oil
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries
  • 1/2 cup Corn or Turkey Stock (see note below) or vegetable stock
  • 3 tablespoons maple vinegar
  • 2 griddled apple halves for garnish (optional)

ALT INFOThe Sioux Chef's Indigenous Kitchen
by Sean Sherman with Beth Dooley

Directions

The day before, rinse the pheasants and pat dry with paper towels. To dry-brine, generously season with the salt, maple sugar, sumac, and juniper. Place on a roasting pan or deep plate in the refrigerator, uncovered, overnight.

Preheat the oven to 500°F. Place the pheasants breast side up in a medium roasting pan. Rub a generous amount of the duck fat under the skin of the birds and over the outside of the skin. Put half the cranberries into the cavity of the pheasants and spread the rest in the pan. Pour the stock and vinegar into the roasting pan. Roast for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350°F and baste the pheasants with the pan juices. Continue roasting until the skin is crisp, the juices run clear, and a meat thermometer inserted in the thigh reaches 155°F, about 30 to 45 more minutes. Allow to stand at least 10 minutes before carving.

  • Carve and drizzle with the pan juices before serving with the griddled apples. Substitute 2 tablespoons cider vinegar and 1 tablespoon maple syrup for the  maple vinegar.
  • For the griddled apples, slice the apples in half horizontally, brush with a little sunflower or walnut oil, and griddle cut side down in a hot skillet or frying pan until lightly browned, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Rendered Duck Fat

Carefully remove all the skin and fat from the duck breasts, cutting close to, but not touching, the meat. Once the fat and skin are removed, cut into 1-inch chunks. Place the skin, with its fat, into a heavy-bottomed skillet or Dutch oven. Set the pan over low heat and slowly cook, stirring occasionally, until the skin has crisped and its fat has changed to liquid, about 45 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the crisped skin (cracklings) and drain them in a bowl lined with paper towels. Allow the liquid fat to cool to room temperature, then strain through a fine-mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth into a bowl or a clean glass jar.

Corn Stock

Save the corncobs after you’ve enjoyed boiled or roasted corn on the cob or you’ve cut the kernels for use in a recipe. Put the corncobs into a pot and cover with water by about 1 inch. Bring to a boil and partially cover. Reduce the heat and simmer until the stock tastes “corny,” about 1 hour. Discard the cobs. Store the stock in a covered container in the refrigerator or freezer.

Fish, Game, Meat Stock

We make stock with just about everything in the larder, including vegetables (except greens) and bones (even smoked fish bones). Essential seasonings:

  • Juniper
  • Sage
  • Cedar
  • Mint

Juniper and cedar are aggressive flavors, so add seasoning with a light touch. You can always add more later on. Then add enough water to cover the ingredients completely and set over a low flame until the stock is flavorful. Cooking time will vary depending on the amount of liquid and the ingredients, but most stocks require cooking at least 2 to 3 hours.

From The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen by Sean Sherman with Beth Dooley. Copyright 2017 Ghost Dancer, LLC. All rights reserved. Used by permission of the University of Minnesota Press.