Smoked Pheasant Risotto with Field Mushrooms and Baby Asparagus

Bits and pieces of leftover smoked pheasant with onions, garlic, mushrooms, asparagus, Arborio rice, pheasant stock,  French vermouth, fresh herbs and lots of cracked pepper..

Smoked Pheasant Risotto with Field Mushrooms and Baby Asparagus

1/2 cup white onion, diced
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon pastured butter
1 cup French dry vermouth
1 bunch fresh herbs
5 cups pheasant stock, divided
2/3 cup mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup fresh asparagus, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 pound smoked pheasant, torn into small pieces
1 cup Arborio or Bomba rice
pieces of pheasant skin
pink peppercorns
aged Parmesan

Toast the onions in a dry skillet over medium heat until nicely browned.  Add the butter, olive oil and garlic, stir to combine and cook 1 minute.  Add the vermouth and scrape loose any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.  Allow the mixture to cook down until the liquid has been reduced to about 1/3 cup.

Add the rice, stir to combine and cook 2 minutes.  Add 3 cups stock and reduce heat to a gentle boil and cook 20 minutes, stirring frequently.

Meanwhile, toast the pieces of skin in a heavy skillet until the fat has rendered and the skin has begun to darken and crisp.  Transfer the skin to a cutting board and allow to cool enough to handle.  Chop the skin into small pieces, add to the rendered fat (add a little butter if there isn’t enough) along with the mushrooms and saute until golden.  Set aside.

Once the rice has absorbed most of the liquid, add another 1-1/2 cups of stock and simmer, stirring constantly, until half the liquid is absorbed.  Add the pheasant, mushroom mixture and asparagus and cook (again stirring constantly) until the asparagus is tender and the pheasant is warmed through.  Use the last 1/2 cup of stock if needed to prevent the pan from getting dry.  Season liberally with freshly-cracked pink pepper and taste for salt (although it usually doesn’t need any).

Turn the finished risotto out onto pre-warmed plates and finish with a little aged parmesan if desired.  Properly made risotto has a creamy texture and is wet enough to slide around the plate a little.

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In Texas, most pheasant hunting takes place in the 3 dozen or so northernmost counties (the Panhandle), where the next season runs December 3rd through January 1st.  Playa lake bottoms are a consistently productive location for both ducks and Ring-necked pheasant.

Bucatini All’Amatriciana

Sugo all’amatriciana or alla matriciana (in Romanesco)is a traditional Italian pasta sauce based on guanciale (cured pork cheek), Parmigiano-Reggiano and tomatoes.  Originating from the town of Amatrice (in the mountainous Province of Rieti of Lazio region), the Amatriciana is one of the most well-known pasta sauces in Roman and Italian cuisine..

While in Amatrice the dish is prepared with spaghetti, the use of bucatini has become extremely common after the recipe became popular in Rome, and is now prevalent.

Bucatini All’Amatriciana (adapted from a recipe by Anne Burrell)

Extra-virgin olive oil
8 ounces guanciale, cut in 1/4-inch strips
2 large onions, cut in 1/2-inch dice
1/2 to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper
2 (28-ounce) cans San Marzano tomatoes, passed through the food mill
1 pound bucatini or perciatelli
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus extra for garnish

Coat a large saucepan with olive oil.  Add the guanciale and saute over low heat  until it is brown and crispy and has rendered a lot of fat.  Remove and reserve 1/3 of the guanciale for garnish.

Bring the pan to a medium heat and add the onions and crushed red pepper.  Season generously with salt, to taste.  Cook the onions until they are translucent, starting to turn golden and are very aromatic.

Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer the sauce for about 1 hour, tasting periodically.  Adjust the salt, as needed.

Bring a large pot of well salted water to a boil over high heat.  Add the pasta and cook for 1 minute less than the instructions on the package.

Drain the pasta from the water and add to the pot of sauce.  Stir to coat with the sauce, and cook until pasta is done, about 1 minute . Add in the cheese and drizzle with olive oil. Toss to coat and serve in shallow bowls garnished with cheese and the reserved guanciale.

Guanciale is a pork cheek is rubbed with salt, ground black pepper or red pepper and hung in the refrigerator to cure for three weeks.  Its flavor is stronger than other pork products such as pancetta, yet the texture is more delicate.

Sometimes difficult to source locally in the US, guanciale can be ordered online from La Quercia.

Creamy Risotto with Baby Peas, Jamón Serrano, Parmigiano-Reggiano and Fresh Herbs

The finest Carnaroli rice is cooked in a soffritto of fresh garlic and raw olive oil, with Pinot Gris, homemade chicken stock, baby peas, soft sun-dried tomatoes, bits of Jamón Serrano ham, fresh herbs, cold butter and Parmigiano-Reggiano..

Creamy Risotto with Baby Peas, Jamón Serrano, Parmigiano-Reggiano & Fresh Herbs

“There are many different risotto recipes with different ingredients, but they are all based on rice of an appropriate variety cooked in a standard procedure.

The rice is first cooked briefly in a soffritto of onion or garlic and butter or olive oil to coat each grain in a film of fat, this is called tostatura; white or red wine is added and has to be absorbed by the grains. When it has evaporated, the heat is raised to medium high and very hot stock is gradually added in small amounts while stirring gently, almost constantly: stirring loosens the starch molecules from the outside of the rice grains into the surrounding liquid, creating a smooth creamy-textured liquid. At that point it is taken off the heat for the mantecatura when diced cold butter and finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese are vigorously stirred in to make the texture as creamy and smooth as possible. It may be removed from the heat a few minutes earlier, and left to cook with its residual heat. Fish and seafood risotti generally do not include cheese.

Properly cooked risotto is rich and creamy but still with some resistance or bite: al dente, and with separate grains. The traditional texture is fairly fluid, or all’onda (“wavy, or flowing in waves”). It is served on flat dishes and it should easily spread out but not have excess watery liquid around the perimeter. It must be eaten at once as it continues to cook in its own heat and can become too dry with the grains too soft.”  –Wikipedia

French Onion Soup with Parmigiano-Reggiano-Crusted Sourdough Croutons

Yellow onions and leeks are mandoline-sliced and browned in a little butter with fresh thyme, bay and cracked allspice, then simmered in equal parts homemade chicken and beef bone broth, a little raw cider vinegar, sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper.  Served with Parmigiano-Reggiano-crusted sourdough croutons..

French Onion Soup with Parmigiano-Reggiano-Crusted Sourdough Croutons

3 medium yellow onions, peeled and quartered
1 medium leek, trimmed and rinsed free of dirt and sand
1-1/2 tablespoons cultured/pastured butter
1 teaspoon freshly-cracked allspice
2 small bay leaves
1 small bunch fresh thyme, stripped
3 cups homemade beef stock or broth
3 cups homemade chicken stock or broth
1/4 cup raw apple cider vinegar
sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper

2 slices sourdough boule, torn into 1-inch pieces
1-1/2 tablespoons cultured/pastured butter
2 tablespoons shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano

Combine beef and chicken broth in a heavy pot and bring to a rapid boil. Reduce heat to medium and allow to simmer until reduced in volume by about 25%.  Add vinegar, reduce heat to medium-low and keep hot.

Meanwhile, slice onions and leeks to about 1/8-inch thickness (a mandoline makes this easy) and add to a hot, dry skillet.  Stir often until onions begin to brown, then add butter, bay, allspice and thyme and continue to cook until onions are well browned, about 10-15 minutes.

Pour onion mixture into reduced stock and stir to combine.  Allow to simmer 10 minutes. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper.

Meanwhile, saute torn sourdough in butter until golden brown on all sides.  Sprinkle croutons with Parmigiano-Reggiano and allow to melt and get a little crisp.  Remove from heat.

Ladle hot soup into bowls, dress with croutons and serve immediately.