Feb 24, 2012, 1:01 AM EDT
By Bill Miller
At our house, I’m the “big freezer guy.” That means if my wife decides we’re having wild game for dinner, it’s my job to go to the “big freezer” in the garage to find and extract the meat for thawing. The other day she said she wanted a venison roast to slow cook in the crock pot with potatoes, onions and carrots. I leaped off the couch, because that sounded pretty danged good to me.
While I was digging through the layers to the box of roasts, I noticed a number of bags of skinned and frozen pheasants. These were birds I shot late in the season and had done a great job of dressing and skinning, but by the time I’d packaged them for the freezer, I was running out of steam. They were simply sealed in freezer bags, labeled and tossed in the chest freezer. At my visit to find the roast they were still looking okay, but I took a mental note that they wouldn’t resist freezer damage much longer.
Another role I have is “Sunday Supper Cook.” If I’m home, it’s my responsibility to plan and cook the Sunday night meal. So last Sunday morning, I got up, went downstairs and made coffee, then went to the garage and extracted four pheasants. Now four full birds is way too much for one meal for my wife and me, but we’ve discovered a great way to save birds on the verge of freezer burn and actually refreeze them for future use.
The birds were already well-cleaned and separated into breast and leg/thigh segments. So after they thawed I rinsed them quickly once more under cold water. All the pieces went directly into the bottom of a large Dutch oven. Next I added some parsley, celery, onion, black pepper, and just a touch of salt. Then I filled the pot with water just high enough to completely cover the pheasant. The covered pot went back on the stove on high until it was up to a rolling boil. Then I turned it down to a low boil for an hour.
When the timer buzzed, I shut the heat off and immediately removed all the pheasant pieces to a plate to cool. In the meantime, I strained the liquid into freezer containers and labeled them “Pheasant Broth.” These will be great for making soup and other dishes in weeks and months ahead – and it’s got way less sodium than the stuff you buy in the store (which I unfortunately need to worry about, now.)
When the pieces were cool enough to handle, I peeled all the meat off the bones. This resulted in a big pile of “pulled pheasant.” Most of this was bagged in serving size freezer bags, labeled, and returned to the freezer for future use in everything from casseroles and soups to salads. It’s cooked, tender, juicy and ready to go with just a quick thaw.
But I saved enough aside to make pheasant fajitas for Sunday supper. Just get a package of fajita seasoning and follow the directions for chicken – except remember, your pulled pheasant is precooked, so it just needs to be heated through with a small amount of liquid added to prevent sticking and burning in the skillet.
It was delicious, and made me once again the Miller home’s Sunday night supper hero!