We’re not hunters. We don’t begrudge those who are. We simply did not grow up hunting, and it really doesn’t fit into the urban lifestyle we live now. Nonetheless, we’re quick to accept when a friend of acquaintance offers to share his hunt with us.
Stefano’s parents were among the many who left the countryside after WWII and came to the city, populating neighborhoods on the outskirts of the Rome and rebuilding lives in the big city. Back in the small towns of Olevano Romano and Rocca Santo Stefano, though, life remained quite unchanged. Stefano’s compare (a regional term that means ‘godfather’ and that loosely refers to close friends of one’s parents) and other friends and family members were regular hunters, and on occasion they would stop by with gifts of fowl and game. Pheasant, fagiano in Italian, was an especially special treat.
Our pheasant came from Stefano’s boss, Guido, whose annual hunting trip to the plains of South Dakota yields 50 or 60 birds, a few of which he graciously gives to us.
This recipe was Stefano’s invention. He cut the pheasant into small pieces and cooked it over gas, allowing the juices of the mushrooms and cherry tomatoes give the lean meat both moisture and flavor. It is a flavorful late fall dish, which we enjoyed with a glass of Valpolicella Ripasso from Villa Monteleone, a lovely winery we visited on our trip back to Italy this past summer. This wine has enough body, heartiness and acidity to pair with this simple but flavorful dish.
3 pheasants, cleaned
3 packages of baby bella mushrooms (8 oz. or 225 grams per package).
2 containers of cherry tomatoes (1 pt. or approx. 350 grams per package)
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
2 cloves of garlic
1 chicken bouillon cube
Dry red wine
Crushed red pepper
Chop the pheasant into small pieces, removing pieces of bone when you can.
Roughly chop the garlic and sauté it along with the crushed red pepper in a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large fry pan over medium heat. Add the pheasant to the pan and brown it on all sides. Add the rosemary seeds, the bouillon cube about one glass of red wine, and a dash of Worchestershire sauce. Salt to taste. Let simmer uncovered until the wine cooks off.
In the meantime, chop the mushrooms, cutting the larger ones into quarters, the medium sized ones in half, and leaving small ones whole. Halve about 2/3 of the cherry tomatoes, and leave the other 1/3 whole.
When the wine has evaporated, add the mushrooms and tomatoes to the pan, covering the pheasant. Cover, and let it cook for 25-30 minutes until the juices from the mushrooms and tomatoes cook off.
Enjoy with a glass of full-bodied red wine, preferably with a fire in the hearth.