This year, E and I were hosting Thanksgiving dinner at our house for the first time. It’s so, like, grown up and mature to be hosting the holidays with my man! But even more exciting—and adding a bit more pressure to create a spectacular meal—E’s mom is coming to town for the holiday.
We’ve already started discussing the menu–sweet potato souffle, cheesecake, and “you know the penalties if you even try to serve brussels sprouts in this house, right?” But E and I already have conflicting opinions on the turkey.
My mother, who lives in Michigan, informed me she bought her classic Butterball turkey on sale for 79 cents a pound at her local grocery store. In New York, turkeys are more expensive. When we were walking around the Greenmarket today, a guy selling game and meats from a farm upstate was taking orders for turkeys. I saw the price tag on one he had on hand: $71 for a 10-pound, free range, organic, grass fed, Thai massaged and Botoxed turkey. That was insanity. Later, E tells me, “Citarella had ’em for $3 a pound.”
“What?!” I said. “There have to be cheaper ones.”
There was, in fact, a frozen turkey on sale at Freshdirect.com for $1.79 a pound. That was about what I figured a New York turkey would cost, given East Coast inflation on the prices of everything here.
“No, No, NO!” E exclaimed, stomping his foot. “Anything that’s worth doing is worth doing right. Young lady, whatever frozen, genetically modified, pumped-full-of-steroids-and-antibiotics turkey that you’re used to buying at Costco is absolutely not allowed in this house or on our Thanksgiving table. Capice?”
I had been schooled—our friends and family, especially his mother, were worth the cost of doing things right.Inspired by T-day, we decided to cook pheasant, a game-y bird that is in season for hunters in Michigan–like my flannel shirt wearing, big buck hunting dad. Pheasant sliders with shotgun sauce were great for a cold night in November. E kept singing, “b-b-b bird, bird, bird, bird is the word!”, from the “Family Guy” sketch, as we cooked. It turned out great, but the next time we make this we’d use lighter, fluffier rolls like Hawaiian rolls or burger buns (our olive and multigrain rolls from the Greenmarket were a bit dense). We also underestimated how much time the bird would take to cook, so I’d recommend starting this a few hours in advance of dinner. And don’t buy the cheapest pheasant you can find. Unless your dad shot it. Then you should get it for free.
1 whole pheasant, thawed
handful sprigs thyme
4-5 strips bacon
4 small rolls
For the shotgun sauce:
1 jar black currant jelly
3-4 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce, add more to taste
Brine bird in salt water, sugar, lemon, sprigs of thyme, garlic and bay leaves for 8 hours (honestly, we brined ours for one hour, we were short on time. Tasted just as juicy in my opinion).
Then, take bird out of brine and rub a hearty mixture of salt and pepper all over the bird. Cut an orange in half and give a gentle squeeze so juice runs over bird. Then stick the same half into the bird’s body. Next, cut an onion in half and stick a half in the bird. Next wrap the entire bird in strips of bacon. Then, tie down the strips of bacons to the bird with twine (think tying a mattress to the top of your Jeep. Same premise.)
In a medium skillet, brown the bird on all side for five minutes, turning bird frequently. Then pop bird in oven at 350 degrees.
After 20 minutes, take off the bacon, and continue cooking the pheasant for another 30 monutes or so, basting frequently. Total cooking time for the bird should be about an hour. When taking the bird out of the oven, turn it upside down on the cutting board and allow to rest for 15 minutes. Carve.
In a saucepan, make your shotgun sauce by melting down the butter and adding in the red currant jelly until you get the proper consistency—thin enough to pour but thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Add the Worcestershire sauce, add more for taste if desired.
Assemble sandwiches with bun, then dressed greens (simple olive oil and pepper will do), then layer on strips of pheasant. Dollop on shotgun sauce, top with other bun, and serve. One bird can yield up to four small sandwiches.