Aby-a-Day – November 26: The bird is the word

This year for Thanksgiving, I wanted to try something different, so I cooked a Pheasant instead of the usual Turkey.

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Over the years, I have developed a marvelous and awesome technique for cooking birds of various species. It involves several secrets. The first secret is: Pour boiling water over the bird’s skin. It tightens it up and seals the meat. And do it at least a night before you cook the bird. My second secret is: Even if you aren’t planning to eat it, season the skin. The flavour leaks into the meat. These two I learned from a Chinese duck recipe.

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The third secret is to stuff the bird with onions and garlic cloves. This also flavours the meat – it makes a huge difference! The fourth secret is, start the oven at 500°F (260°C) and then put the bird in and immediately lower it to 325°F (163°C) for the actual baking. It sears the skin. And when you put the the bird into the oven, start out with the breast down, not up (natural, as if the bird was alive posture as opposed to the typical “Thanksgiving turkey” position). The juices will drip down into the breast meat while cooking instead of out into the pan. Trust me…yes, it can be a huge pain to flip the damn bird over halfway through, but it’s worth it.

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And the fifth secret is…Bacon!!! While the bird is cooking breast down, trim the fat off some good bacon, marinate it in maple syrup and garlic (plus any spices you’re in the mood for) and let it sit at room temperature (I recommend the microwave, aka the “cat proof food safe”).

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Of course, one person can do this all alone…but it’s always nice to have some help.

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Jacoby is very helpful!

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I think he’s trying to grab a fork for me here…

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Jake carefully examined the pheasant at the halfway point.

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He also supervised me while I applied the bacon.

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Once all the bacon was placed over the breast, the bird went back into the oven.

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Jake was so excited!

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He sat down next to the oven to wait and enjoy the wonderful smells.

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“Is it ready yet??”

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I think he started to get a little impatient.

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Here’s the pheasant about halfway through the breast-up cooking. I’m also baking the neck with it…this is an old and long-standing tradition of mine. When I was a kid, my mom would always cook the turkey neck and that would be my Thanksgiving preview snack. I always look forward to the neck when I cook a bird.

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“I love you, food-to-be.”

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I’m not sure what Jake’s more annoyed at: Tessie photobombing him, or Tessie stealing his bit of the pheasant neck!

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And here is the finished bird! The bacon was absolutely amazing – this was the first time I’d tried this – and the pheasant turned out wonderfully. This method will also work on a turkey or a chicken, and it should work on a duck…but bacon on a duck may be a little too much fat.

I was documenting my Thanksgiving meal for Björn because we couldn’t celebrate together this year…and it occurred to me that you might want to try my methods out with your Abys! Happy holidays!

6 thoughts on “Aby-a-Day – November 26: The bird is the word

  1. My human loves goose, which has even more fat than duck… so no bacon for that either. She may actually try cooking one this year, which she hasn’t done in about 20 years.

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  2. The neck was always my Dad’s favourite part too 🙂 I will definitely try these tips next time I cook a bird! I did cook a goose for Christmas once many years ago. Got a nice jar full of very white goose fat from it 🙂

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