Coq (Rooster) á la Normande: how a North Dakotan cooks French cuisine.
This recipe is based on a classic dish made with apples, apple cider and apple brandy, which is what Normandy, France is known for. The recipe is usually made with chicken, but works great with wild pheasant or any other white-meat game bird.
The ingredients in this recipe bring together the flavors we all crave during the colder months in a delicious mix of savory and sweet. Compared to traditional Chicken Normandy, this sauce is a little more savory than sweet. It is also on the lighter side since there is not a lot of cream. However it is anything but bland.
I prefer to use Honeycrisp apples because they are sweet yet slightly tart, and have a firm skin that doesn’t break when cooking. You could also use other cooking apples such as Fuji or Braeburn.
This recipe also calls for apple cider and apple brandy. Since I live in a small town, Calvados isn’t exactly a staple shelf item at my local liquor store. However, this meal is so good I had them special order it for me. If you can’t get it or don’t drink alcohol than you can substitute with more apple cider.
I love adding lots of mushrooms in my Pheasant Normandy and when it comes to cooking with them I have a few golden rules that I go by.
The first is to always store them in paper bags in the crisper drawer. Some grocery stores will provide them next to the mushrooms, but if the only kind you can get are those in the plastic containers then I prefer to take them out as soon as I get home and transfer them. I find that the plastic makes them slimy and gross. The paper lets them breath more.
The second rule is that I never wash them in water. I repeat, never wash mushrooms in water! Clean them off gently with a brush or slightly damp paper towel.
Finally, you will notice that my recipe calls to roast the mushrooms in the oven instead of on the stove with the other ingredients. This is just a personal preference, I love the way mushrooms caramelize in the oven and I add them to the dish right at the end of cooking so that they don’t get soggy in the broth. Plus, the oven needs to be hot to finish cooking the pheasant anyways so it’s not really extra work (right?).
As said before, this is a light sauce. But don’t worry, it’s not watered-down just to be healthy, it packs a killer punch! The shallots, leeks and apples simmer in the stock giving a rich flavor. After you take the pan out of the oven you can swirl in a couple of tablespoons of my Garlic Cashew Cream (for a dairy free alternative) or use créme fraîche.
Pheasant Normandy is elegant enough to serve at a dinner party, yet it is still a hearty winter comfort food. It’s perfect served with a side of roasted brussel sprouts and/or wild rice.
- 4 Pheasant Breasts*
- 16 oz. Mushrooms (White or Portobello)
- 2 Apples, sliced into wedges
- 2 Large shallots, sliced into small wedges
- 1 Large Leek, sliced
- 4 cloves of Garlic, minced
- ½ C. Calvados or Apple Brandy *Substitute with extra Cider
- ½ C. Apple Cider
- 2 C. Stock (pheasant or chicken)
- Several Sprigs of Fresh Thyme
- 1 Bay Leaf
- ¼ C. Cashew Cream or Creme Fraiche
- Oil for Cooking
- Salt and Pepper to season
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Season the Pheasant breasts with salt and pepper in advance. *
- Prep the mushrooms by brushing them clean and slicing or chopping them in to even pieces. Set on a sheet pan and drizzle with oil, salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Season the Pheasant Breast with Salt and Pepper and let them come to room temperature.
- In a large, oven proof saute pan, heat a tablespoon of oil over Medium-High heat. Once hot, add each breast and brown for about 4 minutes on each side. Remove the Pheasant from the pan and set aside.
- Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan and add the shallot wedges. Saute for about 5 minutes then add the sliced leek and apple wedges. Cook for a couple of minutes to let the apples brown then add the garlic. Cook for an additional minute and once fragrant, add the Calvados. To Flambe, add the liquor and light a match. Once the flame subsides add the cider and stock. If you do not wish to flame you can simply remove the pan from the heat, add the liquor and let it boil for a moment to let the alcohol burn off. After adding all the liquids, add the thyme and bay leaf. Let the liquids simmer for about 5-10 minutes . Add the pheasant breasts back to the pan and transfer the whole pan to the oven to finish cooking.
- Add the sheet pan with the mushrooms to the oven. Cook the mushrooms and the pan with the pheasant for about 20 minutes, or until the mushrooms are golden brown and the pheasant is cooked through.
- Remove both from oven. Keep a heating pad over handle of pan so you don't burn yourself! Swirl the Creme Fraiche into the pan with pheasant and pour in the mushrooms when ready to serve.