The gentlemen of Jane Austen’s day were fond of hunting and hunting parties were often rowdy, weeks-long affairs with hunters moving from one grand estate to another. Their wives followed, and often there were huge dinners and dances held in private ballrooms to celebrate-and partake of the day’s catch. Among the popular game of the day was venison, rabbit, duck, and a host of different birds including woodcocks, pigeons, and pheasants.
This recipe, from Cooking with Jane Austen by Kirsten Olsen, is specifically made for pheasant. The cookbook says pheasants were not a common domestic fowl but would have been available at the finest of estates. The bird was much admired for its plumage and was often cooked with the feathers on, wrapped in paper to prevent them from burning.
There is one major grocery store in Cincinnati which likely has pheasant-but I did some research and found that a suitable substitute is the tender chicken cousin, the Cornish Game Hen.
This recipe is great for any small Christmas gathering in place of turkey-it’s a beautiful presentation and it‘s so easy to prepare. Each hen serves about two people.
The original recipe reads:
Roast them either drawn or larded, or with a stuffing made with the livers minced, with grated bacon, parsley and scallions shred fine, pepper and salt, and covered with slices of bacon and paper. Serve them with sauce a la Provencal, or any other sauce in the fashionable taste. They may be served also in patty hot or cold, or in a tureen.
• 3 Cornish game hens
• 9 strips of bacon
• ½ cup chopped parsley
• 2 baby bella mushrooms
• 1 small red onion, diced
• Pepper and salt to taste
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. If the bird comes with giblets, remove them. Wash the bird and pat it dry, then lay it in a roasting pan that’s been lined with foil and sprayed lightly with cooking spray.
In a small bowl, chop the giblets, and mix with three strips of bacon chopped, the parsley, mushrooms, and onion. Add a little salt and pepper.
Stuff the bird with this mixture.
Lay two more strips of bacon across the breast of each bird.
Roast until the temperature at the inner thigh reaches 180 degrees farenheit. Mine took about 45 minutes. If the skin begins to brown too quickly, reduce the heat to 425 degrees and cover the birds loosely with parchment paper.
Serve and enjoy!