Pheasant is the most common bird to shoot and grows relatively quickly, and so by the end of the season the demand is almost non-existent and the gamekeepers are very keen to get rid of them.
Pheasant is also a notoriously tricky bird to cook. It roasts a bit dry, even when cooked to perfection. Then you have the almost inedible drumsticks, which are full of needle-like tendons. For these reasons I often prepare escalopes like the dish below and freeze them, and use the thighs for a stew or a curry, which is fantastic.
Whether breadcrumbed or not there are several dishes you can make using an escalope, but the Holstein is a classic dish that we learned to cook at catering college. Traditionally it’s made with a veal escalope but I've done it with chicken often, so when confronted with a couple of sacks of pheasants from the gamekeeper I had no choice in the matter but to quickly de-breast them and bash them out into escalopes. I've also amended the classic from capers to pickled walnuts as it adds a little bit of sweetness with the game.
Pheasant Escalope Holstein – Serves 4
- 4 skinless pheasant breasts
- 2-3 tbsp flour
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 30-40g fresh white breadcrumbs
- Vegetable or corn oil for frying
- A good knob of butter
- 2 medium free-range eggs
- 8 anchovies, halved lengthways
- ½ tbsp chopped parsley
- 4-5 pickled walnuts, quartered
Put one breast on a sheet of clingfilm that is at least double its size. With a meat or cutlet bat (a rolling pin or side of a cleaver will do), carefully bat each breast out into a neat 1cm-thick escalope. Season with salt and pepper then lightly coat with flour, patting any excess off with your hands, before passing the escalopes through the beaten egg and finally through the breadcrumbs.
Heat about 1cm of oil in a frying pan and cook the escalopes for 2-3 minutes on each side until golden, then add a knob of butter at the end of cooking and turn them once more.
Meanwhile, lightly fry the remaining eggs and place one on each escalope, then arrange the anchovies around the yolk and transfer to warmed plates. Melt the butter in a small frying pan until foaming, add the parsley and capers and spoon over the egg and escalopes.
Serve immediately as they will go a bit cardboard-like if they hang around!