Braised pheasant with cabbage, garlic and fat bacon

Main course: serves 2. Total time: 2 hours
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Indy Lifestyle Online
25g butter
4 thick slices of very fat, streaky bacon, cut into squares
salt and pepper
1 dressed pheasant
10 large cloves garlic, peeled
a generous splash of Madeira or medium sherry
75ml white wine
100ml good chicken stock
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 small, hard green cabbage, divested of tough outer leaves then cored and quartered

Preheat the oven to 275F/140C/gas mark 1. Heat the butter in a large, cast-iron pot (a lidded Le Creuset is perfect, here) and add the bacon. Allow the pieces to sizzle away gently until a generous amount of fat has exuded from them. Lift out and set aside. Season the pheasant with salt and pepper, place it in the pot and carefully allow to colour on all sides, until golden and crusted. Lift out and also set aside.

Now tip in the garlic cloves and stir these against the crusty bits in the bottom of the pot, hoping to pick up scraps of residue in the process, until the cloves have taken on a little colour themselves. Tip off most of the collected, residual fats and pour in the Madeira (or sherry) and white wine. Using a stiff whisk, scrape up all the remaining bits and then add the stock and thyme sprigs. Bring to the boil and put in the cabbage. Simmer until the cabbage begins to wilt and lose its stiffness, then push it to the sides of the pot to make room for the pheasant. Bury the bird into this simmering brew and tuck the bacon pieces around it, pushing them well down.

Cut a piece of greaseproof paper to fit inside the pot (a cartouche) with a little room to spare, so that it comes up the sides a little; a few snips around the edge with a pair of scissors helps the thing to fall into place (I used to think this contraption a waste of time but it really does add a secondary muffle to the proceedings in addition to the lid.) Put the lid on and place in the oven to braise for about 1-1 1/2 hours. Remove from the oven but leave the lid in place for 20 minutes or so, allowing the bird to settle and rest prior to carving. Serve with plainly boiled potatoes, nothing more.

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