6 Nov 2017

Pleasant Pheasant

Emily highlights a new pheasant dish.

What’s new at JB HQ? Well, plenty. But really I just want to talk about a new dish we have on the menu…

Head Chef Jose Garzón has gone for full-blown autumn with this new dish of pheasant, pumpkin, cavolo nero and tarragon sauce.

The front-of-house team always get a briefing/tasting of new dishes but for this one I decided to put Jose on the spot. I asked him for a few minutes of his time and grilled him a bit… with a genuine dictaphone - intimidating or what?!

Where did you get the idea for this dish from?

It all starts with the produce. Think what’s in season, and then work around that. I wanted something autumnal. The pumpkin, cavolo nero and pheasant; all are in season and can come together for this dish. We don’t push the boat out with unusual flavour combinations or techniques, we keep it relatively classic and aim for it to be tasty and satisfying.

Why pheasant? Is it something you enjoy cooking?

I always enjoy cooking with game. It’s so much more interesting than cooking with chicken/beef/pork as they’re available all year round. The novelty and the excitement of waiting for that ingredient - it’s one of the joys of the job. The particular flavour of the pheasant really suggests autumnal ingredients to me. We played around with a few ideas in the kitchen - most of us have experienced really tough pheasant, which doesn’t do the meat justice. Cooking it ‘sous vide’ at a low temperature rather than basting, or even finishing it off in the pan/oven makes the most of the meat and leaves it incredibly tender. The birds come in to the kitchen whole so we use the carcass to make a really good stock. The legs are delicious too, so they’ll be on as a special, possibly confit’d as a starter.

Would you ever cook something like this at home?

In theory, yes. However, as a father it’s a bit more difficult. My 5 year old is pretty adventurous and will happily try anything; it’s either a thumbs up or a thumbs down. My other son is just two months… not quite on solids yet!!

If you wanted to recreate this dish at home, I’ll give you a few clues. The pheasant breast is marinated with olive oil, thyme & tarragon and cooked sous vide (in a special water bath at low temperature) so it’s juicy, moist and “suuuuper tender”. In the absence of this cheffy kit, just treat it gently, perhaps under foil in the oven with butter and herbs and use a meat thermometer to get it just right – too much aggressive heat and the meat will be tough. In the restaurant, the pumpkin has been done a couple of different ways. There are a few nice charred wedges of roasted pumpkin, a bit of roast pumpkin purée to add a different texture, and also the pumpkin seeds… buttery, sweet, crunchy. We love cavolo nero (aka black kale). It’s definitely one of my staples and available at most markets at the moment.

And that tarragon sauce; generously creamy, with white wine and chicken stock. The freshness from the tarragon livens it up, and balances the sweetness of the pumpkin but it’s still rich and sumptuous.

I really can’t think what else you’d want in the autumn.

Oh yes, a drink…

Dishes like this are pretty easy to pair wine to as you can’t go too far wrong! Medium/light bodied reds all the way through to a rich, full-bodied white (served not too cold) would all work. I asked Ben and Richard what they’d choose:

Richard: A highly rated Sangiovese-Merlot blend called ‘Al Paso’, made by Tolaini in Tuscany. It’s been on our wine list for a year or so, and always goes down well. It’s got good plummy flavours, soft tannins which would work well with the purée. A bit of oak. Nice warming wine, very drinkable.

Ben: Classic earthy flavours like these make me think of red Burgundy – delicate enough not to overpower the pheasant but with enough oomph to add to the autumnal, warming feel. Our Tollot-Beaut Bourgogne Rouge would be ace.

Me: Good, full-bodied satisfying Chardonnay has a time an a place. One we reach for often is 'Morning Fog', a Californian made by Wente Vineyards in Livermore Valley, San Fransisco Bay. It has plenty about it to stand up to the pheasant. It's nice and buttery which will be mega with the pumpkin and the oakiness will complement the autumnal flavours.…. And then I'll have a glass of each of the above!

Happy eating, drinking and cooking!