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Friday, November 8, 2013

Faisan - Pheasant. Wild and Farm-Raised Pheasant on French Menus.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan Newman
Updated July 2018

The ring-necked pheasant.

Faisan – Pheasant.
The common pheasant is the ring-necked pheasant.
Also called the Faisan de Colchide, Faisan à Collier.

Pheasants on French menus are nearly all farm-raised, and the most usual question is what does pheasant taste like?   Farm-raised pheasants do not taste like turkey, and they do not taste like duck. They have their own place among domesticated fowl, and they have a different taste, color and texture to chicken, turkey and other farm raised birds. So trying to give pheasant an exact taste is difficult.  Farm-raised pheasants are mild tasting but are prepared with different recipes to other domesticated birds; it certainly would be a shame to roast a pheasant as though it was a chicken. 

Most of the recipes for farm-raised pheasants are taken from those originally created for wild pheasant. Younger, wild birds like all farm-raised pheasants, do not need aging or marinating; nevertheless, they are usually marinated for the taste a good marinade provides. Wild, young pheasants and all farm-raised pheasants may be roasted or braised without aging.  A whole farm-raised pheasant will only be on holiday menus. A farmed-raised pheasant weighs about one kilo (2.20 lbs) with younger birds weighing half of that.  Hunting season menus will offer wild pheasants which have darker, stringier, stronger tasting meat; they will have been aged and marinated. Wild pheasant can also be much larger than farm-raised birds with some weighing over two kilos (4.40lbs).

Pheasant in flight.
The terms for pheasant that may be on your menu:

Faisan– A male pheasant.

Faisane or a Poule Faisane – A female pheasant

Faisandeau or Jeune Faisan  - A young male pheasant.

Faisander – Initially the word faisander applied only to wild pheasants hung outside for aging and then began to be used for any aged game. Aged beef, only rarely seen on French restaurant menus, is Bœuf Maturé.  Aged cheeses are Fromage Affiné.

Male and female ring-necked pheasants.

Farm-raised pheasant on French menus:
Faisandeau aux Champignons des Bois – A young farm-raised pheasant prepared with wild forest mushrooms.
Pâté de Faisan en Croûte  -  Pheasant pate cooked inside a pastry or other covering and like other pates served cold.  A pheasant pate, like other pates, will not be 100% pheasant liver.  In French cuisine, a pâté is rarely made with more than half of the recipe from the main ingredient, and in pheasant pate, some 30% may be pheasant meat and 20% pheasant liver. The rest of the ingredients may include chicken or pork liver, eggs, and vegetables.
In keeping with the traditions that began when all pheasant pates were made with wild birds, wine, Cognac or Armagnac will usually be added for flavor. Rather obviously Cognac will not be in the recipe in the area where they produce Armagnac; that could start a revolution. The French word croûte originally meant a crust, and today when a dish is served en croûte that indicates a  dish cooked inside a covering that is usually a bread or pastry covering, Other coverings may be prepared using vegetables, crushed walnuts, herbs, and breadcrumbs. 

Pâté en Croûte.

Faisan au Chou - Pheasant, prepared with cabbage; this is a classic pheasant French recipe. The cabbage will have been lightly boiled, and then will be placed in the oven together with the pheasant, a meat stock, herbs, and bacon or lardons added for flavor and baked. When cooked the pheasant will be served on a bed of the cabbage with which it was cooked.
Salmis de Faisan en Cocotte aux Senteurs d'Armagnac  - A salmis of pheasant prepared, and served, in a casserole and flavored with Armagnac.

Salmis originated as a recipe for left-over game birds that had already been roasted. The roasted game birds would then, the next day, be stewed in a red or white wine flavored sauce and served along with mushrooms and other vegetables. A salmis made with farm-raised pheasants will not be yesterday's left-overs that are roasted and recooked. They will befreshly braised with the wine sauce and other flavorings from the original recipes.

Pheasant soup with zucchini (courgette) and pasta.
Suprême de Faisan Sauce Savagnin et Morilles – Breast of pheasant served with a sauce made from the famous, sweet, and delicate Savagnin Vin Jaune wine and morel mushrooms. The sweet Savagnin grapes come from the French department of Jura where they were originally wild grapes; the French word sauvage, meaning wild, gave these grapes their Savagnin name.  The vin jaune wine tastes somewhat similar to a dry sherry though I may be banned from the Jura, in France, or Jerez de la Frontera, in Spain, for saying that. Please note I only said somewhat similar, I did not say the same. Jura is in the new super region of Bourgogne-Franche-Comté and borders the Canton of Vaude in Switzerland.

Seared breast of pheasant.
Suprême de Faisan Sauvage Rôti au Poivre Rouge de Pondichéry - Breast of wild pheasant roasted with the red peppercorns from Pondichéry.

The French, like the British and Portuguese, had an Indian Empire, and that included their own favorite pepper producing areas.  India is the home of the peppercorn. The French district of Pondichéry was France's most valuable source of peppercorns. The Poivre Rouge de Pondichéry; the red peppercorns from Pondichéry, were and still are considered by French chefs, to be the best of all red peppercorns. Red peppercorns are even stronger than black peppercorns, and while they have a wonderful aroma red peppercorns are reserved for particular dishes.  Few French dishes are genuinely spicy and while the Poivre Rouge de Pondichéry adds aroma it will be used with great care.  
Pondichéry is on the Bay of Bengal in an area that is predominantly ethnic Tamil. When the French gave up their Indian empire, Pondichéry retained and still retains, by law, French as an official language along with Tamil, Telugi, and Malayala. Nevertheless, like the rest of India, which has so many languages, Hindi and English are the lingua franca!
The hunting season for wild pheasants, in France, is November through January 10. Despite that, each French department controls the permits to conserve the wildlife in their own area and so the dates may vary. There are restaurants that seasonally specialize in wild game and only open during the months when wild game is available.  These restaurants have their entire menus tuned to the hunting season; the menu will read Menu de Chasse, a hunting menu. 

The other French name for pheasant - Faisan de Colchide

Colchide relates to the ancient kingdom of Colchis in the Caucasus on the Black Sea; here was the point of origin for all pheasants. Colchis is famous in Greek mythology along with Argonauts and Jason and the Golden Fleece; the region is now included in the modern country of Georgia.

Pheasant in the languages of France's neighbors:

(Catalan - faisa), (Dutch - fazant), (German – fasan), (Italian - fagiano comune), (Spanish - faisán común).
Pheasant in other languages:
 (Mandarin Chinese-  ,      - yějī), (Tagalog - ibon na mahaba ang balahibo),   (Greek -    φασιανός -  fasianós), (Hebrew – faisan matzoui -   פסיון מצוי),  (Japanese -  キジで – kija de), (Malay - pegar dalam), (Russian – фазан -  fazan).

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Bryan G Newman

Behind the French Menu
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