Page-level ads

Recommended for you

Friday, November 8, 2013

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

The pheasant in France.
Faisan de Colchide, Faisan à Collier.
The pheasant, the common pheasant, the ring-necked pheasant.
Behind the French Menu
Bryan Newman

The ring necked pheasant.
Photograph courtesy of Pat Kavanagh

One of the French names for the ring-necked pheasant is the Faisan de Colchide; this name recognizes the origins of all pheasants are in the Caucasus.   The ancient kingdom of Colchis that is remembered in the French name is now included in the modern country of Georgia in the Caucasus on the Black Sea.
Male and female ring necked pheasant .
Photograph courtesy of Bio Diversity Library

Pheasants on French menus are nearly all farm-raised, and the most usual question is  “what does pheasant taste like”?  Farm-raised pheasants have their own place among domesticated fowl, and they have a different taste, color and texture to chicken, turkey and other birds on a farm and their taste is mild.  Even more to the point, farm-raised pheasants are prepared, in France, with different recipes to other domesticated birds; it certainly would be a shame to simply roast a pheasant like a chicken.   Most farmed-raised pheasants in France weigh about one kilo (2.20lbs) with younger birds weighing half of that.  Wild pheasant is darker, stringier, stronger tasting, and must be aged and marinated, and they can also be much larger; some weigh over two kilos.

Faisan– A male pheasant.

Faisane or a poule faisane – A female pheasant

Faisandeau or jeune faisan  - A young pheasant.

Farm-raised French pheasant on your menu.
Most of the recipes for farm-raised pheasant, in France,  are taken from those created for wild pheasant.
Faisandeau aux Champignons des Bois – A young  farmed pheasant, probably braised, served with wild forest mushrooms. Ask which wild mushrooms are being served as the mushrooms may vary from day to day and week to week.
Pâté de Faisan en Croûte  -  Pheasant pate; cooked inside a pastry or another covering and like other pates served cold.  A pheasant liver pate, like other pates, will not be 100% pheasant liver; it is a pate and that indicates, in  French kitchens, that at least 50% is pheasant liver. To make a pheasant liver pate chicken liver or pork liver or veal liver may be added. To the pate's recipe will be added eggs, herbs and probably some of the pheasant’s meat.
In keeping with the traditions that began when all pheasant liver pates were made with wild birds, wine, Cognac or Armagnac may be added for flavor. The decision to use Cognac or Armagnac mostly depends on the area where the dish is being prepared. Rather obviously Cognac will not be utilized 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. For a pate this will usually be a pastry covering, other options include vegetables, crushed walnuts, breadcrumbs and more.  With a menu listing like this ask how the pate is served.
Pâté de Faisan en Croûte.
Photograph courtesy of don.reid

 Faisan au Chou - Pheasant prepared with cabbage.   This is a classic 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.
N.B. Lardons are small cubes of bacon and may be stuffed inside a roast beef or a roast chicken or may be added to a soup or stew for flavor; lardons are as nearly important in many French kitchens as salt and pepper
Salmis de Faisan en Cocotte aux Senteurs d'Armagnac  - A salmis of pheasant prepared, and served, in a casserole and flavored with Armagnac. Salmis is a cooking method initially used with wild birds and now popular with farm-raised birds. Nevertheless, to make this dish with farm-raised birds, the original recipe will have seen a few changes.
Salmis originated as a recipe for left-over game birds that had already been roasted. The roasted game birds would be later be stewed in a red or white wine flavored sauce and then served along with mushrooms and other vegetables.  Added flavor in the dish above will come from the Armagnac.   The use of Armagnac in this menu listing, rather than Cognac, would suggest the recipe came from the région of Aquitaine or the  Midi-Pyrénées.
 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 Jura and were originally wild grapes, the French word sauvage that gave these grapes their Savagnin name means wild.  The wine will not usually be on the wine list, but it will be in most French restaurant kitchens.  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 region of the Franche-Comté and borders the Canton of Vaude in Switzerland.

Suprême de Faisan.
Photograph courtesy of Ulterior Epicure

The wild pheasant in France and the wild pheasant on your menu.
The hunting season for wild pheasants, in France, is November through January 10. Despite that, each French département controls permits in their area to conserve wildlife and so dates may vary. There are restaurants that seasonally specialize in wild game. Some of these restaurants only open during the months when wild game is available.  These restaurants will then indicate clearly that their entire menu is tuned to the hunting season; the menu will read Menu de Chasse, a hunting menu.  If wild pheasant were to be served on a regular menu, it would be noted as faisan sauvage.


Pheasant in flight.
Photograph Courtesy of USFWS Headquarters

 Faisan sauvage, a wild pheasant, has a stronger flavor, than a farm-raised bird; a wild pheasant is also tougher and must be aged and or marinated. Younger, wild birds, do not need aging.Some farm-raised birds may be marinated for the taste a marinade can provide, but they may be roasted or braised without aging.
Le 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, then France's colony of Pondicherry, was one of the most valuable sources 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.. When the poivre rouge de Pondichéry is used in a French recipe it will be on the menu.  Red peppercorns are even stronger than black peppercorns, and while many French chefs like their aroma red peppercorns are reserved for special dishes, as few French dishes are genuinely spicy. Red peppercorns, add color but will be used, in France, 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!

A pheasant in profile.
Photograph courtesy of Paul Gulliver

Suprême de Faisan Sauvage Mariné au Vin Rouge, Bouquet Garni et Baies de Genièvre Breast of wild pheasant marinated in a red wine,  flavored with juniper berries and other herbs in a bouquet garni.
Juniper berries are often used to flavor game dishes and when used they will be on the menu.  However,  a bouquet garni is only rarely noted on French menus as it is an integral part of far too many French many recipes to be pointed especially out. That is unless it somehow plays a truly unique part? With this menu listing, it would be interesting to ask what is special about the bouquet garni in this dish.
A bouquet garni is a respected and traditional French cooking method now used around the world. The original bouquet garni includes a simple but creative method for controlling flavoring; the chosen herbs are tied together with a thread and then placed together with the other ingredients in a soup or stew. When chef feels that the herbs have added enough of their aroma and flavor, he or she pulls the string and voila the bouquet garnie is removed.  For the French home cook, I saw pre-prepared bouquet garnis with a variety of dried herb options on offer in a French supermarket; they were in teabag like sachets with a string attached. I am fairly sure that no professional French chef would use a bouquet garni in a tea bag! 

Ragoût de faisan, a pheasant stew.
Photograph courtesy of Abstract Gourmet

Faisander – Aged meat or game; initially the word faisander applied only to pheasants hung outside for aging. Today the word will be  used for any aged meat or game.

The control of all hunting and wildlife in France is the responsibility of  a French Government Office called: ONCFS, the Office National de la Chasse et de la Faune Sauvage. Their website is   The site is in French, but it is easily understood with the aid of Google Translate, Babylon, Bing Translator and other free translation systems.
For more about Juniper berries, so often part of wild game recipes, see the post: Baie de Genièvre- Juniper berries on the French Menu. Berries in France.

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).

Bryan G Newman
Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2013
For more information on the unpublished book behind this blog contact Bryan Newman