This is my own twist on the French classic!
Chicken Normandy is a classic dish from, you guessed it, the south of France involving poultry, apples and cider. While it would also be good with wild turkey, we had some pheasant, chuckar, quail, dove, etc hanging around just waiting for something special so I kind of threw everything in there.
To put a little spin on it, I used pears with crystalized ginger instead of apples and cinnamon and it turned out pretty magnificent. The addition of the cream makes it reminiscent of Jamie Oliver’s chicken in milk. While my original intention was to just use pears and keep everything else the same, I just so happened to find some pear cider at the store when I went looking. Of course when it came to adding the apple brandy I was in a bit of a pickle. I was cooking on a Sunday and liquor stores are closed Sundays in Texas. (We can thank the Baptists for that down here in the bible belt.) So as I’m rooting around in our liquor cabinet for a suitable alternative, my, my what do I find? Some pear palinka I had bought when I went to Romania. You know, the liquor you buy because it seems awesome in the moment when you’re on vacation getting drunk and then you get home and think, “What the heck? I’m never gonna drink this.” But I digress. Into the pot it goes, and I ended up with a completely pear-essenced dish that sings with the simple and rustic flavors of southern French cuisine.
Aside from lighting the brandy on fire (and subsequently quickly throwing the pot lid on top when you think the flames are so high you might burn the house down), this dish is actually pretty simple. And the brandy is optional. Typically, you would make this with one chicken or two large pheasant. I had one small pheasant and a variety of other random fowl, so I threw everything in there with a couple of chicken thighs and put the meat thermometer in the breast of the pheasant. This did shorten the time in the oven, so if you do decide to do this with a whole chicken or some larger birds, do account for about an extra 20-30 minutes in the oven.
The one mistake I made with this dish was not making any rice or having bread on hand to go with the ridiculously delicious sauce. Next time, I will be serving this with a big crusty loaf of bread.
Pheasant Normandy… Sort of
- 2 Large pheasant (or 3-4 small, however many birds will fit in your Le Creuset)
- 3 Large red pears (peeled, cored, and quartered)
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1 lemon (thinly sliced)
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 tablespoons crystallized ginger (finely chopped)
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 bottle hard pear cider (hard apple will also work)
- 4 tablespoons double cream (use heavy cream if you can't find or don't want to pay for double cream)
- 2 tablespoons brandy (I used pear brandy, you can use calvados apple brandy or plain brandy)
|Preheat the oven to 350. Melt half the butter in a cast iron casserole (like a Le Creuset) with a lid over medium high heat. Brown the birds on all sides. If using the brandy, pour over the birds and light it on fire. Please do not lean directly over the pot whilst lighting the birds or you might singe your eyelashes. If the flames make you nervous, cover with the lid when you're ready to put the fire out. Take the birds out of the pan and set aside.|
|Add the pears and ginger and the other half of the butter and cook until the pears are slightly softened. Then, nestle the birds in with the pears, lay the lemon slices on top, add the thyme sprigs and cream, and pour over the cider. Cover and cook until a thermometer in the largest pheasant breast reads 165, or about 20-30 minutes depending on their size. Serve with rice or crusty bread or something equally capable of soaking up the delicious sauce.|
Non-game substitution: You can use either a whole chicken, or any combination of bone-in cut up chicken pieces.