Sunday, November 21, 2010

Slow cooker "Smitten" Pheasant recipe

The original recipe for this dish was called Pheasant "Smitane" and came from the New York Times Cook Book (a very old copy thereof), but we rechristened it "smitten" pheasant as we fell in love with the gorgeous sauce which involves white wine, sour cream or crème fraiche and, in this case, bacon.

I was inspired to try it when I noted that Scott over at Real Epicurean was running a blog carnival highlighting posts involving game. I already had a pheasant in my freezer begging for my attention so this was just the kind of challenge I needed.

So here's my easy-to-achieve recipe for Smitten Pheasant in the slow cooker. (And yes, for those of you who know me well, of course I bought it on special!)

Ingredients for 2:

One pheasant - ours was 500g or about a pound
Sprig of thyme
1 clove of garlic, crushed
2 rashers of smoked bacon
1 small onion, diced
100 ml dry white wine
2 tsp butter
200 ml crème fraiche or sour cream


Put the pheasant into your slow cooker. I used a 4 litre/quart cooker for this but more birds would require a bigger pot. Into the cavity put half  the sprig of thyme and the garlic clove. Drape the bacon length ways over the breast of the pheasant. Add the onion, white wine and butter to the pot. Cook on High for 3 hours. Check that the juices are running clear and that your pheasant is fully cooked.

Leaving the pheasant in the pot to keep warm, put the bacon into a frying pan/skillet and fry for a few minutes until stiff but not crispy. Remove the bacon to a warm plate and chop up (I use scissors) into small strips, ready to add to the sauce. Briefly put the pheasant onto a warm plate while you drain the cooking juices from the slow cooker into the same pan you cooked the bacon in. Return the pheasant to the pot to stay warm and reduce the pan juices by a third or so. Stir the crème fraiche into the pan juices, add the bacon and tip the whole lot over the pheasant.

Serve with rice and a green vegetable, such as broccoli or spinach.


The sauce was heavenly and the slight sourness of the crème fraiche highlighted rather than distracted from the gamey taste of the meat. The bacon could have overpowered the pheasant (you wouldn't want too salty a batch of bacon) but instead complemented it. The meat had stayed moist and tender as I had hoped as pheasant can be a dry bird. I had thought the slow cooker might be the ideal way of getting around this and it seems to have worked.

On a purely personal note however I think we'll wait until the kids have left home before cooking pheasant again. For the two tired parents of an energetic toddler enjoying a peaceful Friday night, the number of bones was exhausting to deal with! I think cooking a larger bird would have helped as we could have just eaten the easy bits like the breast but this dish was, although delicious, a pleasure hard won! I do like game birds and they don't have to be hard to cook but I may let someone else do it for me for the time being!


  1. Thanks for this - I have recently acquired a freezer full of pheasants and was wondering what to do with the first. In the past I have either roasted or pot roasted, but have found the results rather dry, and wondered whether slow cooking might be better, but had no idea how long it would take. I searched the internet and found this site. I took the cooking time suggested and used a recipe from Nigel Slater's Appetite, adding some water and carrot. I served it with red cabbage I froze after Christmas. It worked brilliantly and will definitely be slow cooking the rest of the pheasants. Will try the smitten pheasant next time. Your blog has also inspired me to try and use my slow cooker more

  2. Andie, I'm touched, and I'm glad you ended up with a good meal. I hope you enjoy the Smitten version too. It sounds more involved than it actually is and was very tasty. Happy cooking!

  3. for a different flavour try using hard cider in place of wine, and some cannellini beans in with the sauce - yum!
    thanks for the recipe idea :)

    1. Wow, that sounds good! This illustrates how I adapt most of my recipes from conventional cook books - use a similar slow cooker recipe as a template then mix up the flavours. I'll look forwrad to trying this some time.

  4. Hi Gem, really enjoyed the recipe, sauce is amazing. I could not get my garlic to rush though, I had to use the slow kind! Regards, David

  5. Thanks for the gentle reminder to proof read the recipe. Tired Mummy brain again! Glad you liked it. There are lots of other recipes where you add sour cream to the juices from braised meat (e.g. stroganof, paprikash) and it never fails to wow me as a flavour enhancer.

  6. Hi.

    Great recipe. I'm fairly new to slow cooking and this was my first attempt to cook pheasant and husband enjoyed it so much he said he would like it again!

    I cooked a larger bird (about 1.9 lb) for 4 hours. The meat was moist and tender and just fell off the bone.

    Thank you.


  7. Really glad you enjoyed it. Hope you have fun with the other recipes!