You know how little kids won’t try new foods because they don’t like ones with funny names, like pheasant carbonara, or they despise one of the ingredients in it. My niece refuses to try fried rice because it has “scrambled eggs” in it. I try to coax her into giving it a taste by promising you can’t even taste the eggs, or they don’t even resemble scrambled eggs, or you can eat around the eggs. She always looks me directly in the eye and with a defiant and firm “no” explains how she will not be eating rice with scrambled eggs in it. I roll my eyes each time and reiterate my belief that she is missing out.
I think she is a fool and can’t believe she doesn’t like fried rice; however, I myself can be that same fool. After this past pheasant season, the family requested a new twist on pheasant breasts. I am starting to become notorious for taking the breast and creating a modification on meatballs. I think they were getting tired of my eyes lighting up as I explained how I had thought up yet another meatball we could try.
We all tossed around a few ideas and somehow the idea of pheasant carbonara kept coming up. Carbonara is an Italian pasta dish thought to originate in Rome. While the details are open to interpretation, the basic ingredients are eggs, a hard cheese, some type of bacon, and noodles.
I will admit, I was not 100% sure what pheasant carbonara was when the suggestion was made, so I had to look it up. The second I saw that eggs were in the dish, I reverted to childhood mode. I was not eating noodles with scrambled eggs in it!
While I thought the idea sounded revolting, everyone else was on board. So, I set out to concoct a pheasant carbonara. When researching carbonara, I quickly became a much bigger fan of the idea when I saw how the ingredients could be manipulated to suite personal tastes. I always enjoy wild game recipes that allow the freedom to pair the meat with herbs or flavors that compliment it.
Pheasant is a very mild tasting meat, especially the breasts. It is comparable to chicken in texture and flavor, but still has a uniqueness to it. Since it is a mild meat, pheasant pairs well with stronger flavors, so the salty bacon style pork in a carbonara pairs really well with pheasant. I decided to use a prosciutto, which is an Italian style bacon, in my dish, but you could use any traditional style of bacon, turkey bacon, pancetta, or capicola.
The first step in pheasant carbonara is to prepare the breasts for cooking. Cut the breasts into thin strips, no more than an inch or so thick. Sometimes it helps to lightly freeze the meat before you cut it up. Next, you want to boil the noodles. You want the noodles to be al dente, which takes between nine to twelve minutes, depending on the type of noodle you use. You also want to time the dish so the noodles are just finishing up cooking when you add them to the sauce, since the heat of the noodles are used to help cook the eggs. For my carbonara, I used a linguini noodle. I like the linguini because it is a little thicker and heartier than a spaghetti noodle. Other good noodles for this dish would be spaghetti or even fettuccine.
While the noodles are boiling, start on the sauce. In a large skillet, melt the butter and add the minced garlic, chopped prosciutto, and pheasant pieces. Allow them to cook for about five minutes. With the pan still hot, pour in a half cup of dry white wine. Allow the wine to simmer and some of the alcohol to boil off, about three minutes.
To the simmering wine, add a half cup of heavy cream and bring to a very gentle boil. Let the sauce reduce by half, which takes about five minutes. Once the sauce has reduced, turn off the heat from the pan.
Using a pair of tongs, add the hot pasta to the pheasant and cream sauce. Stir everything and coat the noodles. Pour in the cup of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and the two egg yolks. For the cheese, you can use any type of hard cheese, which usually consist of members of the parmesan cheese family. I like asiago as well sometimes. Stir everything until a creamy, cheesy sauce has formed and coats the noodles entirely. Season with salt and pepper and freshly chopped parsley.
I was hesitant with this dish all the way through until I actually put a bite in my mouth. I was weirded out by the eggs, and felt it would have an egg flavor, but it is amazing! The eggs make the cheese sauce extremely creamy and rich.
This is a perfect meal for using up those pheasant breasts. It would also work good with turkey, grouse, or chukars. The meal is quick and easy to throw together, doesn’t require many ingredients, and is a very hearty and decadent tasting dish. Enjoy your bowl of pheasant carbonara!