- 3 (2 1/2 to 3 pound) farm-raised pheasants*, innards removed, wing tips and necks trimmed
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 1 carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 1 orange, halved
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 6 slices thick-cut bacon, cut in half
- 1/4 cup Madeira
- 1 cup rich chicken stock
- 2 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter
- Wild Mushroom Bread Pudding, recipe follows
Season the cavities and the outside of each pheasant liberally with salt and pepper. Divide the chopped onion and carrot equally among the cavities of the pheasants. Squeeze the juice from both halves of the orange and set aside. Cut 1 of the squeezed halves into 3 pieces, and tuck inside of the cavities along with the veggies. Insert 1sprig of thyme into the cavity of each pheasant.
Arrange the pheasants in a large roasting pan, breast sides up. Lay 2 strips of bacon over the top of each pheasant, cutting the bacon into pieces if necessary to cover as much of the pheasant as possible. Roast for 15 minutes, then remove the bacon strips and continue roasting for approximately 30 to 40 minutes, or until the juices run clear. (It is important to not overcook the pheasants, as they are very lean birds.) Remove the pheasants from the oven and transfer to a serving platter, loosely tented, while you make the sauce.
Using a spoon, carefully remove as much extra fat from the pan as possible. Place the roasting pan over high heat and, when hot, deglaze with the reserved orange juice and Madeira, using a wooden spoon to scrape any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. When the orange juice and Madeira have reduced by half, add the chicken stock and continue to cook until sauce has reduced enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 3 to 4 minutes. Swirl in the butter and remove from the heat. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.
Remove the back bone from each pheasant, then cut along the breast bone to divide the birds into two halves. Serve 1/2 pheasant per person, napped with some of the sauce and with some of the Wild Mushroom Bread Pudding.
*Note: Wild pheasants are usually smaller birds, and thus will cook in less time. If you are using wild pheasants, please adjust the recipe accordingly.