Recipes & Cooking  |  10/11/2016

Pheasant spelt pilaf with butternut bisque

Pheasant opener, arguably the best part of autumn, is almost here! After you bag your first rooster, consider combining its harvest with some other fall favorites, such as butternut squash and German dunkel beer, possibly leftover from your Oktoberfest festivities.  
Spelt originated in the Near East over 8,000 years ago. This species of wheat later spread throughout Europe, becoming especially popular in Germany, where it is called dinkel flour or dinkel wheat. Spelt has a unique nutty flavor and, because of its high water solubility, its vital nutrients—such as fiber, iron, vitamin B12 and protein—are quickly absorbed into the body. Such sustenance in a meal will provide the energy necessary for those multi-mile days afield tracking down roosters.  
While one butternut squash will yield a large batch of bisque, this pilaf recipe only calls for a small portion of that bisque. However, bisque is easily frozen and reheated, so you will have a couple meals-worth leftover, ready to serve at any time.
Makes two servings.
  • 2 pheasant breasts, 5 to 6 ounces each grilled then sliced
  • Light dusting of salt and pepper
Butternut squash bisque
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 large cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 medium butternut squash, yielding approximately 4 cups when cubed
  • 2/3 cup German dunkel beer
  • 1/2 tablespoon cardamom
  • 5 cups chicken stock
  • 3/4 cup apple cider
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Spelt pilaf
  • 1-1/2 cups “Bob’s Red Mill” spelt
  • 3/4 cup shallots, finely sliced bi-julienne
  • 1 large green bell pepper, diced
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons dry thyme
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

In a large pot, add butter and heat on medium. Add diced onion and garlic and stir until onions are soft. During that time, peel and seed butternut squash. Cut into small 1-inch cubes. When onions are soft, deglaze with dunkel beer. Stir for one minute then add squash, cardamom, 2 cups chicken stock (add other 3 cups later), apple cider, salt and pepper. Cover with lid and cook on medium low, stirring often, for approximately 30 minutes, until squash is soft. Puree in food processor and place back in pot. Add 3 cups chicken stock, brown sugar and vanilla extra and simmer for another 30 minutes, stirring often. Salt to taste.  
While bisque simmers, preheat grill to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly salt and pepper all sides of pheasant breasts. Grill both breasts evenly on both sides until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Set aside until pilaf is finished.
While pheasant grills, start pilaf by adding butter, sliced shallots and spelt to deep medium sauté pan. Heat on medium, stirring often to sauté shallots and toast spelt. Add diced green bell pepper along with salt and pepper. When shallots are soft and spelt releases nutty aroma, add chicken stock and thyme. Bring pan to a boil, then lower to simmer and stir often until liquids are absorbed (approximately 1 hour).
To serve, in a separate pan, on low heat, toss 1-1/2 cups of spelt pilaf  and 1/2 cup butternut bisque, topped with sliced grilled pheasant and drizzle more butternut bisque overtop. Garnish with toasted almonds crumbs or freshly chopped parsley (optional).
Former line cook and passionate denizen of the outdoors, Jack Hennessy is the author of the blog “Braising the Wild.” He lives with his wife in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram: @WildGameJack or on Facebook at