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Jack Hennessy reveals history and secrets of Kansas Ringneck Classic Fried Pheasant

In “Braising the Wild,” Jack Hennessy reveals the history and secrets of Kansas Ringneck Classic Fried Pheasant.

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Kansas Ringneck Classic Fried Pheasant.
Jack Hennessy

Jack Hennessy reveals the history and secrets behind Kansas Ringneck Classic Fried Pheasant this week in “Braising the Wild.”

Here is the recipe.

KANSAS RINGNECK CLASSIC FRIED PHEASANT

Any pheasant hunter knows full well Kansas is home to amazing pheasant hunting. Additionally, any true pheasant hunter understands in order to preserve and enhance our populations, habitat is the answer.

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the ninth annual Kansas Governor’s Ringneck Classic in Colby, Kansas. The Kansas Governor’s Ringneck Classic is a major fundraiser for habitat improvement and wildlife conservation in Northwest Kansas. The Classic works locally to improve awareness, enhance public hunting access and champion wildlife habit projects.

Though the weekend is centered around a Saturday hunt, evenings were spent fundraising for our military as well as local youth scholarships and, of course, wildlife habitat. On Thursday night, there was a wild game dinner, hosted by Ringneck Classic president Jim Millensifer, who did a large portion of the cooking and, though he is quick to dismiss this fact, the majority of the wingshooting.

The menu included everything from venison pierogis to albondigas al chipotle wild turkey meatballs to buffalo prairie chicken dip to fried pheasant to quail tacos. “Of the 110 or so people attending, vast majority tried something for the first time,” said Jim Millensifer. “They might have had venison but not quail, for example.”

Like any wild game cook, this sort of dinner is a great source of pride for Millensifer. “I enjoy getting people to eat something that has a bad rap or they’ve never tried.”

For me, the highlight of the dinner was the fried pheasant, which was uncannily crispy despite trays of it being covered in aluminum foil and left in warming drawers hours ahead of time.

Joe Heskett, volunteer and former pheasant guide, was the mastermind behind this dish. (He was kind enough to share his recipe below.) His two big points, I gathered, were to firstly brine the pheasant for a few days. That’ll get the blood out and basically turn the pheasant white. Because so many people have a pre-conceived aversion to wild game, when they see a gray-ish meat like pheasant, they might decline.

Secondly, Heskett uses a commercial-grade fryer with baskets versus a skillet (like I use). With a skillet, dregs from previously fried foods accumulate and can stick to the next batch and potentially create soggy fried food if you don’t eat it fresh. Not so with with a fryer, says Heskett

Ingredients (two servings):

Breast and thighs from 2 pheasants

Brine:

1/2 gallon cold water
1/3 cup non-iodized salt

Buttermilk soak:

1:4 ratio of six-pepper blend seasoning to buttermilk

Other ingredients:

Your favorite seasoned flour
4 eggs for egg wash
Panko bread crumbs
Vegetable, canola, or sunflower oil

Debone thighs and remove any shot from meat. Soak meat in brine for three days.

Thoroughly rinse off brine and wrap in plastic wrap and freeze.

After fully frozen, thaw meat and lightly tenderize with meat mallet.

Cover pheasant meat in buttermilk-and-six-pepper mix and allow to soak for 24 hours.

When ready to cook, pre-heat oil in fryer to 350 to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

WITHOUT rinsing off buttermilk, throw pheasant pieces through your favorite seasoned flour and shake off excess flour.

Break eggs and mix to create egg wash in a bowl. After coating pheasant in flour, coat in egg wash then panko.

Drop pheasant coated in panko into fryer and pull basket out of fryer once pheasant turns a light golden brown.

Allow a few minutes to rest and for carry-over cooking. Serve and enjoy!