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Pheasant Fest: MeatEater, Neapolitan pizza, roulade, pollinator pigeons

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Pheasant roulade, by Lukas Leaf, in an avocado/cilantro sauce at the National Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic.
Dale Bowman/Sun-Times

We’ll focus on food with a couple other notes for this update before the final day of the National Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic. IThe show ends today at 4 p.m. at the Schaumburg Convention Center.

But first the food, a subject close to my heart.

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Steven Rinella, of MeatEater Fame, signing books before giving the keynote speech at the National Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic.
Dale Bowman/Sun-Times

Steven Rinella, of MeatEater fame, had an hour-long book signing before he went to give the keynote address at the Saturday night banquet. It was something to see people in line with multiple titles of his to sign. The line took the full hour to wind through to Rinella.

Now to cooking.

At the top is a photo of pheasant roulade, which Lukas Leaf made for Saturday lunch at the Wild Game Cooking Stage. Leaf is the lead chef for Modern Carnivore. He’s also a forager, which showed in his prep.

He began by pounding out a whole pheasant breast under plastic, That led to a whole discussion on making sure to use the whole bird, down to roasting the carcass and making stock out of it.

“The first time I did this, my buddy pounded it out o the ice on Mille Lacs,” Leaf said.

One of his ingredients was befitting a forager, the dust of dried mushrooms. He used it both as an ingredient for the filling and a finishing dusting over the dish.

On a side track, he mentioned some of the things he foraged for, such as recently the tips of spruce. Something else I need to try.

His basic filling to stuff the pounded breasts with was roasted garlic and onion, mushrooms, parmesan cheese and bread crumbs. Then he rolled it inside the breasts, rolled them in flour, then through an egg wash and into the crumbs. He first seared the seam side to seal it. After all sides were seared, he baked it at 375-400 in the oven. He used plenty of butter, even some right at the finish.

He plated it with this wonderful sauce made with an avocado, one bunch of cilantro, salt, fresh herbs (I tasted something spicy), some white wine vinegar and lime juice

Just killer.

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Pheasant pizza by John Hennessy.
Dale Bowman/Sun-Times

Earlier Saturday, I attended a seminar by John Hennessy on “Chicago Legacy Gone Wild: Stove-Top Pheasant Pizza.” Hennessy, who is the author of “Braising the Wild” blog, made a sort of Neapolitan pizza.

His first job, BTW, was working at the Aurelio’s in Richton Park.

One of the take-aways from his presentation was how important the basics of salting and peppering food really is.

His recipe could be done with any white-bird, such as grouse or turkey.

He seared the pizza crust in a pan, flipped it, the added the sauce and put the lightly grilled pheasant on. Then a mix of onions and peppers, then hit it with the cheese, which included a bit of cheddar for color and flavor, put a lid over the pan to finish it

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Mike Budd discussing how to make Pollinator Pigeons.
Dale Bowman/Sun-Times

A couple other things. In the U.S. Fish and Wildlife booth, Mike Budd, Illinois state coordinator for Partners for U.S. Fish and Wildlife, was leading a Pollinator Pigeon Party. It’s putting pollinator seeds into the top of clay pigeons, which shooters use for practice, and it becomes a way to grow pollinator friendly plants.

For three days, I have been next to the booth for DeBoer’s Guide Service, out of South Dakota. They have a brilliant scheme for getting people to stop and talk: namely blaze orange wear with pithy sayings on it.

It works like a magnet to draw people to the booth.

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Wear with pithy sayings at the DeBoer’s Guiding Service booth next to the Sun-Times booth.
Dale Bowman/Sun-Times

I have two things I hope to accomplish other than meeting and talking with people at the Sun-Times booth. First off, I need to see Hank Shaw in the Wild-Game Cooking Stage and Wade Louis to end the day on “Research Advances Habitat Management on Illinois Pheasant Habitat Areas” on the Habitat Stage.

The Sun-Times booth (513) is just inside the entrance, right across the from the South Cook County chapter booth. Stop by. The talk and stories are flowing.