CHEF JEFF: One Byte At A Time — Creamy Tuscan Pheasant

Many people think of Italian cooking when they ponder delicious sauces served over pasta, lots of vegetables, olive oil and cheesy pizzas topped with a variety of meats. Ancient Etruscan, Greek and Roman cultures contributed to an Italian cuisine rich in all of those and more.

Like all Italian cuisine, Tuscan food is rich in those attributes. Tuscany is also known for its use of wild game in sauces, which was news to me until I did a little research. The following recipe originally called for chicken and seemed perfect for some of the pheasant breasts that I still had left in my freezer.

My hunch was correct. The meaty sauce nicely complemented a meal that also consisted of mashed potatoes, steamed green beans from the garden and a fresh salad.

My guess is that anyone who is fond of a Mediterranean diet won’t have a second thought about trying thisi savory dish.

Creamy Tuscan Pheasant
4 pheasant breasts, halved (can substitute 2 large chicken breasts)
1 teaspoon sea salt, divided, plus more to taste
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
½ teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons light olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
8 ounces brown mushrooms, thickly sliced
¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained and chopped
¼ cup green onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1½ cups heavy whipping cream
½ cup Parmesan cheese, finely shredded
2 cups fresh baby spinach
In a large nonreactive skillet over medium heat and melt in 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Season chicken all over with about ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon black pepper and ½ teaspoon garlic powder. Add chicken to the hot skillet and saute 3 to 5 minutes per side, or until cooked through to a safe internal temperature of 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.
Remove chicken from the pan and transfer to a cutting board to cool then slice chicken if desired.
In the same pan over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon oil and sliced mushrooms, and saute 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally until lightly golden and excess liquid has evaporated. Add chopped sun-dried tomatoes, green onion, minced garlic, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Saute another 1 minute or until garlic is fragrant.
Stir in cream and sprinkle ½ cup Parmesan cheese over the top. Bring to a light boil, stirring frequently then reduce heat and simmer (2 minutes) until sauce is slightly thickened. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper.
Add spinach and stir just until wilted. Add chicken back to the pan, and spoon warm sauce over it then remove from heat. Garnish with chives if desired. Serve over pasta or mashed potatoes.
Note: Use a stainless steel skillet or nonreactive skillet.

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