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Pheasant and Duck Rillettes with Pistachio and Cranberries

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Rillettes is a fancy French name for a meat spread with a lot of fat......and I'm glad I've made its acquaintance. This was my first crack at pheasant rillettes and it turns out, it's super easy to put together. It's a mostly hands-off process with a little shredding, chopping, and mixing at the very end. And strangely enough, I think this will make a good BWCA lunch if I vacuum-seal it in plastic.....eating civilized food is key to my camping enjoyment. 

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This is a pretty rich snack and it benefits from the tempering influence of a good Dijon mustard and a cornichon. It's also a little salty when you first put everything together but once it sits and cools off in the refrigerator, its saltiness diminishes and its meaty richness comes shining through. It keeps for about 2 months in the refrigerator (with a decent amount of fat on the top to seal it) but I've heard you can freeze it for up to 6 months with success -- I'll let you know how it holds up. 

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Pheasant Rillettes

2 whole pheasants, backbones removed
4 duck breasts, skin-on
1/2 pound pancetta, finely chopped
2 cups sherry
1 cup butter, plus more if needed
1 cup pistachios, shelled and chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped
1/2 red onion, minced
1 medium shallot, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons orange zest
3 tablespoons, plus 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced and divided
2 tablespoon kosher salt, divided
2 tablespoon coarse ground black pepper, divided
1 1/2 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced and divided

Preparation
Combine 3 tablespoons orange zest, 2 tablespoons rosemary, 1/2 tablespoons thyme, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 tablespoon pepper in a small bowl and rub all over the pheasant, inside and out. Place on a sheet tray or bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place in refrigerator for 4 - 6 hours. 

Remove the fat from each duck breast, cut into small pieces, and place in a medium saucepan and add enough water to cover the duck fat pieces. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about another 30 - 45 minutes, or until the water has evaporated and the fat is rendered. If the fat need a little longer, just add a more water and continue to simmer.  Once the water has evaporated, fry the skin over medium heat until it’s crispy. Remove the skin from the rendered fat and discard. Place the fat in a bowl and set aside. 

In a medium-sized, heavy-bottomed stockpot, melt the butter and then add the pancetta, onion, 1 teaspoon of thyme, rosemary, and garlic. Sauté over medium heat for about 10 minutes, or until onion has softened and the pancetta is golden brown. Add the sherry, pheasants, and duck breast to the stockpot and add more melted butter if the meat isn’t submerged (you want all the meat to be covered with liquid). 

Simmer over medium-low heat (checking every now and then to make sure the meat is still submerged) for 4 hours. Uncover the pot for the last hour or so, to evaporate the liquid and leave you with primarily fat and meat in the pot. 

Let cool and then shred all the meat and place in a bowl with the fat from the cooking pot (if there is still some non-fat liquid in the pot, you can add it if you want. Otherwise, toss it out) . Add the minced shallot, cranberries, pistachios, and remaining 1 tablespoon of rosemary, salt and pepper. Mix to thoroughly combine. Pack into jars, it'll keep in the refrigerator, covered, for 2 months. 

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