I f you’ve never tried brining your pheasant before you must give it a go! This extra step really does make the bird much more succulent and easy to carve. The nutty sweetness of the artichoke and pheasant are a match made in heaven. The gratin is seriously rich and indulgent and provides a creamy sauce for the pheasant. If you do wish to go all out and serve with a jus as well - see tip below.
To prepare the brine, measure the sugar and salt into a jug. Pour over 200ml of boiling water and stir well to dissolve. Pour the brine into a deep bowl or container, add the herbs and the remaining (cold) water. Place the pheasants into the brine and leave for 2 hours in the fridge.
Remove and pat well with kitchen roll. Place in the fridge until ready to cook.
Preheat the oven to 200C.
In a frying pan slowly fry the bacon till very crisp. Remove onto kitchen paper but reserve the fat for later. Finely chop the bacon.
In a jug combine the cream, artichoke paste, chicken stock, 1 tsp salt, garlic and thyme.
Use a mandolin to slice the potatoes into thin rounds.
Generously butter a suitable gratin dish.
Cover the bottom with a layer of the potatoes, then layer with half of the artichokes, half the bacon pieces and plenty of seasoning. Repeat and finish by pouring over the cream to fully submerge the potatoes. Sprinkle with the grated parmesan, cover with foil and bake for 1 hour 15 minutes before removing the foil and baking for a further 15 minutes. Test with a knife before serving! It may require a little longer.
Heat the bacon fat reserved from earlier and pan fry the birds till browned all over, concentrating on the legs in particular.
Place into a deep roasting dish along with the shallots and celery.
Using your fingers, carefully loosen the skin covering the breast and push a knob of butter and thyme under the skin. Season well with salt and pepper, drizzle with rapeseed oil, drape over the remaining bacon rashers over the breasts and roast for 20 minutes at 200C.
Transfer the pheasants onto a serving dish and turn the birds upside down and allow to rest for at least 15 minutes before carving.
Return the shallot and celery back the oven for a further 20 minutes. Serve alongside the birds with the gratin.
If you wish to make a simple jus, simply use the juices from the roasting dish. Place onto the hob, sprinkle in 1 tsp cornflour, stir well over a medium heat and gradually add in 200ml chicken/game stock, whisking to prevent lumps. Reduce the liquid for 10 minutes then pour in a splash of red wine and a spoonful of fruit jelly (redcurrant/quince work well). Cook for a further 2 minutes then strain into a jug. Adding seasoning if necessary.