The game bird we know as pheasant is not native to the Western hemisphere. Its origin is in Asia, and the ringneck pheasant we are familiar with is native to China. Pheasants were first introduced to America in 1881. They had been introduced to Europe as early as early as the 11th century and have been quite successful due to their ability to react positively to captive breeding programs. Some 10 million pheasants are raised annually in the United States. Pheasants are one of the most popular game birds in America, especially in the northern plains and inter-mountain states. Stocking programs—either private or through state game agencies—exist all over the country.
Like most wild game, pheasants can be pretty lean, which makes them problematic for the table. My favorite recipe for pheasants is one I got from my mother about 40 years ago—Pheasant Chalupas. The original chalupa is what most now call a taco bowl—a corn tortilla pressed into a bowl-like mold and fried until crisp. This recipe, which uses flour tortillas and is baked in an oven, is more similar to an enchilada, but I’ve always heard it referred to as a chalupa...so that’s what I’ll stick with.
To make Pheasant Chalupas, you’ll need to assemble the following ingredients:
12 medium flour tortillas 2 pheasants cooked and shredded 1 10 3/4-ounce can cream of chicken soup 1 10 3/4-ounce can cream of mushroom soup 2 cups sour cream 1 4-ounce can of sliced black olives 1 teaspoon garlic powder 1/2 teaspoon cumin and/or curry 3/4-pound Monterey jack cheese, grated 4 chopped green onions, with tops 1 4-ounce can of green chili peppers ¾ pound cheddar cheese, grated
Well before you plan to serve the meal, skin and bone out the pheasant meat. Cut away any badly shot meat and remove any shot still in the meat. Parboil it for about 6 minutes. Add a tablespoon or so of salt to the water to help remove any blood. Drain the meat thoroughly and rinse it in cold water to remove any grease. Put the meat in a covered bowl and refrigerate for at least two hours. Remove and shred the meat with a fork.
Combine the soups, chili peppers, olives, sour cream and chopped green onions and about half of the Monterey jack cheese into a large bowl, mixing the ingredients thoroughly. In a rectangular baking dish that has been oiled slightly to prevent sticking, spoon a light layer of the mix in the bottom. Spoon in a little of the mix into a tortilla and then add some pheasant. Roll up the chalupa and place it into the baking dish. Repeat until all the meat and tortillas have been prepared.
Spoon the rest of the sauce mixture over the tortillas and cover with the cheddar and the remainder of the Monterey jack cheese. Make sure the tortillas are completely covered with sauce. Spray a piece of aluminum foil with oil, and cover top of casserole.
Bake at 350°F for 40 to 45 minutes.
Allow to cool 5 minutes before serving.
A hint: If you are serving this to even a small group, plan on doubling the recipe. Every time I have made this for people at the office they pick the dish clean. The only way you’ll have leftovers is if you make it for yourself alone.