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Roasted Scottish Pheasants with Apricots and Dates

  • 1/2 cup of dried apricots
  • 1/2 cup of dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup of Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur
  • 1/4 cup of fresh lime juice (from about 2 large limes)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 2-1/2 to 3-pound pheasants (preferably wild Scottish)
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 teaspoons of dried thyme, crumbled
  • 2 bay leaves
  • vegetable oil for brushing pheasants
  • 1/2 cup of pitted dates, chopped
  • Garnish: fresh thyme sprigs

In a small heatproof bowl, cover apricots with boiling water and soak for 10 minutes. Drain the apricots and cut them into quarters. In a small saucepan, simmer the wine, liqueur, lime juice, and sugar for 5 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Cut off the legs of the pheasants and reserve the for another use. Sprinkle the pheasants inside and out with pepper and salt to taste. Put 1 teaspoon of thyme and 1 bay leaf in the cavity of each pheasant and close the cavities with skewers or toothpicks so that pheasants hold their shape.

Brush the pheasants with oil and arrange them breast-side-down in a roasting pan. Roast the pheasants for 20 minutes and discard any fat in the roasting pan. Turn pheasants over and add, to the pan, the wine mixture and dates. Roast the pheasants, adding about a 1/2 cup of water if all liquid evaporates, 25 minutes more, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast registers 160F. Let the pheasants stand 10 minutes.

Transfer the pheasants to a cutting board and cut each in half. Serve them with apricot date sauce and garnish with thyme.

Serves four.

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