Nothing tops pheasant like a little chocolate


May 01, 1994|By ROB KASPER

You know you are an adult when you get to have chocolate sauce on your entree. That happened to me the other night.

Out came this big white plate and right in the middle of it was a pheasant swimming in a sauce of liquid chocolate, one of the liquids I was put on earth to absorb.

Officially this dish was called Faisan al Chocolate, or braised pheasant in chocolate sauce. I call it . . . It's Great to Be a Grown-Up.

It was part of a six-course tribute-to-Spanish-cuisine dinner whipped up at Restaurante Tio Pepe for members of the local chapter of Conferie de la Chaine des Rotisseurs. This is a group devoted to grown-up pleasures, such as dressing up, sipping good wine, eating fine food and smooching.

This kissing part came during the induction of new members. I am not sure that prying members of the press, such as myself, were supposed to witness this ritual. But I watched.

L. Duke Goldberg was the "bailli," the person in charge, the chief kisser. He also got to wield a silver sword, a real handsome piece of metal. He tapped it on the shoulders of new members and then passed out ribbons and medals.

All the ceremonial smooching and swordsmanship took place after the hors d'oeuvres, which included a terrific ceviche of grouper marinated in lemon juice, and before the soup, lima bean with little-neck clams.

So far as I could tell, no award was given to the dinner guest who traveled the farthest. But if such an award were given, it would have to go to the Corvina. That was the name of the fish that was flown in from the Pacific Ocean for the occasion. As is true with most fish that arrive in Tio Pepe's kitchen, it was treated well. It was baked and covered with a Romescu sauce made of tomatoes, olive oil, red peppers, onions, wine, garlic and almonds. Forkfuls of the flaky fish dipped in the red sauce were magnificent.

But the hit of the evening for me was the braised pheasant in the chocolate sauce. The pheasant was firm yet juicy, full of flavor. It went well with the sauce and the red wine served with it, a 1987 Muga Crianza from Spain's Rioja region.

The chocolate sauce was so good that the adults at my table mopped their plates with pieces of bread. Later, when a nougat souffle was presented for the dessert course, it seemed like the second dessert.

When I read the recipe for the chocolate sauce, I paused. It was a recipe from Emiliano Sanz, the chef at Tio Pepe. It is a chef's recipe and therefore a challenge. First of all, it required searching for a special chocolate used in Spanish-speaking countries. According to Tio Pepe's Miguel Sanz, it is a sweet chocolate, but not a milk chocolate, and is found in Latin groceries. Spanish cookbooks I read recommended using bittersweet chocolate if the native chocolate cannot be found. Secondly, the recipe was made in large proportions, enough to feed a table full of pheasant-eaters. Finally, the recipe assumed you could debone game birds and cook a sauce for three to four hours.

This was not a sauce you tossed together in 30 minutes. It required skill and an afternoon. Still, it was so good that my goal is to someday have that chocolate sauce swimming on my kitchen table, right on top of my entree.

Tio Pepe chocolate sauce

Serves 6

1 quart chicken broth

2 tablespoons olive oil

8 shallots, chopped

1/3 cup dry sherry

1/4 pound sweet, pure chocolate (found in Latin groceries) or semi-sweet chocolate

1 bay leaf

2 tablespoons sweet sherry

freshly ground black pepper

white chocolate shavings


This sauce is an ideal complement for game birds. Braise the birds and debone them. Cook the bones in the chicken broth for three to four hours and strain the liquid.

Heat olive oil in a skillet. Saute shallots until wilted. Add the dry sherry, half a cup of broth, salt, pepper and bay leaf. Cover and simmer for about one hour. Add chocolate and sweet sherry and continue cooking, stirring occasionally until thick. Strain and serve. Sprinkle white chocolate shavings on the top.

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