Through the beauty of the internet, this month we connected with Chef & owner of Devotay Restaurant in Iowa, Kurt Michael Friese. Kurt is also the founder of the Slow Foods Iowa and a member of the Slow Food USA National Board of Directors. Kurt is also a editor-in-cheif and co-owner of Edible Iowa Valley, a local magazine, as well as a columnist for several other publications. Kurt has also authored the book, A Cook’s Journey: Slow Food in the Heartland and will be publishing his second, Hot Spots on the Chile Trail, in 2011. Quite an introduction!

Kurt cooked us up something special for the cooling weather: “Like most good menus ours gets heartier in the fall, and with the very strong hunting culture in Iowa, game birds are a particular favorite.  We tweaked the classic, homey pot pie with a confit of pheasant from Giannini Farms to create a rich, rib-sticking dinner that’s perfect for these crisp autumn nights.  The sage accents the buttery richness of your favorite pie dough, and serving it with Gruner Veltliner Loibenberg Smaragd from Alzinger, as recommended by well-known Austrian wine guru Terry Theise, would be the perfect fit.”

We couldn’t agree more!

Here’s the recipe:

2 pheasants

2 cups duck fat
3.5 cups pheasant, duck or chicken stock

¾ cup butter

¾ cup flour

1 tablespoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons butter

1 large yellow onion, diced
1 cup fresh or frozen sweet peas

2 carrots, diced
1 cup fresh parsley, minced

½ cup fresh sage, chopped (or ¼ cup dried)

½ cup cognac
Pastry for double-crust pie

Bone the pheasants and season the meat with a liberal dose of salt.  Place in a shallow baking dish and press with a weight (I use a 6-pack of beer!).  Refrigerate overnight.

Add the duck fat and place in a 250 oven for 4 hours, or until the meat is very tender.  You have just made pheasant confit!

Meanwhile, bring the stock to a boil and in a separate melt the 3/4 cup of butter.  Whisk the flour into the butter to form a roux, then reduce heat and cook, stirring frequently, a further 10 minutes.

Whisk the roux into the boiling stock a little at a time until you attain your preferred thickness for this sauce.  Reduce heat to low, season to taste with salt, pepper, Worcestershire and nutmeg and stir occasionally while working on the next step.

In a large sauté pan, melt the 2nd listed butter over medium-high heat and sauté the onions, peas, and carrots with the sage and parsley until just tender.  Deglaze with the cognac (use caution – cognac may ignite).  Reduce until nearly all the liquid has evaporated, 3-4 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees f.

Chop the confit of pheasant and add to the thickened stock along with the sautéed vegetables.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Place in pie shell, and top with the other piece of pastry.  Cut 5 small slits in the top in a star pattern as vents, place on a cookie sheet to catch potential drips, then bake in a 425 degree f. oven for about 40 minutes or until golden brown.

These may also be done in small ramekins for individual pot pies. Serves 6-8

The wine:

The Gruner Veltliner Loibenberg Smaragd from Alzinger.

Weingut Alzinger is located in Loiben area of the Wachau, ideal for growing both Riesling and Gruener Veltliner. Alzinger’s wines are known for their distinct fruit and mineral character – not to mention their prestige. It’s no wonder Kurt chose the Smaragd G.V., a classification unique to the Wachau (Smaragd wines must have a minimum of 12.5%abv and are crafted from the best, and generally the latest harvested, grapes.

Second generation winemaker, Leo Alzinger, Jr. combines the contemporary winemaking practices he learned throughout the world with the traditions of his father before him. The GV Loibenberg Smaragd is a combination of floral, smokey and citrus nuances that is weighty enough to stand up to hearty fall fair – white wine drinkers take note… this is a wine for the cooler weather!