Three Great Wild Turkey Recipes
By Eric Crawford
I’ll admit, on occasion I experience delusions of grandeur. Overwhelmingly, I get the elk, deer or turkey ahead of the shot. I’m literally daydreaming of that bull elk, long beard or whitetail buck already cut and wrapped in my freezer before I even fire a round. This little diversion from reality has caused a number of missed shots and opportunities over the years. But truth be known, I enjoy eating wild game and get pretty excited for the opportunity to fill my belly with some of the best available wild origin, organic protein there is.
Like many of us, I’ve developed my culinary arts skills over the years from experience. I haven’t figured out the chemistry of cooking or taken the time to understand what spice compliments the other, but certainly have developed the patience and dedication needed to give these wild beasts the respect they deserve in the kitchen.
From early on, not knowing what to do with the leg and thighs, to breasting the bird only to steak and marinade it to be grilled; a technique, despite its simplicity is still solid. With so many resources out there to find a recipe I want to give you a little motivation to up your culinary game this spring.
We’ll start with arguably the hardest cuts to deal with, the legs and thighs. When breaking down a spring bird I generally keep the leg and thigh together as one cut and will later break it down further if needed. I think we can all agree that if not prepared properly the leg and thigh of an old long beard can be pretty darn tough. I’ve found the trick to get a tender piece of meat is treating it the same as any other tough cut—low and slow is the answer. You have two convenient choices to create a tender cut: slow cooker or pressure cooking.
Call me a heathen, but I’ve grown to love the Instant Pot for doing both. The Instant Pot has settings to do both, slow cook and pressure and has adjustable temperature settings. I’ve really grown to appreciate the pressure cooking mode. Even with a traditional pressure cooker in the house, it was never convenient to use it for cooking but pulled out only for canning. Once you’ve got the leg and thigh tender your options are limitless, from soups and stews to carnitas and dumplings. But a quick and easy option is pulled BBQ sandwiches.
Pulled BBQ Long Beard Sandwich
- 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoons celery seeds
- 3 cups thinly sliced green cabbage
- 2 slices bacon, chopped
- 1 cup tomato puree
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup water
- 3 tablespoons (packed) dark brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 1/3 cups shredded cooked turkey
- 4 soft rolls
1. Make Slaw. Whisk mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, and celery seeds in small bowl to blend. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add cabbage; toss to blend. Cover bowl and chill. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.
2. Make barbecue sauce. Sauté bacon in heavy small saucepan over medium heat until crisp and brown, about 5 minutes. Add tomato puree, apple cider vinegar, 1/4 cup water, dark brown sugar, chili powder, and ground cumin. Bring sauce to boil; reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
3. Add shredded cooked turkey to barbecue sauce and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until turkey is heated through, stirring occasionally.
4. Split and toast rolls. Divide turkey and slaw among rolls. Press tops down lightly to compress, then serve.
I’ve been known to prep this days, weeks and even months in advance, vacuum sealing and freezing it to be pulled out at a later date for a simple reheat for a shore lunch or brunch after that famed brunch hunt.
Moving literally from the ground up and to the truest delicacy of a wild turkey, the breasts. You need to take into consideration that this is a wild bird that has had to fend for itself to top 20 pounds and hasn’t been spoon fed like his domestic cousin. This hard life leaves a lean bird with no additives and deserves a greater level of attention to avoid drying it out.
Lemon-Rosemary Spring Strutter
With spring in the air and summer peaking around the corner it’s hard not to want to belly up to the grill. This recipes utilizes the acid in lemon juice to help tenderize the meat while the rosemary adds a hint of summer. This truly is a nod to spring and summer to come.
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1/2 teaspoons garlic
- 1/4 teaspoons ground black pepper
- Cut each breast in half lengthwise and into strips
- Combine ingredients in bowl
- Place turkey strips into container and pour marinade over them
- Marinate 1 hour at room temperature, turning often, or cover and chill overnight
- Thread each strip completely onto 1 skewer, leaving 1/2 inch of skewer exposed
- Press 1 grape tomato onto end of skewers
- Preheat grill
- Cook until desired done-ness. Caution: these strips cook fast
This recipe is my all-time favorite due to its versatility and use with game birds and animals. A buddy first introduced me to this recipe as venison Piccata. After a research I discovered that this recipe was derived from a white meat recipe. This recipe has a couple of steps, but is truly one of the simplest to follow and makes a meal that has a real diversity of flavor due to the lemon juice, white wine and capers. When given a choice, my kids constantly ask for this method of preparation over anything else.
1. Cook turkey breasts
- Steak turkey breast cross wise
- Salt and pepper to taste
- In a large skillet heat a 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter and 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil.
- Dredge steaks in flour. Sauté for approximately 2 minutes per side to avoid overcooking. Remove steaks to an ovenproof pan and keep warm on a very low oven setting.
2. Piccata preparation
- Remove all but a tablespoon of fat from the skillet, heat over medium heat, adding 2-3 tablespoons of minced shallots
- Cook, stirring, until wilted. Increase heat and add 1/2 cup turkey stock (you can substitute chicken stock)
- Add 1/2 cup white wine and bring to a boil
- Scrape the bottom of the skillet with a wooden spoon to dissolve the browned bits
- Add 4 tablespoons of strained fresh lemon juice
- Add 2-3 tablespoons nonpareil capers, drained
- Boil until the mixture is reduced
- Add accumulated turkey juices and reduce again
- Remove from heat and swirl in 2-3 tablespoons of unsalted butter, softened
- Pour the sauce over the turkey steaks and serve immediately.
If you have any questions about these recipes, or any favorite wild turkey recipes to share, paste them in the comments below.