I read Jack Hennessy’s lead paragraph and thought, “Yea, I know that from personal experience.”
As always, he brings nuggets of broader knowledge to wild-game cooking, this time on how to make wild turkey without turning it into old leather.
Here is his recipe:
SMOKED WILD TURKEY WITH RED BELL CREAM SAUCE
The two biggest mistakes hunters make when cooking wild turkey: 1. Failing to butcher the bird and cook separate parts via appropriate methods. 2. Cooking breast meat as if it were a domestic bird.
Wild turkey breasts, since leaner than domestic meat, dries out far quicker. Lower temperatures are required for an even, full cook; otherwise temperatures like 325 could dry out the outer layer by the time the middle of breast reaches 160.
Smoking is a great option. I prefer mesquite wood chunks and use a Pyro Tower, which allows me to smoke low then quickly add more woods or coals and crank up the heat for a quick sear, but whatever equipment you use: try to cook low then quickly sear at end.
Ingredients (two servings):
One 12- to 18-ounce wild turkey breast
1/2 gallon cold water
1/4 kosher salt
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup black peppercorns
1/4 coriander seeds
1/2 bulb garlic, smashed
1 tablespoon salted butter
1 roasted red bell pepper (canned or fresh)
1/2 medium yellow onion, minced
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup sweet marsala cooking wine
1 pint heavy whipping cream
6 ounces sliced, canned mushrooms
Salt and pepper to taste
1-1/2 cups white or jasmine rice
2 cups water
Optional garnish: dry or fresh thyme
Mix brine (all ingredients) until salt and sugar dissolve. Add turkey breast, fully submerged, and allow to brine for 10-12 hours (no longer).
After 10-12 hours, thoroughly rinse off turkey breast under cold water. Pat dry and put in fridge for a couple hours.
For sauce, add a thin layer of olive oil to large, deep skillet and heat on medium. Add minced onions and lightly salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, roast red bell pepper in oven (if fresh) at 400 degrees until red flesh chars and skin loosens (approximately 18-20 minutes). Place in colander and run under cold water while removing stem, seeds and outer skin. Set aside.
Once onions start to brown, turn heat to low and allow onions to caramelize (approximately 30-45 minutes). Once color of brown sugar, add tablespoon of butter along with minced garlic.
Stir onions and garlic for 5 minutes then deglaze with 1/2 of sweet marsala. Stir and scrape up any brown bits and after 5 minute longer, add to food processor.
In same food processor, add roasted and peeled red bell pepper. Blend thoroughly then add back to deep skillet or pot and set heat to medium-low.
Add pint of cream, mix thoroughly and stir often, letting liquids reduce to half (make sure cream doesn’t boil over). Once reduced, add drained canned mushrooms. Salt and pepper to taste.
In a separate pot, add rice and water, cover with lid and bring to a boil on medium-high heat. Once boiling, reduce to very low and allow rice to mostly absorb water before turning off heat.
To cook wild turkey breast, smoke at 220-240 until internal temperature reads 140. Quickly reverse sear on either hot cast iron or over high fire, until temp reads 150. Remove and cover with aluminum foil.
Allow wild turkey to rest for 5 minutes before carving and adding to rice, topping with cream sauce and possibly thyme as a garnish.