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Pan-Seared Wild Turkey Tenderloins and Fried Morels: Braising the Wild, Hennessy

This week in "Braising the Wild," Jack Hennessy gives us "Pan-Seared Wild Turkey Tenderloins and Fried Morels."
Credit: Jack Hennessy

In another wonderful recipe out of the moment, Jack Hennessy in “Braising the Wild” gives us “Pan-Seared Wild Turkey Tenderloins and Fried Morels.”

I like how Hennessy keeps his recipes timely to what is going on in the outdoors.

“Braising the Wild” is part of the expanded two-page outdoors section in the expanded Sports Saturday wrapper of the Sun-Times.

I find that wrapper delightfully entertaining and informative. OK, and I really like having two pages to work with.

Here is “Pan-Seared Wild Turkey Tenderloins and Fried Morels.”

Pan-Seared Wild Turkey Tenderloins and Fried Morels

I am not a trophy hunter. There are no deer mounts or full fans hanging on my wall. I once saved the hooks and beard from the largest gobbler I shot, but I honestly couldn’t tell you where they are in my garage (if they’re there at all).

I am a meat hunter. I respect a good trophy, but care more about how many meals an animal will provide. For this spring thus far, our family bagged only one jake amid two mornings hunting. Because I love the tenderloins fresh off a wild bird, I went to work planning a meal but soon realized I needed a supplement. Good thing my morel spot was still flourishing that weekend.

The tenderloins on a wild turkey are tucked behind the main breasts, close to the keel bone. You almost don’t even need a knife to separate them. There is a thin tendon running through them. Some hunters remove this, though I never do. The tenderloins on a large tom are about the size of a pheasant breast, maybe larger, though obviously smaller on a jake. I recommend brining tenderloins separate from breasts, as they can grow salty quicker because they are a smaller cut of bird.

I recommend a simple spice mix here, but you can use whatever you like, though I’d suggest not using a mix with salt if you brine your tenderloins. For cleaning morels, I often soak them in a salt-water solution then rinse and let sit on a napkin-cover plate for an hour before cooking.

Ingredients (serves 1-2):

2 wild turkey tenderloins, approximately 4-6 ounces each

Handful of morels, approximately 6-8 ounces

Brine: 1 gallon cold water, 1/2 cup non-iodized salt

Suggested spices: light dusting of even mix of garlic powder, smoked paprika, black pepper, onion powder

To prepare:

  1. Brines tenderloins, separated from breasts, for 3-4 hours, thoroughly rinse afterward and let dry uncovered in fridge.
  2. Heat a cast-iron skillet to medium-high and add very thin layer of oil.
  3. Sear tenderloins on both sides, cooking thoroughly, then remove and cover with aluminum foil and set aside.
  4. In same skillet, add a little more oil then morels. Lightly dust with kosher salt and black pepper. Rotate for even sear. Remove when thoroughly cooked but not mushy.
  5. Plate together. Perhaps add a pat of butter atop. Enjoy.