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Wild Turkey and Pheasant Back Mushroom Risotto: Braising the Wild, Jack Hennessy

Wild Turkey and Pheasant Back Mushroom Risotto.
Photo by Dara Hennessy

From what I heard from readers so far, they are enjoying Jack Hennessy’s recipes as much as I am.

This week in “Braising the Wild,” Hennessy focuses on two things of the moment, wild turkey and mushrooms. Pheasant back mushrooms are not something I have picked, so I’m learning something.

As usual, this is a featured piece of the expanded two pages of outdoors coverage in the Sports Saturday wrapper of the Sun-Times. I usually post his recipe on Friday.

Wild Turkey and Pheasant Back Mushroom Risotto

Most foragers would crown the morel as the king of spring, but pheasant backs are also a tasty treat and often easier to find. As always, when picking wild mushrooms, make certain you have correctly identified the mushroom. Pheasant backs (or dryad’s saddle) are commonly attached to dead stumps or logs and have pores underneath that smell faintly of cucumber.

Any larger than your fist and pheasant backs take on a rubbery texture but can be used to make stock. A good stock is what makes a good risotto.

Ingredients:

1 whole wild turkey breast, approximately 18-24 ounces, butchered into four pieces (serves four).

Risotto:

2 cups Arborio rice

1/2 cup dry white wine

3 to 4 cups pheasant-back or chicken stock

3-1/2 tablespoons butter (mixed use)

1 medium-large shallot, finely minced

8 ounces pheasant back mushrooms, washed and cut into 1-inch pieces

2 poblano peppers, diced

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Intermittent dustings of kosher salt and ground black pepper

Garnish (optional):

Freshly minced sage

To prepare:

  1. Cut turkey into four fairly equal cuts (butterfly if necessary for even width) and brine overnight (no more than 12 hours). THOROUGHLY RINSE brine from turkey. (See last week’s recipe for brine ingredients.)
  2. Grill until done then cover with aluminum foil and set aside in oven or warming drawer set to very low (no more than 200 degrees) until risotto is finished.
  3. Thoroughly rinse mushrooms and cut off stem. Cut mushrooms into bite-size pieces. Cut poblano peppers in half and seed. Cut into approximate half-inch by half-inch squares.
  4. Heat a large, deep skillet to medium-low heat and add 1 tablespoon butter. Add chopped poblano peppers and lightly salt and pepper. Stir often and cover pepper squares in melted butter, turn to high heat to received seared texture on poblanos.
  5. Turn heat back to medium-low and stir in mushrooms with another 1 tablespoon of butter. Lightly salt and pepper again. Once peppers and mushrooms are cooked to right texture (soft but not mushy), remove and set aside.
  6. Add half tablespoon butter to skillet, followed by finely minced shallot. Lightly salt and pepper. Cook until brown and soft. Add 2 cups Arborio rice and 1 tablespoon butter. Stir frequently until rice is pale brown.
  7. Add half cup dry white wine. Stir until rice absorbs wine. Add stock half cup at a time, stirring frequently until rice absorbs stock.
  8. Continue to add stock until rice has al dente texture (firm to bite, little resistance at center, not soft but also not hard). Should take between 3 to 4 cups to achieve this texture. Once desired texture is achieved, salt to taste.
  9. Finally, remove skillet from heat and stir in parmesan cheese until melted.
  10. Serve immediately by adding approximately 1-1/2 cups risotto to a plate or bowl. Thinly slice a 4- to 5-ounce cut of grilled wild turkey breast and place overtop, followed by a garnish of freshly minced sage (optional).