It’s a TURKEY REVOLUTION!

Thanksgiving is fast approaching. Whoo-hoo!

That means people start calling the National Wild Turkey Federation looking for someone to talk turkey. And sometimes they end up with me.

Earlier this week I chatted with Jim and Trav on The Revolution — one wacky outdoor radio show. Click here to hear it. (Be patient. It may take a minute or so to load. And, yes, it’s a hour-long show, but I’m the first one up.)

They were searching for someone to talk about cooking wild turkey. Their first pick was James Africano, executive chef for Vermejo Park Ranch in New Mexico. Chef James couldn’t do the interview, but remembered me from my hunt out there this spring … and that I’m working on a cookbook for the NWTF.

Basically, I was the consolation prize. But I’m not hurt, because I learned a couple things about myself during my 10-minute on-air stint.

1. I say “you know” WAY too much.
2. If you answer questions with enough authority, people believe you.

I’m not talking about the cooking tips. Those I have down pat. It was the turkey trivia.

I feel bad because some of my answers were, well, bad. And I won the trivia contest with these bad answers. So I’m here to set the record straight.

Turkeys CAN fly 55 miles per hour.

I wasn’t TOTALLY wrong. They fly 35 mph (which is what I said), but they do it in order to get to 55.

Now, I know. And you do too.

 

Treat your taste buds (and wild turkey) right, they deserve it

Nothing caps off a long day of hunting better than a heaping plate of stick-to-your-ribs food. Like meat, some kind of starch, with a vegetable or two thrown in to make your momma happy.

Chef James Africano, you had me at goat cheese. This picture just doesn’t do the dish justice (and tells me I need to upgrade my phone). Your eyes are feasting on root beer and jalapeno braised beef short ribs over goat cheese polenta.

If you ever make time to hunt at Vermejo Park Ranch, you’ll find mealtimes are more than pit stops to refuel for the next outing; they are part of the hunting experience. With a menu that includes bison, elk and local produce (including veggies from an onsite garden), Chef James Africano brings the outdoors to each individually crafted plate.

Chef James comes from Colorado but settled in as Vermejo’s executive chef in 2007. He takes traditional ranch meals (meat and potatoes) and turns them into delicious scenery, worthy companions to the amazing peaks, lakes and canyons of the surrounding acres.

He changes the menu weekly, with different specials each night. It’s the perfect plan, because you have the option of digging into the featured item without feeling like you’ll miss out on any of the other ridiculously yummy dishes. It simply gives you something to look forward to the next evening.

Here’s his New Mexico treatment for wild turkey — fajitas! Try it around the campfire or take your skillet inside. It’s a wild fiesta for your mouth!

Grilled Colorado lamb rack. Pan roasted arctic char. Doesn’t sound like your typical hunt camp fare? Tell that to your tummy when you’re finished. I think it’ll beg to differ.

Campfire Wild Turkey Fajitas

Ingredients
1 wild turkey breast (about 1½ pounds)
cut into ½-inch-thick strips
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 yellow onion cut into long strips
1 red bell pepper cut into long strips
1 green bell pepper cut into long strips
2 teaspoons cumin powder
2 teaspoons chili powder
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
salt to taste
1 cup soy sauce
1 cup Worcestershire sauce
3 fresh garlic cloves
juice of three limes
10-inch tortillas (about eight)

Now get cookin’

After cutting the turkey into strips, place in a large container and pour soy sauce and Worcestershire over them. Roughly chop the garlic cloves and add to the soy mixture along with the lemon juice. Refrigerate for four hours.

Warm a 12-inch cast iron skillet over the campfire or medium high heat. Add vegetable oil and wait for it to just start smoking. Remove half of the turkey from the marinade and carefully add to the hot skillet. Brown the first batch of turkey well, remove from the skillet and add the second half of the turkey strips. Repeat the browning process, and add the first batch of turkey back to the skillet along with the pepper and onion strips. Continue cooking for about 8 minutes, until the turkey is cooked through, and the vegetables have begun to soften and brown.

While the turkey and vegetables are cooking, wrap the tortillas in aluminum foil and warm in the oven or over coals from the fire. Sprinkle in the cumin, chili powder and cayenne and stir through. Season the fajitas with salt if necessary. Serve immediately with the warm tortillas and condiments of your choice.

Your wild turkey deserves more than an Old El Paso taco kit in a box. Try this campfire fajita recipe by Vermejo Park Ranch’s executive chef. After dinner, you’ll already be in the perfect spot for sharing the story of your hunt.

My condiments of choice? Sour cream, cheese and a boatload of pico de gallo! Sounds great, chef! Thanks for sharing.

And speaking of sharing recipes, I need your camp favorites for my cookbook project. Hey, if Chef James Africano thinks it’s a cool idea, then it’s a cool idea.

So send them to keepingupwithkaren@nwtf.net.

Huntin’ for food

Nothing tops off the end of a hard day of hunting than a stick-to-your-ribs meal.

(A hot shower comes in a close second for me, but that has nothing to do with this blog post.)

I’m talking ranch beans, some kind of meat with sauce on it, pies with crusts made from lard. You know, the kind of food you’d feel guilty eating at home. But for some reason, after a full day of quietly walking, sitting, calling and possibly shooting, you’ve earned a 2,000-calorie meal.

Can I get an AMEN?

Hunt camp food is traditionally hardy, simple, designed to feed a crowd who wants seconds. In a single word — yummy.

Joni Sanderford (right) and I toast her yummy garlic cheddar biscuits.

Here’s a recipe from Joni Sanderford, who operates Croton Creek Ranch in Cheyenne, Okla., with her husband, Scott. Joni keeps the kitchen fires burning and hundreds of bellies full each year with tasty treats like her …

Garlic Cheddar Biscuits

Dough ingredients:
2½ cups of Bisquick
4 tablespoons of cold butter
1 heaping cup of grated cheddar
¾ cups of cold milk
¼ teaspoon of garlic powder

Topping ingredients:
2 tablespoons of butter, melted
¼ teaspoon of parsley flakes
½ teaspoon of garlic powder
pinch of salt

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Combine the Bisquick and butter, without mixing it too well. (There should be chunks of butter in the mixture.) Add cheese, milk and garlic powder. Mix by hand until all ingredients are combined. Using an ice cream scoop, drop ¼-cup mounds of the dough on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 15 to 17 minutes. Brush each biscuit with the topping mixture as soon as they’re out of the oven.

Every hunt camp cook has a favorite, go-to recipe. Your mission this spring is to yank it out of them and send it to me for my NWTF cookbook project. Be sure to give credit where it’s due and tell me a little about who made the dish and where you had it.

Having trouble convincing the cook to fork over the 411 on his or her prized dish? Just tell them they may very well be immortalized along with Joni in the MOST. AWESOME. NWTF. COOKBOOK. EVER.

Until the next camp meal is served, please pass the Tums. I’m going to take a nap on a full stomach, happy as a tick on a hound dog.

 

Winning!

I think I gained about 5 pounds reading the recipes submitted by those of you who either:

A)   have mercy on me now that I’ve taken on a huge cookbook project
B)   like to win wicked cool prizes
C)   really enjoy cooking

I can respect all three reasons.

Seriously, y’all have sent in some yummy sounding stuff. I say “sounding” because I haven’t prepared any of them…yet. (I’ve got to stick to apples and low-fat granola to get in shape for turkey season, then I’m gonna blow the diet with gusto!)

And now it’s time to announce the top camo chefs and their recipes.

BEST SOUNDING BREAKFAST DISH

Tom Nare of California will receive a black and pewter NWTF logo mug for his Wild Duck/Goose Breakfast Scramble.

BEST SOUNDING DESSERT or DRINK

Jim Kelly of Georgia gets a three-pack of Knight & Hale’s Bad Medicine Series diaphragm calls just in time for opening day. Good luck, Jim! Bet you’ll mix up some Wild Turkey Bourbon Slushies if you get one, won’t ya?

I didn’t receive any packable snack recipes, so I’m giving away two prizes for…

BEST SOUNDING SOUP, SALAD or SANDWICH

Beth Cowgill of Missouri can relax to a dogwood-scented, Eastern wild turkey-themed candle handmade by best female editor of a turkey magazine under 5-foot-2. She gets it for sending in her Aunt Bubba’s Baked Turkey and Potato Soup recipe. (Here’s a cute little twist: She’s Aunt Bubba!)

And Quaker Boy’s own Ernie Calendrelli can pack out meat for his awesome-sounding Wild Game Cutlet Sandwiches in the new soft-sided camo cooler that’s being sent his way.

Congrats to you all. And most of all, thanks for taking part in what’s turning out to be a really fun project. I already have delicious recipes and camp cooking back stories from hunting greats Will Primos, Cuz Strickland and Troy Ruiz.

You should join in the fun. Send the 411 on your favorite camp dishes to keepingupwithkaren@nwtf.net.

Also, don’t miss out on current and future giveaways through this blog. There’s actually one happening right now around the March-April issue of Turkey Country.

The best way to stay in the loop is to friend me on Facebook.

Yes, I realize that’s basically buying friends. But it’s not weird if you admit it, right?

 

It’s food o’clock at the NWTF

Food has always been a big part of my life.

I grew up in a family who used mealtimes interchangeably with numbers on a clock.

Instead of making a shopping date for 2 p.m., it was, “Let’s go shopping after lunch.”

Or, “Aunt Margie passed away around dinnertime,” as opposed to talking about the hours around 7 p.m.

Meals make the world go-round in my house, and my life is richer (and belly rounder) for it.

That’s why I volunteered to spearhead the newest NWTF-sanctioned cookbook. It’s still in its pre-breakfast stage (I’ve yet to even settle on a title.), but I’m gobbling up recipes from NWTF members as fast as they’re served.

My hope for this cookbook is that it finds a permanent place on a hunting trip packing list, or even becomes a hunt camp cook’s favored kitchen companion. I want to pack it full of hearty, easy recipes to satisfy the most active sports enthusiasts, from in-the-field snacks to go-to-bed-happy wild game dinners.

Here’s your chance to be a part of this spiral-bound feast of information by sharing your favorite recipes. (Here’s a teaser … Will Primos already submitted his!)

In the next 15 days, I will award a prize to the yummiest recipe in the following categories:

BREAKFAST — Winner will receive a super classy black and pewter NWTF logo mug, perfect for a cup of Joe on a chilly spring morning.

PACKABLE SNACKS — Winner gets a soft-sided camo cooler for toting your own goodies in the field.

Have an awesome wild game inspired soup, sandwich or salad recipe you want to share? It could get you one of these Grand Slam candles handmade by yours truly.

SOUPS, SALADS and SANDWICHES — A Grand Slam wild turkey themed candle handmade by yours truly goes to the one with the best recipe here. Don’t worry, the candle smells like dogwood, not an Eastern.

DESSERTS and DRINKS — Winner gets the Knight & Hale Bad Medicine Series 3-Pack of diaphragm calls. They have a minty flavor, which will go nicely with after-dinner calling practice.

So crack open your recipe files and send your favorites to keepingupwithkaren@nwtf.net. Be sure to include your name, hometown/state and any NWTF chapter affiliation. I’d also like to hear any backstory on the recipe, such as how you came up with the concoction, if it was something your mom used to make, it’s a favorite at hunt camp, stuff like that.

And feel free to send as many recipes as you’d like. But don’t make me wait, it’s three hours ‘til dinner and I’m getting hungry.