In the late 1970s and early 1980s, I named a lot of the turkeys I chased. The turkey usually deserved the name it got. Plus, it was easier to identify a place in the woods by referencing the turkey’s name. Kind of like telling your buddy, “you know, the bottom where ‘so and so’ hangs out around midday.”
There was a turkey I named Louis, because he lived behind Old Man Louis’ place. He was a bad bird and had a horse for a friend that served as his lookout. The two hung out together most of the day on the 3-acre fenced clearing behind Old man Louis’ house. You couldn’t approach Louis in the daylight without that horse giving you away.
I decided to get to Louis before he flew down one morning. His routine was to fly down real early and gobble nonstop at the rooster in Old Man Louis’ yard, which made him easy to pinpoint. That morning, I got within 30 yards of his roost tree, a small pine no respectable gobbler would consider, and I waited for Louis to come down.
I never said a word to Louis that morning. I knew better. When his feet hit the ground, well, I was proud to have opened the door from some younger gobblers to begin practicing their trade that day.
I went to the landowner’s home up the road from Old Man Louis and shared my trophy with the lady of the house, which is where the story really starts. She was excited for my success and went to town for groceries where she saw my mother. The lady told my mother I had killed Louis, and my mother about had a heart attack thinking I had killed Old Man Louis. The story quickly got straightened out, much to my mother’s relief.
Louis was a tough old bird, but I enjoyed every bite. I never had a good recipe for tough bold birds until years later when my wife, Mary, came across this recipe for white chicken chili. I’m sure Louis would have tasted much better had we used it.
Head ‘Em Off at the Pass White Chili
My wife, Mary, came across this recipe for chicken chili from a Paul Newman recipe contest. We’ve adapted it to our taste, using leftover meat from a whole roasted wild turkey.
• ½ cup chopped onion
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 1½ cups cooked, chopped wild turkey (white or dark meat)
• ½ cup chicken broth
• two 15-ounce cans cannellini beans (do not drain)
• ½ cup chopped celery (dime-size pieces)
• 1½ teaspoons oregano
• ½ cup salsa (use medium or hot salsa to add a bit of kick)
• 1½ cup shredded white cheese divided into two ¾ cups (mozzarella works well)
In a 2-quart pot, sauté onions in olive oil until translucent. Add chopped turkey, then add broth. Add cannellini beans, celery, oregano and salsa. Simmer 10 minutes, stirring gently. Just before serving stir in ¾ cup shredded cheese. Top with remaining shredded cheese and more salsa. Makes five 1-cup servings.