I can probably get most turkey hunters to agree spring gobbler season satisfies nearly all the five senses: the smell of pine and dew in the early morning, the throaty gobble of a tom, the sight of his majestic strut, the texture of your heart in your throat as he draws nearer. When it comes to taste, however, there are some turkey hunters who wouldn’t rate the bird’s culinary merit any higher than shoe leather.
Just like there are secrets for the perfect mix of clucks and yelps, there are tricks in the kitchen to fix any stubborn tom. Because wild turkeys are far more active than commercial-grocery turkeys, their muscles are more developed, which can lead to a chewy texture. Additionally, trophy gobblers, tough to score, are also tough-tasting when cooked.
Tenderizing with a meat mallet and brining are two great ways to remedy tougher cuts of wild game. In my experiences, wild turkey tastes like turkey — there is no gamey flavor; it just requires a bit of TLC.
Turn that turkey into schnitzel and mix with a great-tasting Marsala mushroom gravy, maybe a liter of Dunkelweizen (German beer) and enjoy a wild-game, German dinner. — Jack Hennessy
8 cups water
½ cup non-iodized salt
¼ cup sugar
¼ black peppercorns
Turkey dredging and frying ingredients
Large mixing bowl of flour followed by:
3 eggs, beaten and mixed with ½ cup buttermilk
Large mixing bowl of panko bread crumbs
About ½ cup canola or peanut oil, enough to fill ½-inch of skillet
4 slices of Swiss cheese
1 yellow onion sliced bi-julienne (julienne style in half)
1½ cups brown mushrooms, sliced
1 cup Marsala cooking wine
3 cups beef stock
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon freshly minced garlic
1 tablespoon flour
To prepare turkey breasts: Butterfly both breasts and lightly pound with a meat mallet to get them to a 1/8- to 1/4-inch thickness. Brine for 24 hours. Rinse and throw through a bowl of flour, then dip in egg mix and finally roll in panko bread crumbs to cover all sides.
To cook turkey: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large oven-safe skillet, heat ½-inch of canola or peanut oil on medium to 350 degrees. Place panko-covered turkey breasts into skillet and cook until edges and bottom are golden brown. Flip and place in oven. After two minutes, place two slices of Swiss cheese overtop and let turkey cook for another two minutes.
To prepare gravy: In a medium sauté pan, sauté onions on medium-low heat in butter until they are soft then add sliced mushrooms, salt, pepper and garlic. Simmer for a few minutes then deglaze with Marsala cooking wine. Allow wine to simmer and reduce to one-third or half of original amount. When reduced, add beef stock and continue to simmer. Add tablespoon of flour (potentially more for thicker gravy). Stir thoroughly and often.
To serve: Cover turkey schnitzel cuts with gravy and garnish with chives.
Makes two servings with two 8- to 10-ounce wild turkey breasts.
Former line cook and passionate denizen of the outdoors, Jack Hennessy, is the author of the blog “Braising the Wild.” He lives with his wife in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram: @WildGameJack or on Facebook: Facebook.com/BraisingtheWild.