Wild Turkey Tagliatelle

“The turkey’s eyes are such that he can see a bumblebee turn a somersault on the verge of the horizon.” ~Archibald Rutledge

Every time I cook with wild turkey, four things run through my mind: it will be gamey, it will be tough, it will be chewy, it will be dry.  Those four fears not only run through my mind, but they try to dictate how I will prepare my wild turkey.  I take those four things and try to construct a plan for the handling, preparation, and cooking of my turkey that avoids those four possibilities.  Those four fears also lead to me half jokingly say before I set a plate down in front of an eater, “If it tastes bad, we are ordering pizza.”  And every time I make something with wild turkey, the first bite shoves those four fears out of my mind and instead all I can say is “Oh man!”

While making this latest wild turkey meal, I tried to start with the idea that it was going to work.  I tried to think about how I wanted to meal to taste at the end and not how I was going to try and manipulate the meal around the fact that the protein in it was wild turkey.  This got me thinking about my four fears and why they were so ingrained in my head.  I guess it is because they fit the myths formed when trying something new.  These myths can really be used to describe any new food experience: it will taste different and the texture will be weird.  So, I decided to give these four wild turkey myths a little debunking.

My Wild Turkey will be Gamey

I cannot 100% define what meat being “gamey” actually means.  All I can determine is when people say something is gamey they mean “I don’t like it.”  A few things I think people mean when they say something is gamey is it tastes strong, perhaps a little overwhelming to the taste buds, possibly an earthy flavor.  I think people also are referring that the animal tastes like what it has been eating.  For example, I have heard people say mule deer tastes like sage brush, or that wild turkey tastes like garlic.

I can’t change someone’s mind about if something taste gamey.  All I can say is that all meat tastes a little different.  And I think you can develop a liking of the way a meat tastes by trying it a couple of times, maybe prepared a couple of different ways.  I was not a huge elk fan growing up.  I didn’t mind deer, but elk was a little harder for me to try.  The same goes for duck.  And I am still working on developing my taste for goose, which has so far been unsuccessful.  But I am working on it.  With all that being said, I actually do not care for beef as much now that I do not eat it as often.  Whenever I go out now and order a steak, it just tastes a little “off” to me.

I also think that the “gamey” taste many people describe comes from how people care for their harvest afterwards.  There are a variety of techniques and tricks people have for cleaning and processing an animal, many of which I am still learning, and they can really help enhance the wild game dining experience.  A few quick tips I have for cleaning wild turkey is to take time to carefully remove all the fascia from the meat.  Remove as much as the fat as possible as well.  Go over the meat rigidly a few times and inspect for bb’s (While they don’t taste gamey, nothing ruins a meal faster than biting into a bb!).  Also, learn to properly clean a turkey so you don’t hit the croup or intestines (they can really makes things not smell so wonderful when pierced). Finally, if it is hot out when you shoot your tom, field dress the animal and put it on ice quickly in order to keep the meat cool.

My Wild Turkey will be Tough, Chewy, and Dry

While turkeys are tough birds (just ask my father-in-law, he has a few stories about some vicious run-ins with America’s favorite bird!), their meat doesn’t have to be!  Any piece of meat can be tough, chewy, and dried out if not prepared properly, and no two meats are prepared the same.  Even on a wild turkey, I prepare leg meat very differently from how I prepare breast meat.

For this recipe, I wanted to use the breast meat and keep it in larger-sized chunks.  In order to keep the breasts from becoming tough, chewy, or dry, I decided to roast them first.  In the past, I have also created some fantastic twists on turkey breasts that weren’t tough or dry using a variety of techniques, such as slow cooking and shredding the breasts, or grinding the meat with a little fat and forming meatballs or burger patties.  There are lots of options out there, it is just a matter of handling the meat correctly in order to avoid having a tough, chewy, dry slab of meat laying in front of you.

So, with all that said and done, let’s get to the recipe!

Wild Turkey Tagliatelle!!!

For this recipe, I like to roast the turkey breast because I am going to be keeping it in large chunks for the dish.  Roasting releases the natural juices of the meat, which helps flavor the turkey breast and keeps it from drying out.  Roasting the wild turkey breast also kept the meat tender.  I think if I had just cooked it on the stovetop in a pan, it would have resulted in a much tougher and chewier texture.

Season the breast liberally with salt and pepper, then place on a baking sheet. I like to line my baking sheet with a little aluminum foil to help clean-up go faster.  You can skip this step if you want.  I just thought I would mention it as a little tip to help with dishes.

Place the breast in the oven and let it roast for twenty five minutes, flipping once during the process.  Once the meat is done cooking, set it aside and let it rest for a few minutes before slicing it into large, but still bite-sized, chunks.

While the turkey is roasting, heat a large pan over medium-high heat with four tablespoons of butter and one tablespoon of olive oil.  Once the butter has melted, add the small diced onion and cook for about five minutes, until the onion is soft and starting to turn translucent.  I just have to add right here, that I love the smell of onion cooking in butter.

Once the onions are soft, add the two crushed garlic cloves.  If you don’t crush garlic cloves often, which I can’t actually say that I do, there is a quick little trick for it.  There is no need to peel the clove.  Instead, take your knife and place the side of the blade against the clove on a hard surface, like the cutting board.  With one hand firmly pressed the knife against the garlic, use the heel of your other hand and gently give the knife blade a whack.  The garlic should crush under the blade and then the skin of the clove easily falls off.  Drop the crushed clove into the oil and you’re done!

Next, it is time to add the zucchini.  You can slice the zucchini into thin, julienne-style strips, but I bought a new kitchen gadget that creates spiral cut noodles and I thought I would use it for this dish.  These spiral cutters are really cheap, you can pick one up for about $10, and they work really well.  You just insert the vegetable of your choice and twist.  Easy!  Here is a link for an example of a spiral cutter: Spiral Vegetable Cutter.

Add the zucchini to the dish, top with a little salt and pepper, and the minced fresh marjoram.  Cook for two or three minutes and then add in the chunks of wild turkey.

Cook the turkey and zucchini mixture for eight to ten minutes.

While the turkey is cooking, bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and season with a pinch of salt.  Add the tagliatelle noodles and cook to al dente, according to the instructions on the box.  If you are like me, you might not really know what tagliatelle noodles are.  I did a little research before I used them, just to see what I was getting myself into.  Basically, tagliatelle noodles are an egg based pasta similar to fettucinne.  They are long, thin ribbons that pair great with meat sauces.  Once I read they were similar to fettucinne, my fears of the pasta unknown were pretty much gone.

Anyway, add the cooked noodles to the turkey mixture, drizzle on the second tablespoon of olive oil, and give everything a good stir to make sure everyone has a little of the butter sauce on it.

To serve this wild turkey dish up, place a heap of the turkey, zucchini, and noodles on a plate.  Sprinkle on some fresh shaved parmesan cheese, and then garnish with a pretty zucchini flower straight from the bush (if you have a zucchini bush it is a fun little touch to add to the dish, if not you don’t have to worry about finding a flower, the dish is designed to be amazing without it).  The flower is also edible!

Before I sign off, I have to say that this dish was definitely better than ordering pizza.  My fears of it being gamey, tough, chewy, and dry were quickly replaced with “Oh man!” at the first bite.  The turkey was juicy and tender, not tough or chewy at all, and it paired really well with the zucchini.  The very simple butter and olive oil sauce was delicious and delicate while the marjoram added a beautiful aroma to the dish.  Enjoy!

Happy Hunting!

 

Wild Turkey Tagliatelle

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

4-6

Wild Turkey Tagliatelle

Ingredients

  • 1 fully-cleaned, skin-off wild turkey breast
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 small zucchini, cut julienne-style
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 sprigs fresh marjoram, minced
  • 1lb tagliatelle noodles
  • Shaved parmesan cheese
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste

Instructions

    For the turkey breast
  1. Preheat the broiler on the oven to high.
  2. On a large baking sheet, lined with foil for easy clean-up, place the turkey breast. Season liberally with salt and pepper.
  3. Broil the turkey breast for 25 minutes.
  4. Set aside to cool briefly.
    For the Turkey Tagliatelle
  1. In a large pan over medium high heat, melt the butter with a tablespoon of the olive oil.
  2. Once the butter is melted, add the diced onions and cook until they are soft and slightly translucent, about five minutes.
  3. Add two crushed garlic cloves.
  4. For the zucchini, cut into julienne strips or use a spiral noodle cutter. Place the prepared zucchini into the butter and onions. Coat with the butter mixture.
  5. Add the marjoram and season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  6. Cool for two to three minutes.
  7. While the zucchini are cooking, dice the roasted turkey breast into large, bite-size pieces.
  8. Add turkey to zucchini and cook for eight to ten minutes.
  9. While turkey is cooking, bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Season with a pinch of salt.
  10. Cook tagliatelle noodles according to instructions on the box.
  11. Add cooked noodles to turkey and zucchini.
  12. Serve the turkey tagliatelle with shaved parmesan cheese and garnish with a flower from the zucchini bush (which is edible!!!).
  13. Enoy!!!
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Dove Poppers!

“If the hunter comes back with mushrooms, don’t ask him how his hunt was.” ~ Ghanaian Proverb

Sometimes you just have to go with what you know.  Don’t get me wrong, I take delight in putting a twist on an familiar recipe or coming up with something completely new.  But sometimes there is just as much joy in reaching for something you already know and love.  Dove poppers are that for me.  Every time I make them, I am impressed with their simplicity and yet how down-right amazing they taste.

I have never really experimented much with dove meat.  I think I haven’t because every time I finish up a dove hunt, the only thing on my mind is a barbeque grill, jalapenos, and bacon.  I supposed I should try something new, “live a little” as they say, and create a dove meal that isn’t a popper.  I say that now, but I am certain that come this September, I will make nothing but dove poppers with my harvest.

The big game draw results were published this week, and my family has a lot of tags.  I realized that I needed to start making a little room in the freezer for what will hopefully be successful hunts this fall.  While digging around, making notes on what needed to be used first, I found a bag of dove breasts.  Somehow they had been missed.  That is quite a rare occurrence in this household.  And of course, all I could think of was how I needed to get the grill started so I could eat dove poppers for dinner.

So, even though I know there are lots of dove popper recipes out there, and that this isn’t exactly a new twist or even a creative use for dove breasts, I am going to share my favorite way of preparing dove poppers.  Enjoy!

Start with preheating the outdoor grill.  I create two sections on my grill when preparing poppers: a high heat or “hot” side, and then a medium heat area.  I start all the coals in a central pile on the grill, and then once they are grey and ashed over, I move the majority of my pile, about 2/3, to one side of the grill and place the remaining 1/3 on the opposite side.  This is a good technique when cooking any type of meat, such as steaks or burgers, on the grill.

Popper ingredients are pretty simple and inexpensive.  Each popper needs one slice of bacon, a thin slice of jalapeno, and a thin slice of onion.  For a typical group gathering, I make two poppers per person.

 

The most difficult part, if you can even call it that, for making a great dove popper is cleaning the breast from the bird.  The easiest way is to remove the meat from the breast bone in one solid piece, so that it looks like a butterfly when opened up.  This allows you to wrap the meat around the peppers and onions, which makes wrapping the entire thing more convenient.

Lay the butterflied dove breast open, and in the crevasse place a thin slice of jalapeno and a thin slice of onion.  If you don’t like heat at all, you can substitute the jalapeno for a slice of bell pepper.  If you are someone that loves to cry and sweat while you eat, you can substitute the jalapeno for something a little spicier, such as a serrano or, if you are really crazy, a little piece of habanero.  Fold the breast meat around the pepper and onion, creating a small pouch.

I wrap an entire slice of bacon around each popper.  I only do this because the bacon helps to hold the pepper and onion inside while I am moving things around on the grill.  As far as flavor, you can do just half a slice and it will still taste amazing, it just might fall apart a bit.

Using two toothpicks, secure the bacon around the popper.  You are ready to grill!

I start the poppers on the medium heat area of the grill.  Bacon gets very….drippy…on the barbecue grill.  As it starts to grill, little drops of fat will fall and hit the coals.  This can result in flames, and if the heat is too high the bacon fat sets on fire and burns the dove poppers.  The result is a raw dove inside of a blackened bacon crust.  Not amazing my friends, not amazing.  So, to bar this from happening, I start on the lower heat area.  Cook the poppers, turning often, for about seven minutes on the lower heat side of the grill.  The bacon should be mostly cooked by that time.

After about seven minutes, move the poppers to the higher heat area of the grill and allow them to finish cooking.  I like to let my bacon just start to char and then I know things are ready, which takes about five more minutes.  The result is a crispy bacon crust with a soft, perfectly cooked inside.  The dove should be cooked to just below well-done, and the pepper and onion should be soft.

Dove poppers are the perfect appetizer to start your barbeque off with, or even better, a great meal option!

Happy Hunting!

 

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Farmhouse Turkey Burger

“Some men are mere hunters; others are turkey hunters.” ~ Archibald Rutledge

Nothing beats a good turkey hunt.  The spring turkey hunt kind of feels like a good stretch when you first get out of bed.  You have been tucked up under the covers, dreaming, maybe tossing and turning a little.  Sometimes you wake up in the middle of the night and check the clock to see if it’s time to get up yet, and it isn’t so you roll back into your cocoon of covers and sleep until, hopefully, morning.  And then when you finally do crawl out of bed after that long night’s sleep, you stretch from the tips of your toes to your finger’s end, and it feel amazing.  While the sleeping was great and much needed, that stretch awakens you and sets the tone for the rest of the day.  That is how the spring turkey hunt feels to me.  Like that great stretch after that long winter, and it is going to set the tone for the rest of the hunting seasons.

I was lucky enough to draw a limited entry spring tag this year.  I have wanted that tag for quite some time because it allows you to hunt during the peak gobbling season.  There is nothing more fun than sitting behind some brush, listening to toms gobble, drag their wing tips, and just put on a great show.  The tail displays and chest puffing is at it’s prime, and nothing makes for a better hunt than just getting to sit in the midst of the show and soak it all in.  It is a great time.

I was also lucky enough to bag a nice tom.  So, my next few posts will be turkey recipes that I am creating from this spring’s bird.  The first meal I concocted was a farmhouse turkey burger.  Since turkey meat, especially wild, is quite lean, I mixed in some bacon to my ground turkey.  It added a great hint of bacon flavor to the burger, made things a little extra juicy, and helped the burger hold together.  I topped my farmhouse burger with chipotle mayo, spicy arugula, gorgonzola cheese crumbles, and a fried egg.

The entire recipe can be found here: https://huntinglife.com/farmhouse-turkey-burger-lindsey-bartosh/

Happy Hunting!!!

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Coconut Pheasant Soup

 

”All really wild scenery is attractive. The true hunter, the true lover of wilderness, loves all parts of the wilderness, just as the true lover of nature loves all seasons. There is no season of the year when the country is not more attractive than the city; and there is no portion of the wilderness, where game is found, in which it is not a keen pleasure to hunt.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt

Cooking is a continuous learning process, and working with wild game is no exception.  For me, I tend to focus on building harmonious flavor profiles, and concentrating on that one area takes up more time than I have in a day.  However, there are hundreds of aspects in the cooking process that can all be developed, modified, re-evaluated, and maybe even re-invented.  I try to break myself of solely focusing on flavor medleys and try to improve and learn in different areas.  This recipe, coconut pheasant soup, allowed me to not only work on creating a great flavor profile, but also forced me to look at how textures work together, which is equally important in a dish’s presentation.

I find pheasant meat to have a unique texture.  Many people compare pheasant to chicken.  I don’t think the comparison is accurate when describing pheasant.  Pheasant, like chicken, is a mild flavored meat.  Some meats have very strong and distinct flavors, and working with them can be challenging because they fight with other flavors.  Pheasant is not like that and can be incorporated into a large number of dishes acting as a base for building flavor.

Where I think pheasant differs from chicken is the texture of the meat.  Pheasant is a bit more tough than chicken, which I am sure comes from the differences in how pheasant and chickens live and also how they eat.  Pheasant meat is a bit darker and much leaner than chicken also.  This difference can best be captured by simply pan frying a chicken breast and pheasant breast and comparing the two.  The chicken breast will be moist and light, because of the extra fat in the meat.  The pheasant will be tougher and much drier.  Because pheasant meat can dry out so quickly when cooked, it is commonly marinated, cooked low and slow, or even wrapped in a fat source, such as bacon, to create moisture and tenderness.

I find myself making a lot of meatball recipes because I think the slight toughness that develops when quickly cooking pheasant works well in meatball form.  However, after making a few meatball recipes, I decided that I wanted to try something else with the breast meat.  I am a big fan of Thai food, and especially a hot cup of tom kha gai.  A coconut based soup, tom kha gai is a spicy soup found in Thai and Lao cuisines.  Traditionally, it is prepared using galangal, kaffir lime leaves, lemon grass, thai chili peppers, mushrooms, and fish sauce.  While chicken is the main protein source for the soup, many restaurants also offer shrimp or tofu options.  Besides having a deliciously sweet and spicy broth, one of my favorite attributes of tom kha gai is how it uses textures to enhance the soup.  The mushrooms are soft and tender, while the chicken, since it is boiled, has a meatier, tougher texture.  A little crunch can also be added with a sprinkling of green onions.  The broth is very thin and silky.

The last time I had tom kha gai, I made a mental note to try and create a version at home using pheasant, since pheasant has that meatier texture that I love in the soup.  So, here the recipe is! And I found it to be a great use of my pheasant.

To a large stock pot, add a tablespoon of cooking oil and heat over medium heat.   I used coconut oil for my cooking oil, but you could use vegetable, canola, olive, or whatever oil you prefer.  Add in the minced garlic, lemon grass, and grated ginger root.  Heat for two minutes, being careful not to burn the garlic.  If the garlic starts to brown, turn the heat down.  There are three different options for the lemon grass with this soup.  I used two tablespoons of lemon grass paste, which is found by the fresh herbs in a tube.  You could also use a stalk of fresh lemon grass.  The stalk can either be added whole to the soup and removed at the end, or you could mince it up and leave it in the soup.  The paste or minced stalk both add a bit of crunch to the soup, which some people may not like.  If you do not want the bits of crunchy lemon grass, I would suggest just adding the stalk.  I like the crunch, so I went with the paste.  It is really a personal preference on textures, so go with whatever method you find most appealing.

To the garlic and ginger, add one tablespoons of red curry paste.  Stir and coat everything with the paste.  Once incorporated, add a cup of the pheasant stock and dissolve any leftover chunks of the paste.  You also want to break up any thing sticking to the bottom of the pot, as this will add even more flavor to the soup base.  For the stock of this soup, I used homemade pheasant stock.  The recipe for it can be found here: Homemade Pheasant Stock.  You could also use chicken or vegetable stock.

Once the red curry is fully dissolved, add the rest of the pheasant stock, three tablespoons of fish sauce, and a tablespoon of honey.  If you don’t have honey on hand, any sweetener of your choice will do, such as brown or white sugar.  Stir everything and bring to a light boil.  Once the soup base reaches a slow, rolling boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and allow to cook for twenty minutes.  This will reduce the soup base down and concentrate the flavors of the lemon grass, ginger, and red curry.  The lemon grass, which is a culinary herb commonly found in Asian style cuisines, adds a subtle citrus flavor to the soup while the ginger gives a spicy, fresh crisp flavor, and the red curry adds a hint of heat.

After the twenty minutes, bring the heat back to medium and add the three cans of coconut milk.  The milk will create the smooth and silky texture found in the soup, and you can adjust how creamy you want the soup to be based on which coconut milk combination you use.  I used two cans of full fat coconut milk and one can of lite.  You could do three full fat, all three lite, or a combination of the two.  The more full fat cans you use, the thicker and creamy the soup base will be.  Bring the soup base back up to a gentle, rolling boil and add the pheasant meat chunks.  In order for the meat to cook correctly, make sure they are cut into bite size pieces all roughly the same size.  Allow to cook for five minutes.

Add the sliced mushrooms to the pot and allow the cook an additional five minutes.  With the mushrooms, I used white button mushrooms, but you can substitute in other types.  A lot of recipes use shitakes, which add a nutty element to the soup.  Baby portabellas or crimini would also be great in this soup, as both have an earthy flavor and a slightly meaty texture.

Turn the heat off from the pot and add the final ingredients to the soup: the fresh squeezed lime and orange juices, and the torn Thai basil.  I sometimes struggle with finding Thai basil at my grocery store.  They don’t always carry it.  I tried to substitute in Italian basil, and I didn’t like the way it worked with the curry flavor.  Thai basil has more of a spicy bite to it, while Italian basil can almost be described as sweet.  They are two very different flavors.  If you can’t find Thai basil at your store, I would actually suggest substituting cilantro or green onions instead of Italian basil.

Well, that is it for this coconut pheasant soup recipe!  This soup is easy to put together and has a unique flavor profile of spicy and sweet with a hint of citrus, but it also has great textures and is beautiful to look at!  Enjoy!

Happy Hunting!

Coconut Pheasant Soup

Coconut Pheasant Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 pound pheasant breasts (or about four breasts), chopped into bite size pieces
  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons lemongrass paste
  • 4inch piece ginger root, grated
  • 1 tablespoon red curry paste
  • 4 cups pheasant stock (use chicken or vegetable if you don't have pheasant)
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey (or sweetener of choice: brown sugar, white sugar, etc)
  • 3 can coconut milk (13.5 ounces each)
  • 1/2 pound white mushrooms, sliced
  • Juice of one lime
  • 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 1 bundle fresh Thai basil, torn into bite size pieces

Instructions

  1. In a large stock pot, heat a tablespoon of cooking oil over medium heat. Add the minced garlic, grated ginger root, and lemongrass paste to the pot. Cook over medium heat for two to three minutes.
  2. Add the tablespoon of red curry paste to the pot and stir. Allow to cook for one minute.
  3. To the pot, pour in one cup of the stock, stirring to dissolve any remaining chunks of curry paste and to break up anything on the bottom of the pot.
  4. Add the rest of the stock, the fish sauce, and a tablespoon of sweetener, such as honey. Stir and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and allow soup base to reduce for twenty minutes.
  5. Add the three cans of coconut milk and bring soup to a gentle boil.
  6. Add bite size pieces of pheasant meat and cook for five minutes.
  7. Add mushrooms and cook an additional five minutes, until mushrooms are soft.
  8. Turn off the heat and stir in the juice of one lime, orange juice, and torn basil leaves.
  9. Enjoy!
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Homemade Pheasant Stock

“Be worthy of your game.” ~ George Bird Evans

Learning to process game meat has been an eye opening experience.  It is a challenging and ever-evolving labor.  Cleaning a harvest is different, not only for different groups of animals, but even for different species within a specific subgroup of animals.  For example, it is obvious that a fish is cleaned differently than a duck, but it isn’t always obvious that a duck may be cleaned differently than a goose, or even another species of duck. Cleaning also varies on how you plan to prepare or use the animal.  I feel I have only touched on the surface of cleaning animals.

Cleaning is just the beginning step of processing game meat too.  Storing and preserving meat is an entirely different story.  And not to mention learning how to use different parts of the animal! We often hear stories of how Native Americans used every part of an animal. Meat was obviously processed and eaten, but hides or feathers were used for shelter creation or clothing, bones could be constructed into tools or weapons, and tendons or sinew could be used to create thread or string.  Of course, those few examples only brush on the surface of how many parts of an animal are useful.

Utilizing the entire animal was definitely a survival tactic for Native Americans, and as a modern day hunter, that drive for survival isn’t quite the same.  However, many hunters strive to use as much of an animal as possible.  Whether this desire comes from a simple curiosity as to what you can come up with to use what you have at hand, or is from a deeper desire to use every part of the animal as a form of respect, there are limitless possibilities on what to create or how to utilize an animal in its entirety, and it is definitely a learning process.

So, while this might be a small step in terms of all the possible things I could use a pheasant for, it is a first step and I enjoyed trying something new with a different part of the bird.  After cleaning all the meat from the pheasant, I saved the carcass and made a simple pheasant stock.  While I was excited to find a use for the leftover bones of my pheasant harvest, my primary drive for creating a pheasant stock developed from a nagging feeling I got when using chicken stock in my pheasant recipes.  For some reason, it bothered me when I would create a soup or sauce recipe for my pheasant meal, but had to use chicken stock as the base.  It seemed silly. So, I made a small batch of pheasant stock from the carcass and can now use that as the base for whatever pheasant recipe I work on next.

For the stock, a few simple ingredients are necessary to help develop a deeper flavor profile.  Aside from the pheasant carcass, you will need carrots, celery, and onion.  I used around four medium sized carrots, three stalks of celery, and two medium sized onions.  You could also add a few cloves of garlic.  To create a little uniqueness in my stock, I also added in a four inch piece of whole ginger root.

Preheat the oven to 400 Fahrenheit and roast the pheasant carcass, celery, carrots, onion, and ginger root for 20 minutes.  There is no need to cut anything up or do any type of prep work before roasting.  The only step I took was the cut the onions in half.  I did not peel the carrots or even remove the onion skin.  If I had added garlic to this stock, I would have roasted the cloves whole as well.

Once the vegetables and pheasant are done roasting, transfer everything to a large pot.  I did remove some of the skin from the ginger root before adding it to the pot, but that was about it.  I left the onions whole and broke the celery in half so it would fit in the pot, but other than that not much work to be done!  At this point, toss in a couple of bay leaves and add enough water to the pot to cover everything by about two inches.  The amount of water needed will vary based on the size of your pot, but it should be somewhere between eight and twelve cups.  I used ten for my pot.  Heat the pot over a medium heat and watch until the water starts to boil.  Once it boils, cover the pot and reduce the heat to a simmer.  Let the stock simmer for a few hours, checking occasionally to make sure there is still enough liquid in the pot and that the pot is still just simmering and not boiling.  I let my stock simmer for about four hours.  The liquid reduced from ten cups to eight by the end of the cooking time.

If you are interested in creating a little bit of a different flavor profile for your pheasant stock, instead of using onions you could substitute leeks.  You could also add fennel for a hint of licorice.  Herbs can also be infused into the stock, such as thyme, sage, or basil.  Strain the entire pot through a fine mesh colander, and discard all the vegetables and carcass.  Allow the liquid to cool.  In the end, the stock should be a beautiful auburn color and have a mild savory flavor.

I plan on using my stock within the next couple of days, so I poured it into mason jars and stuck it in the fridge.  It should last in the fridge for about five days.  Canning the stock is another option; however the process for cooking is a bit different.  I prefer to freeze homemade stock that I am not going to use.  I put it in a large Tupperware container and just pop it in the freezer.  It will last indefinitely in the freezer.

This stock has a hint of the richness from the pheasant bones and also a clean, fresh taste from the vegetables.  It is not salty, which took me a minute to get used to.  When using store bought chicken stock, the stock is salted and, for me, that is the main flavor that stands out.  This pheasant stock is a base starting point for any sauces, broths, or soups you might create with it.  Think of the stock as a building block that will enhance and develop flavor in your dish.  This recipe allows you to extract the umami (one of the five basic tastes) to use as an ingredient from a bird carcass or other bones.  It also gives a little more reward to yourself and the animal that provided for you.

Happy Hunting!

Homemade Pheasant Stock

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 4 hours, 20 minutes

Total Time: 4 hours, 25 minutes

2

Serving Size: 4 cups

Homemade Pheasant Stock

Ingredients

  • 1 pheasant carcass, cleaned
  • 2 medium onions, cut in half
  • 3 stalks celery
  • 4 medium sized carrots
  • 1 four inch piece of ginger root
  • 3 bay leaves

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Place the pheasant carcass, onions, celery, carrots, and ginger root on an ungreased baking sheet. Roast for 20 minutes.
  3. In a large stock pot, place roasted pheasant, onions, celery, carrots, ginger roots, and bay leaves. Add enough water to cover the vegetables and pheasant by two inches, about eight to twelve cups.
  4. Bring the pot to a boil over medium heat.
  5. Once boiling, cover the pot and reduce to a simmer.
  6. Simmer the pot for four hours, checking occasionally to see if more water needs added.
  7. Pour the entire pot through a fine mesh strainer and allow liquid to cool. Liquid should be a rich auburn color.
  8. Store in fridge for up to five days or freeze for up to three months.
  9. Enjoy!
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Wild Turkey Chili: A One Pot Delight!


“When turkeys mate they think of swans.” ~ Johnny Carson

I am always amazed how different wild turkey is from farm-raised turkey. With my first wild turkey harvest, I plucked the entire bird and roasted it in traditional Thanksgiving style. I was so excited for that dinner. I was having Thanksgiving in May complete with mashed potatoes, wild turkey gravy, cranberries, and stuffing. I love the smell a roasting turkey fills the house with, and this wild bird was no exception. Somehow the day was transformed from a typical May evening with sparse clouds, a warming breeze, and blooming flowers to a fall evening, with crisp leaves, a chill in the air, and that beautifully roasting turkey. As I pulled the turkey out the oven and let it rest on the counter, I was bursting with excitement and anticipation of the delicacy before me.

My family sat around the table, and we even shared a few hunting stories about past bird hunts. It was a so much fun! And then we started eating the turkey. It was dry. Really dry. Like chewy, can’t swallow, force a bite down and chase it with a giant gulp of water, dry. I was heartbroken. It had appeared so perfect, the skin was lightly browned and glistening, and it smelled so great. It even felt tender and juicy to the touch while I carved it, but it did not taste that way.

No one really said much about the turkey until long after dinner.

“That turkey was good,” my dad ventured. “But it was, kind of, I don’t know…”

“Dry,” I unenthusiastically replied.

“Yes,” he concurred.

Not only was I disappointed in the turkey dinner itself, as I had tried so hard to roast it at just the right temperature for just the right amount of time, but I felt like I had wasted the bird. I felt bad that I had prepared it so poorly, and I felt basically disrespectful.

After that first turkey experience, I decided to prepare subsequent harvests with more thought and planning. I got creative with how I used my bird, and this also led to using more of the bird efficiently, such as the legs. Typically, the legs are very, very tough and basically inedible on a roasted wild turkey. I make wild turkey and dumplings soup with my legs, and it is easily one of my favorite meals.

So far with the breasts, I have only experimented with grinding. Both of these meatball based recipes were made with pheasant, but they would work really well with turkey too: Marsala Meatballs and Brandy Apples and Onions. I plan on spending this spring working with some other types of recipes with different preparation methods for the breast.

For this chili recipe, I started the same as the meatball recipes by running the turkey breasts through my meat grinder. I used the 3/8″ hole meat grinder plate. It is also a good idea to have the meat at a relatively cold temperature when grinding. This will help to prevent the machine from pulverizing the meat, or as some people term is “mashing” the meat through the plate. A lot of people even partially freeze the meat before grinding it.

After running through the grinder, I drop the meat directly into my ceramic dutch oven, which I just have to quickly add that I love it because it is wonderful for both the stove top and putting directly into the oven. Anyway, I start browning the meat over medium high heat and while it is cooking I dice up a large onion, chop the bell peppers, mince four to five cloves of garlic, and chop up one jalapeno. If you like a lot of heat in your chili, leave the seeds in the jalapeno. If you are not that big of a fan of hot and spicy foods, then I would suggest removing the seeds before chopping up the pepper. Add those ingredients to the turkey and cook until the meat is browned and the onions start to soften, about eight to ten minutes.

On a quick side note, did you know you can freeze your peppers from the garden hole and they are great for use in soups, sauces, stews, and chili’s all year!  Yep, those are frozen peppers in the picture.

To the cooked turkey, add chili powder, cumin, oregano, and coriander. A little tip for quick measuring when cooking is to use your hand instead of measuring spoons (although be sure you washed your hands good before this because nobody wants to eat from a dirty palm!) The rough estimate way is done by filling the base of your palm for a tablespoon and the small little cup in the center of your palm for a teaspoon. Since everyone has a bit different size of hand, the best way to find out what this means for your hand is to take a tablespoon and fill your hand with a scoop of something. Make a mental note on how where that fills to on your palm. Do the same for a teaspoon. This is just a little trick I learned from a cooking show, and it just helps save on dirtying measuring spoons, which makes more dishes, which I hate!

For the tablespoon of chili powder, I roughly estimate it in the palm of my hand. It fills basically the entire base of my palm when a slight cup is made with the hand.
For the teaspoon of cumin, oregano, and coriander, I also measure in my hand. A teaspoon fills the base of the little cup your hand makes when slightly cupping your palm.

I also like to add a pinch of nutmeg when I make chili. So, throw that pinch in there, season the pot with black pepper and salt, and drop in three bay leaves. Give everything a quick stir and coat the turkey and onions in all those delicious spices. Add three tablespoons of tomato paste, stir, and let the pot cook for one minute.

After the minute, pour in the red wine. I tend to use a merlot when I make this chili, but any dry red wine will work, such as a pinot noir or cabernet sauvignon. You could also use chicken stock if you are not a wine drinker. The pot should be hot when the wine hits the pan, and it will make this glorious sizzling sound. You want to stir the turkey mixture at this point and break up all the bits and pieces from the bottom of the pan that the wine has helped release. This adds flavor to the dish!

Next, add in the tomatoes. I use my home-grown garden tomatoes. During the summer, I harvest tomatoes and fill a quart size bag with them. I cut the stem and a little bit of the core out of the tomato, but I don’t remove the skins or do any other prep work. I simply place the bag in the freezer and then dump the entire bag into any soup, stew, or chili that calls for a 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes. It is easy and tastes great! If you don’t have home preserved tomatoes, you just add a 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes at this step.

I have to preface this caption with the fact that this picture is UGLY! I actually went back and forth quite a few times on if I should use it because the tomatoes look…well…gross. In the end, I have decided to stick it on here because I want to show how I literally cut the quart size bag off from around the tomatoes and drop the entire blob into the dutch oven. I don’t even take the time to thaw it.

Finally, it is time to add the beans. I use three 15 ounce cans of beans when I make chili. The type depends mostly on what I have in the pantry at the time, and it generally includes pinto, red kidney, and black beans. But you can add whatever cans of beans you prefer. If you are simply a black bean fan, just use three cans of those babies. If you like a variety, add all three types. Or get crazy and drop in a can of great northern beans or navy beans. It’s totally up to you!  Be sure to drain the beans before adding them in.

Bring everything to a boil, cover the pot, and then drop the temperature down to a low simmer. Let the dutch oven simmer for one hour, stirring every once in awhile. During this time, the flavors will really start to develop and blend together. This chili is a very hearty dish, but because of the wild turkey, it is not a greasy dish. It offers up a beautiful mixture of tomatoes and chili flavor with the hints of cumin and oregano jumping out. And as with most chilis, it is even better the next day!

For serving, pile on some cheddar cheese, maybe a few fresh chopped onion pieces, and a dollop of sour cream. I also enjoy a corn bread muffin for soaking up those juices on the bottom of my quickly emptied bowl. Enjoy!

Happy Hunting!

Wild Turkey Chili: A One Pot Delight!

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 25 minutes

8

Wild Turkey Chili: A One Pot Delight!

Ingredients

  • 1 - 1.5 pounds ground wild turkey
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 red bell peppers, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, diced (with or without seeds depending on desired heat level)
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 and 1/2 cups dry red wine
  • 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 3 15 oz. canned beans, drained
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. In a large pot, such as a ceramic dutch oven, brown ground wild turkey over medium high heat.
  2. While the meat is browning, chop and dice up peppers, onions, jalapeno, and garlic. Add to the pot as you chop. Cook until meat is browned and onions and peppers are soft, about eight to ten minutes.
  3. To the turkey meat mixture, add chili powder, cumin, coriander, oregano, and nutmeg. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Drop in tomato paste and stir. Let cook for one minute. Add in bay leaves.
  4. Pour the wine into pot and stir, releasing bits and pieces from the bottom of the pot.
  5. Add crushed tomatoes and canned beans.
  6. Bring pot to a boil, cover, and reduce to low heat. Simmer the pot for one hour.
  7. Serve chili topped with chopped onion, cheddar cheese, sour cream!
  8. Enjoy!
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Pheasant Meatballs with Brandy Apples and Onion

brandypheasantingredientssmall“When he was young, I told Dale Jr. that hunting and racing are a lot alike. Holding that steering wheel and holding that rifle both mean you better be responsible.” ~ Dale Earnhardt

As I sit here about to write-up this recipe for pheasant meatballs with sweet apples and onions in an apple and brandy sauce, the one who made this all possible is curled up right on top of my feet.  I call her my puppy, but she is no longer a puppy.  She is a seasoned, seven year-old chocolate lab with a passion for pheasant hunting named Sienna.  I am not a bird dog trainer.  To be honest, I am not even much of a day-to-day discipline dog owner.  Sienna knows a few simple commands, like sit and lay, and she is probably the best heeler I have ever met.  I didn’t teach her that though, she just kind of naturally decided that her place when walking with you is pressed against your right knee.  And like I didn’t teach her to heel, I certainly didn’t teach her to hunt.

I have only been bird hunting for a few years, and Sienna has been hunting even less than that.  She spent her first five or six seasons wandering around through the reeds, most of the time behind you, smelling everything but bird scent.  I had actually given up on pheasant hunting trips being anything more to her than just walks through horribly thick vegetation.  I was trying to learn the ins-and-outs of pheasant hunting myself, I certainly didn’t have time to learn how to train a very unenthusiastic chocolate lab.

Three seasons ago, something changed in that little chocolate lab that I can’t explain.  She was wandering around, sniffing at her leisurely pace, lackadaisically pushing reeds and brush out of her way.  Our hunting group ignored her as usual and continued on our way.  She jumped a bird, and no one even took a shot because of the shock of the entire situation.  She jumped three more that day, and left the field a new girl.

This season was a very uneventful one.  In three weeks, we jumped one bird, which of course we missed. There just wasn’t anything out in all the usual places.  Sienna seemed bored while we were hunting, returning to her old habits of smelling flowers instead of working. I complained a lot about carrying my shot gun and having to walk through such rough terrain.  It was a disappointing season, which resulted in a sour attitude.

I had given up on the whole idea of even trying to hunt anymore when the closing day arrived.  I’m sure everyone has experienced that feeling.  You go out into the field, it is empty and lonely.  That desolate atmosphere makes you think life must not even exist in this area because there aren’t even bugs.  You dramatically decide to give up hunting forever.  And then the closing day arrives, and you can’t ignore the nagging desire to go out just one more time, just to make sure there really is no hope.  I had hit that point.  I thought Sienna had as well, but I was wrong.  Closing day of the season was one of the best hunts ever.  Sienna was jumping roosters and hens, tracking them down, retrieving, flushing.  You name it, she was doing it.  It just goes to prove, you never know what is going to happen out there in the field.

In honor of a memorable closing day to the 2016 pheasant season, I decided to make a pheasant dinner for everyone out in the field with me and my splendid chocolate pooch.  One of my favorite methods for preparing pheasant breast is to grind them, straight from the bird with no added fat or other meats, and make them into a flavor packed meatball.  I used the same meatball base for this recipe as I did for pheasant marsala meatballs.  The recipe can be found for those at this link: Pheasant Marsala Meatballs.

To start, cut two pheasant breasts into large chunks and drop them straight into your meat grinder. I use the 3/8″ hole meat grinder plate when I make meatballs.  It is also a good idea to have the meat at a relatively cold temperature when grinding.  This will help to prevent the machine from pulverizing the meat, or as some people term is “mashing” the meat through the plate.  A lot of people even partially freeze the meat before grinding it.

brandypheasantgrinder

Preheat the oven broiler to high.  To the ground pheasant, add panko bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, fresh chopped parsley, a dash of nutmeg, salt and pepper, milk, and a beaten egg.  Mix everything together, and my suggestion is to use your hands for this part.  They let you really get down in there and work everything together.  Another suggestion I have when making meatballs is to not take the recipe word-for-word.  For example, it says to use a cup of panko and two tablespoons of milk per pound of ground pheasant, but you might want your meatball a bit drier or a bit wetter.  Also, the moisture level of the meat can play into how dry or wet the meatball turns out.  When I am making meatballs, I always start at a base point of one cup panko and the two tablespoons of milk, but if the meat isn’t rolling into nice balls that hold together well, I will add more panko or milk slowly until they start to form the way I want.  Also, you can roll the meatballs into whatever size you want, but for this recipe I used about a tablespoon of meat mixture per ball.

brandypheasantmeatballssmall

brandypheasantmeatballscookedsmall

Place the meatballs on an ungreased baking sheet and put in the oven for five to seven minutes.  They will not be cooked all the way through, but that is okay. They will finish cooking in the sauce.

While the meatballs are broiling away in the oven, it is time to start on the brandy apple and onion sauce.  Slice the apple into wedges about a half to an inch thick (be sure to remove the core first).  Cut the onions into long, slender slices. To a large skillet, add a tablespoon of cooking oil, I used olive but you could use canola or vegetable if that is what you have on hand.  Heat the pan to medium high heat and drop in the onion slices.  Allow them to cook for two to three minutes and then add in the apple slices.  Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle in the minced rosemary and cinnamon, and cook for five minutes more.  If you like a little heat to your dishes, add a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes.

brandypheasantonionsmall

Once the apples and onions are starting to soften, and the room should be filling with the rustically sweet smells of cinnamon and apples, deglaze the pan with a half cup of brandy.  Brandy is a fruit-based wine that is distilled into a liquor and the taste varies depending on the fruit used.  I think the subtly sweet fruit flavor of brandy really highlights the apple and onion flavor in this dish, and nothing can compare to the aromas that brandy adds to a dish.  The house smells great at this point!  Let the apples and onions simmer in the brandy for two or three minutes.

brandypheasantmeatballscookingsmall

Next, add two cups of apple cider and two cups of chicken broth to the pan.  In a small cup, mix a tablespoon of cornstarch with two tablespoons of water.  Mix until the cornstarch is broken down and there are no chunks.  Add the cornstarch mixture to the pan and stir.  Bring the pan to a light boil and then let it simmer for about five minutes.  The sauce should start to thicken and become glossy.  After five minutes, add the meatballs to the pan, coating them in the sauce, and let the entire beautifully orchestrated dish simmer for an additional five minutes.  The flavors will really start to develop, with strong tastes of sweet apples and onion, and the meatballs will be cooked perfectly.

brandypheasantmeatballspansmall

I served the pheasant apples and onions over simple white rice.  If you are someone that likes a little more hearty dish, a great substitute would also be a mashed sweet potato or russet potato.  The sauce created from the brandy, cider, and stock really soaks up well in some type of a meal base, but if you were so inclined you could also just eat the meatballs straight-up.  Garnish with some nice fresh minced parsley.

Pheasant, apples, and onions are a tasty combination!  Pheasant is actually quite a mild meat, so it really pairs well with robust flavors like apple and onion.  The brandy also adds a new depth to the sauce of this dish and really kicks up the rustic flavor of the apple cider and hint of cinnamon.  This meal is perfect for a quick meal during the week, but it is also a great one for introducing friends and family to pheasant.  Enjoy!

brandypheasantfinalplate

Happy Hunting!

Pheasant Meatballs with Brandy Apples and Onion

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

6

Pheasant Meatballs with Brandy Apples and Onion

Ingredients

    For Meatballs
  • 1 pound ground pheasant breast
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese (I used parmesan)
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Salt and pepper to taste
    For Sauce
  • 3 red apples (I used macintosh), cored and sliced into wedges
  • 3 onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon cinammon
  • 1/2 cup brandy
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 2 cups chicken stock

Instructions

    For Meatballs
  1. To the pound of ground pheasant, add the panko bread crumbs, parsley, shredded cheese, nutmeg, milk, and beaten egg.
  2. Using your hands, thoroughly incorporate all the ingredients. If the meat seems to dry, add another tablespoon of milk. If it seems to wet, add more panko.
  3. Roll about a tablespoon of the meat mixture into balls and place on ungreased baking sheet.
  4. Cook under broiler on high for seven minutes.
    For Sauce
  1. To a large skillet, add a tablespoon of cooking oil and heat over medium high heat. Add sliced onions and cook for two minutes. Add apples, rosemary, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Cook an additional five minutes. Apples and onions should be starting to soften.
  2. Deglaze the pan with the brandy. Allow apples and onions to cook in brandy for two minutes.
  3. Add apple cider and chicken stock to the pot.
  4. In a small cup, mix together the corn starch and water. Add this to the pan and stir. Increase the heat until sauce starts to lightly boil. Allow the sauce to simmer for five minutes. It should start to thicken and become glossy.
  5. Add meatballs to the pan and simmer in sauce for additional five minutes.
  6. Serve meatballs, apples and onions over rice or mashed potatoes.
  7. Enjoy!
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