““We recommend that no one eat more than two tons of turkey-that’s what it would take to poison someone.” – Elizabeth Whelan
The craziness of the holidays has finally died down! I have wished everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, decorated and then undecorated my tree, and ate my fair share of holiday treats. After the holiday season, I always fill just a bit empty. During the holidays, there are so many noises, smells, and colors! Hibernating trees are draped in beautiful lights, the house is filled with the aromas of baked goods or holiday dinners, and everyone is dropping by to visit, even if just for a few minutes. I will admit that I sometimes feel overwhelmed by all of it, but it is just a bit lonely when it all ends.
I was sitting at home a few days after New Year’s Day and thinking about how as soon as the holiday season is over I immediately am ready for spring. I decided in that moment I needed to do something about this, and nothing brightens up the mood of melancholy day better than comfort food. And there is no better comfort food than wild turkey and dumplins!
For this recipe, I used the leg of a Rio Grande turkey I had harvested during the spring hunt in the picture above. I know the leg looks a little beat up, but this particular turkey took a shot to the leg. I could have used the other leg from the turkey, but I wanted to share a little tip I learned when helping clean this turkey. When you clean animals you shot with a shot gun, you can end up with a lot of pellets in your meat. In order to extract all the pellets, find the little holes on the surface of the meat where the BB entered and the follow its path. Your meat will end up looking a little beat up, like this leg does, but I did not bite in to any BBs during the meal. Biting down on a BB can be a real meal ender!
Turkey legs can be a bit tough. I tried roasting them, and I just did not like the texture. They work amazing in this soup because they are so tender after slow cooking all day, and they add an amazing flavor to the soup base. Turkey and dumplins is one of those meals you can start in the morning before you leave for work and then finish it up when you get home in the evening. Nothing is better at the end of a cold winter’s day than walking through the door and being hit with the smells of turkey soup slow cooking all day. So good!
Turkey and dumplins does not require too many ingredients, and putting it together only takes a few minutes. What I usually do is throw everything in the crock pot in the morning except for the heavy cream and the biscuits. I dice up the carrots, celery, and onion into bite sized pieces. I also add nine chicken bouillon cubes and a couple of tablespoons of butter for flavor. You could also probably pour in a quart of chicken stock if you had that around the house, but I prefer to use the bouillons when slow cooking. I also add the herbs at this point. For this soup, I put in marjoram, tarragon, and bay leaves. The tarragon adds this amazing flavor similar to black licorice that pairs, unexpectedly in my opinion, wonderfully with turkey. I also add tarragon to all different kinds of chicken dishes. Now, my husband and I always argue about the amounts on the herbs. He buys a package of the fresh stuff and adds all of the leaves, because he apparently has a tarragon addiction, but I would recommend two tablespoons. I like to use the fresh herbs in this case, but you could use dried too. If you are using dried you want to cut the amounts in half. After everything is added to the pot, pour in twelve cups of water, drop the lid on your pot, and set the temperature. I set it to high for eight hours (very light simmer). I have had people tell me again and again the legs aren’t usable, but after eight hours the texture is similar to tenderloin.
After a cold day at work, the turkey leg is now tender and ready to be shredded. It should pull apart easily. I use two forks to pull it apart into bite size pieces. The shins are very protected in the shins, but make sure you get it all as the lower leg meat has the best texture. You discard the bone at this point and return your meat to the pot. You could just boil up some egg noodles and add them to pot if you want turkey and noodles, but I highly recommend you take the time to finish up the dumplin part of this recipe. You won’t regret it!
So, the hardest part of this soup is the next step. In order to thicken the soup up, you need to be able to bring it to a boil. You can’t bring a crock pot to a boil (ughhh…I know, transferring the soup is not fun!). So, I pour all the soup into a large pot and move things over to the stove. I add a tablespoon of cornstarch to a about a half cup of the soup base and stir until the cornstarch is dissolved. You want to dissolve the cornstarch before adding it or you could end up with just floating chunks of cornstarch in your soup, which isn’t very appetizing. I bring the whole pot to a gentle boil and stir as the soup base thickens. Once it has come to a boil you can turn the heat back down and the soup will continue to thicken. I stir it for a minute or two just to make sure things are working right. You can add more if you like it thick. I try to get the consistency of a hearty beef stew. At this point, drop in your dumplins! You could make your own dumplins, and I am sure it isn’t too hard, but I bought canned biscuits in order to save time. I break each biscuit into three or four pieces throw it in and give it a quick dunk before adding the next one to keep them from sticking together. Place the lid over the pot and let it sit for ten minutes on a low to medium heat. Then stir the dumplins in and simmer for ten more minutes.
The final step is to add the cream. This is again one of the places where my husband and I disagree. He likes an entire quart of heavy cream in his soup. I like to add about half that. I would recommend starting with half and tasting it before you add the entire quart. You could also use half and half if you were looking to cut a few calories, but it will not be quite as creamy. Adjust the water to accommodate the amount used for a total of 12 cups.
Well, the soup is on!!! I like to have a piece of crispy bread to dip in my soup. You could also mix up a side salad and have a complete meal. This soup is very hearty and full of flavors. The turkey and tarragon pair really nicely together.
* Two carrots
* Two celery stalks
* Medium sized onion
* Nine chicken bouillon cubes
* 1/4 cup butter
* Wild turkey leg and thigh (bone in)
* 3 tablespoons fresh marjoram
* 1 package fresh tarragon
* 7 bay leaves
* 8 cups water
* 1 quart heavy cream
* Four cans refrigerated Pilsbury buttermilk biscuits
* 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
* Black pepper to taste
Chop up the carrots, celery stalks, and onion. Place with butter in crockpot. Add turkey leg and nine chicken bouillon cubes. Chop up and add marjoram, tarragon, and bay leaves. Pour in 8 cups of water. Cover and set the crock pot to high heat. After eight hours, remove turkey leg and shred. Discard bone and return turkey meat to pot. Transfer soup to a large stock pot. Mix a tablespoon of cornstarch with half a cup of soup base. Add dissolved cornstarch back into the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and stir until thickened. Break biscuits into three or four pieces and dunk into pot. Cover and simmer for ten minutes. Stir and simmer for ten more minutes. Uncover and add heavy cream. Mix until incorporated. Cute a slice of thick crusted bread and enjoy!!!