What to do With Wild Turkey

Last April I was was lucky enough to shoot my first wild turkey.    I had never cooked wild turkey and had only eaten it 3-4 times that I could remember.  My uncle shot one and smoked it a number of years ago.  It had a great flavor but was kind of stringy and very dry.  I had one deep fried and that was a little better but still dry and a little chewy.  When I cleaned my bird I decided to break it down in to breasts, thighs, legs and wings so that I could try as many different preparations as possible.  What I had seen in the past was that the meat is so lean that is dries out very quickly and becomes dry and stringy. 

My turkey weighed in at 23 1/2 pounds and after I quartered it out, each breast weighed a little over 3 pounds.  With the first breast I thought I would just try something very simple and grill it.  I rubbed it with some salt and spices and through it on the grill.  It did not take long to cook and although the flavor was good and it wasn't to dry I felt like I could have done a better job and probably should have brined the breast before grilling it.  The second breast went into the crockpot with onions, herbs and white wine and turned into some very tasty pulled turkey sandwiches.

What I had left was the thighs and the legs and one wing, the other wing didn't make it.  For the thighs I thought that a long slow braise would probably fit best and since reading Martin Picard's new cookbook, Sugar Shack,  I figured maple syrup should be involved somehow.  I braised the thighs in maple syrup and wild turkey stock with some pearl onions, carrots, thyme, and garlic.  After three hours in the oven the thighs were a magnificent dark mahogany color and smelled out of this world.  I served them up on a bed of Irish whiskey mashed sweet potatoes, the flavor was amazing, the meat absorbed all the rich maple flavor with hints of garlic and thyme.  Only one problem, they weren't as fall of the bone tender as I would have liked them to be.  They weren't tough and they weren't stringy but the meat wasn't as perfect as I had hoped it would be.

The last thing I had then was the legs and the one lone wing.  I thought about the legs I had eaten in the past and how they were full of tendons and very tough.  So far I hadn't been having any success in making the turkey as tender as I wanted it to be so I turned to the one method I new couldn't fail, Confit.  It only made sense that I would confit the legs and the wing because by nature they were going to be the toughest pieces anyway.  I salted the meat and let it sit for two days then poached it in duck fat for 6 hours.  As you can imagine I finally got the fall off the bone tender meat I was looking for.  The rich dark meat of the legs had a brilliant flavor and was so good I could have eaten it all right then but I had something else in mind.

I figured if I had 2 pounds of confit'd turkey meat I might as well put it to good use.  My garden has been producing green beans at break neck speed lately and my neighbors already had ripe butternut squash so I made a wild turkey confit pot pie.  I sauteed the squash and the beans with some onion, celery and garlic then added the turkey and poured it into a baking dish. I made the sauce with  duck fat and flour and the left over turkey stock and a beautiful crust made with chilled duck fat, flour and water.  I finally got the tender flavorful meat I was looking for and I made four different dishes out of one bird, five if you include the fried heart and gizzards I had the day I shot it.

Of all the dishes I made, I enjoyed the flavor of the braised thighs the most but got the total package of tender and flavorful with the pot pie.  I almost can't wait for Spring so I can get back out there and do it all over again.