If you’re a turkey hunter, prepare to strut into your next holiday get-together like the boss. Just bring a wild turkey cheese ball. This recipe will allow you to utilize those “tough” turkey legs that are constantly glaring at you from the back corner of your freezer. Folks will be cackling about your cheesy, meaty creation until the last bite is gobbled up.
1. Kill a turkey. Get it done in the spring or the fall—your choice. Just make sure you have a bird in hand before it’s time to party.
2. Skin or pluck the bird, then separate its legs from its body above the thigh. You should be able to grab the lower scaly part of the leg, twist until you hear a crack at the ball joint above the thigh, and then release the entire leg with an effortless swipe of your knife blade across the remaining connective tissue. It’s important to leave the thigh intact as part of the full leg, since most of the leg meat is found on the thigh.
3. If anyone else in your turkey camp is considering tossing their bird’s legs, nod your head and agree that turkey legs aren’t fit for consumption. Then, in the next breath, nonchalantly ask if you can keep them to feed your dog.
4. Cook a wild turkey cheese ball with a turkey leg. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Easter—whatever the occasion, you’ll dominate the holiday party pecking order with this dish.
5. Remember to tell the partygoers where the bird came from. Identify non-hunters in the group and single one out to bring along on your next hunt. What better way to recruit a new hunter than when they’re enjoying a tasty mouthful of our sport’s ultimate reward?
INGREDIENTS (Serves 8-10)
1 wild turkey leg
1 gallon real lemonade
1 cup white wine
1 tablespoon seasoning salt
3 strips thick-cut bacon
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small diced onion
4 tablespoons fresh minced garlic
3 tablespoons fresh minced basil
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup dried cranberries
4 ounces of your favorite block cheese
8 ounces cream cheese
1 loaf ciabatta bread
1. Use a fork or knife to poke holes in the turkey leg to allow thorough moisture penetration. Rub the leg with olive oil and sprinkle it with seasoning salt. Submerge the leg in lemonade, white wine and two tablespoons of fresh minced garlic. Marinate for 4-5 hours.
2. Dump turkey leg and marinade into a slow cooker such as a cast-iron Camp Chef Dutch Oven, a crockpot or whatever you choose. I often use a CanCooker because it’s awesome and easy; it cooks the leg quickly (within a half-hour) while retaining moisture in the meat.
3. While the leg is cooking, put a medium shallow pan on medium heat. Add bacon, one tablespoon of minced garlic, and the onion. Sauté together until bacon is crisp.
4. When the turkey leg is cooked to a point where it begins to fall off the bone, remove from the marinade bath and set it on a cutting board. Pull the meat off the bone and then dice it into fine pieces with a knife.
5. Combine the block cheese (I used chipotle cheddar) and cream cheese in a separate heat-safe bowl and heat until the block cheese has melted.
6. Combine turkey meat, sautéed bacon/garlic/onion and dried cranberries into the bowl of melted cheese. Mix well (I wear rubber gloves and use my hands). Form the mixture into the shape of a ball with a flat bottom. Put it in the fridge to firm up.
7. Carefully sprinkle the sliced almonds to cover the cheese ball. Use a spoon to lightly pat the almonds into the outer surface of the cheese ball so they don’t fall off.
8. Sauté remaining olive oil and minced garlic over medium heat until the garlic begins to turn golden brown.
9. Cut the ciabatta bread into slices of medium thickness. Shake bread slices in a bag with sautéed olive oil/garlic until evenly coated. Heat oiled bread in a 400-degree oven until it starts to harden. Remove.
10. Set bread and cheese ball on a serving tray in a nice arrangement. Sprinkle everything with fresh minced basil to add freshness and color. Serve.