Four Thanksgiving Wild Turkey Recipes to be Grateful About

Nothing says America like wild turkey in November. The pilgrims ate it. Our forefathers ate it. Heck, Ben Franklin wanted Tom Gobbler to fly as the national bird. But in this great land of ours, one of the things we can be grateful for, is how varied and diverse its people are, whether hunters, chefs or just do-nothing Thanksgiving table seat takers. And our food is as varied and rich as the people. So whether you’re a traditionalist or gourmet chef, we’ve got a wild turkey recipe for you. There’s no better way to celebrate Thanksgiving than by killing and cooking our greatest game bird.

1) The Traditionalist — Deep Fried Turkey Nuggets

If you've seen a gobbler get blasted in the face with 12 gauge pellets on cable television in the last 10 years, odds are Rick White pulled the trigger. This Iowa born and bred Hunter Specialties Pro Staffer has hunted birds on and off camera in every corner of this great land. But when it comes to cooking them, he keeps it simple:

INGREDIENTS
• One turkey breast
• 1-quart buttermilk
• Peanut or cottonseed oil (enough to fill your pan)
• Seasoning

DIRECTIONS
"Wild turkey the easy way. Take your turkey breast and cut it up into to chunks or strips. Marinate turkey in buttermilk for 8 to 12 hours. Longer will not hurt anything. Then fry in peanut or cottonseed oil at 350. After golden brown place on plate with paper towel to soak up some of the oil and season with your favorite seasoning. One of my favorites is Cracker Boy. Then dig in."

2) The Family Man — Roasted Wild Turkey

If you're planning to roast a wild turkey this week, and share it around a table with family and friends, take a page from the National Wild Turkey Federation's new cookbook, Cooking Across Turkey Country. Pages 83 to 85 to be exact. By Gregory Werner, NWTF Director of Information Technology

INGREDIENTS
• 2 gallons water
• 2 oranges
• 2 lemons
• 1 onion, cut into 8 pieces
• 1 cup brown sugar
• 1 cup Kosher salt
• couple sprigs of fresh thyme or rosemary

DIRECTIONS
Make brining mixture, mixing all ingredients. Squeeze the oranges and lemons into the mixture and toss in the rinds too. Soak turkey in a cooler with ice and the brining mixture overnight. If you need more brine, use ½ cup salt and ½ cup brown sugar for every gallon of water. Use additional fruit as desired.

I lightly stuff the turkey with a couple celery stalks, onion pieces and a couple carrots, along with a half lemon and half orange from the brine mixture. Roast turkey.

DIRECTIONS
1. Place the turkey breast side up on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Do not add water.

2. Before placing the turkey in the oven, you may want to brush it with cooking oil, melted butter or margarine, although it's not necessary.

3. Cover the turkey with a loose tent of heavy-duty aluminum foil to prevent over browning, allow for maximum heat circulation and keep the turkey moist. To make a tent, tear off a sheet of foil 5 to 10 inches longer than the turkey. Crease the foil crosswise through the center and place over the turkey, crimping loosely onto the sides of the pan to hold it in place.

4. Roast according to the following chart.

5. To brown the turkey, remove the foil tent 20 to 30 minutes before roasting is finished, and continue cooking until the meat thermometer reaches 185 F.

ROASTING CHART

The following times are based on an oven preheated to 325 F. Use shorter cooking times for wild turkey so it doesn’t dry out.

WEIGHT (pounds) UNSTUFFED (hours) STUFFED (hours)
4 to 6 (breasts) 1½ to 2¼ -----
6 to 8 2¼ to 3¼ 3 to 3¼
8 to 12 3 to 4 3½ to 4½
12 to 16 3½ to 4½ 4½ to 5½
16 to 20 4 to 5 5½ to 6½
20 to 24 4½ to 5½ 6½ to 7
24 to 28 5 to 6½ 7 to 8½
Drumsticks/thighs 2 to 3½ -------

3) The Gourmet — Turkey Wellington with Mushroom Cream Sauce

For the hunter and chef that want to take his T-day meal to another level, meet Pat LaFrieda of New York's Pat LaFrieda Meat Purveyors. His family has been slicing steaks since 1922. Here's what he had to say on his favorite wild turkey recipe:

“I love cooking Beef Wellington with fillets. Since the fillet does not have much fat content, the puff pastry is perfect with it. Wild Turkey also is lean so I adapted the recipe to work with it. I've been a successful wild turkey hunter and always felt that the entire bird is delicious. That being said, many hunters do not utilize the legs. That is a huge mistake. If the meat is roasted and then pulled, the entire bird is worthy of eating, especially the legs.”

INGREDIENTS
• 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 1 pound mixed mushrooms (such as cremini, shiitake, and white), wiped clean, stems discarded, finely chopped
• Heaping 1/4 cup finely diced shallots (about 2 medium)
• 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt plus more to taste
• 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• Heaping 1 tablespoon minced fresh sage leaves
• 2 teaspoons truffle oil (optional)
• 1 pound pulled turkey leftovers
• 2 teaspoons kosher salt
• 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
• 1 tablespoon canola or another neutral-flavored oil
• 1 box (17 ounces) frozen puff pastry
• 2 (8-inch) flour tortillas
• All-purpose flour, for dusting
• 2 large eggs
• 1 cup heavy cream

DIRECTIONS
For the mushrooms: in a large skillet, heat the olive oil and butter over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes, until the fats slide easily in the pan. Add the mushrooms and cook until they begin to wilt and brown slightly, 12 to 15 minutes. Add the shallots, salt, and pepper. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the shallots are softened, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the sage and truffle oil (if using), and season with more salt to taste. Set the pan aside for the mushrooms to cool to room temperature.

Take the puff pastry out of the freezer and out of its package and let it sit at room temperature for 5 minutes before working with it.

Fold each tortilla into quarters. Unfold them and use the 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter to cut on round from each quadrant. Use a 1/2-inch aspic cutter to cut a small hole in the centers of 4 of the tortilla rounds to create a vent (or use a paring knife to cut an "X". Set the tortilla rounds aside.

Dust a work surface with flour and lay a sheet of puff pastry down. Use a 6-inch metal ring to cut out a large round. (You can also use a bowl with a 6-inch diameter as a guide and cut it out using a paring knife.) Cut a second 6-inch round out of that sheet. Then use the 3 1/2-inch cutter to cut 2 rounds out of the same sheet. Repeat with the second sheet of puff pastry for a total of 4 rounds of each size. Use the 1/2-inch aspic cutter to cut a hole in the center of each of the smaller rounds to create a vent (or cut an "W" in the pastry with a paring knife). Put the smaller rounds on a baking sheet or parchment paper and put them in the refrigerator while you assemble the Wellingtons. Put the larger rounds on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Put a non-vented tortilla round in the center of each of the larger pastry rounds. Spoon 1 tablespoon of the mushroom mixture on each tortilla round and spread the mushrooms to the edges of the tortilla with the back of the spoon, making sure to not get it on the pastry. Place the pulled turkey (about 4 ounces) on top of the mushrooms. Spoon another tablespoon of the mushrooms on top of each tenderloin and spread to the edge of the turkey. (This will not use all of the mushrooms).

Place the vented tortilla rounds on top of the mushrooms. Remove the 3 1/2-inch pastry rounds from the refrigerator and place one on top of each mound of turkey. To close the Wellingtons, lift the edges of the pastry up around the turkey to meet the top round of dough. Crimp the top and bottom pastry together with your fingers; you may need to wet your fingers to make the dough sticky enough to crimp. Put the Wellingtons in the freezer until they are very cold, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Make 4 collars out of foil by tearing each sheet about 2-inches wide. Wrap foil collar around the outside circumference of each Wellington (this will help them to not collapse as they bake).

Put the Wellingtons in the oven to bake for 10 minutes.

In a small bowl, lightly beat the eggs to make an egg wash.

Remove the Wellingtons from the oven, remove the foil collars, and brush the Wellingtons all over with the egg wash. Put the Wellingtons back in the oven to bake until the pastry is golden brown.

For the sauce: Put the skillet with the remaining mushrooms over medium heat and cook them to warm through, 3 or 4 minutes. Add the cream and cook until the cream reduced slightly, about 5 minutes.

To serve, spoon some mushroom sauce on each plate. Place one Wellington on top of the sauce.

4) The Redneck — Bacon-Wrapped Turkey Tenders

Wrap it in bacon and set it on fire. That's the premise, and basic instructions, for Avery Pro Staffer Arliss Reed's slamming grilled turkey breast. To be cooked on a grill, make sure the grill is outside and away from your home, deck, garage, truck, a pile of fall leaves, or anything else that might catch on fire. Stock up on salad dressing, hide the women and children, and make sure there's plenty of cold beer on hand, cause, you know, you might need it to douse the flames and all.

INGREDIENTS
• 1 tbsp salt
• 1 tbsp pepper
• 1 tbsp garlic
• One turkey breast
• 1 lb. thick-sliced bacon
• One bottle Italian salad dressing
• One bottle Ranch salad dressing (optional)

DIRECTIONS
"Take one whole breast then rub it in salt, pepper and garlic. Make sure it's trimmed up nice, no fat or anything. Then marinate it overnight in a Ziploc with Italian dressing. We usually just get Wishbone, or the store brand, something zesty. The next day, take the whole thing out and wrap it in bacon. Tie the bacon together; like you're making a bacon rope, the slices tied at the end with square knots and just wrap the whole breast.

“Put it on the grill at a fairly low heat. It may very well catch on fire, but that’s okay. That’s a good thing. When the bacon looks like its burnt, really charred and crispy, it’s done. Slice it across the grain and you’re good to go. I like to cut it into strips and dip it in ranch dressing.”

This article was first published on November 25, 2013.