Thanksgiving Wild Turkey from 'The Wild Chef'

[Photograph: Travis Rathbone]

There are a few wild turkey recipes in Jonathan Miles's new cookbook, The Wild Chef, but none are as iconic as the Thanksgiving turkey. Gloriously golden, with ultra-crisp skin, this stuffed bird is truly a thing of beauty. It's a simple recipe, cooked for a couple of hours in a moderate oven, but one trick helps to maintain the integrity of the lean breast meat: a couple of coats of pork fat and a sheath of fatback, salt pork, or bacon.

Why I picked this recipe: While I'm not necessarily a "bacon goes on everything" person, I do believe that a slice or eight can do wonders to a lean wild (or heritage) turkey.

What worked: I loved this turkey—easy, well-seasoned, and super pretty. What more could you want?

What didn't: The recipe doesn't mention how to divide up the pork. I used 1/4 pound, minced, for the stuffing; 1/4 pound, minced, for brushing; and 1/4 pound, sliced, to top the bird in the oven.

Suggested tweaks: If you aren't planning on hunting down a wild turkey this year, you could use any smallish bird following these same directions. This recipe works particularly well for leaner, darker heritage breeds. If you're roasting a larger bird (more than 14 or 15 pounds), you'll want to adjust the cooking times by increasing both the 350 degree cooking time and the 375 degree cooking time. Cover the bird with aluminum foil if it starts to brown too much before the meat is cooked.

Reprinted with permission from The Wild Chef by Jonathan Miles and the editors of Field and Stream. Copyright 2013. Published by Weldon Owen. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.

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Thanksgiving Wild Turkey from 'The Wild Chef'

About This Recipe

Yield:Serves 6 to 10
Active time:30 minutes
Total time:3 hours
This recipe appears in: Thanksgiving Wild Turkey From 'The Wild Chef'

Ingredients

  • 3/4 pound (375 g) fatback, salted pork, or bacon, 1/2 pound minced, 1/4 pound sliced
  • 1 wild turkey, 11–13 pounds (5.5–6.5 kg)
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 yellow onion, minced
  • 3 ribs celery, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups (8 oz/250 g) toasted diced bread
  • 1 cup (8 fl oz/250 ml) chicken stock
  • 6 sprigs sage, minced
  • 2 sprigs rosemary, minced
  • 8 sprigs Italian parsley, minced

Procedures

  1. 1

    Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Render half of the minced fatback slowly in a heavy-bottom sauté pan. Reserve and keep warm.

  2. 2

    Dry the turkey very well with paper towels. Using a brush, coat the exterior with some of the warm minced fatback and season well with salt and pepper inside and out.

  3. 3

    Heat up the remaining minced fatback on medium. Add the onion and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, then add the celery and cook for 5 minutes more. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and add the toasted bread. Moisten with stock and add the minced herbs. Taste the bread cubes and add more broth and herbs as needed—they should be moist and tasty. Gently fill the cavity of the turkey with this mixture, and cover the breast with the remaining slices of fatback.

  4. 4

    Place the turkey, breast side up, in a heavy roasting pan and put it in the oven. Roast for 1 hour. Remove the fatback, raise the oven temperature to 375°F (190°C), and continue roasting for 1 hour to brown the breast. Remove the turkey as soon as it registers 160°F (71°C) on an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh, away from the bone.

  5. 5

    Let the turkey rest for at least 20–30 minutes before carving it across the grain with a sharp knife.

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