By mid-spring, if you're a successful turkey hunter, you've acquired some wild turkey. And if you were really lucky, you found some morel mushrooms. These two ingredients make a wonderful meal when properly fixed. Wild turkey is in no way like domestic, store-bought Butterball. Wild turkey meat has very little fat and tends to dry out if you overcook them. You need to cook wild turkey in a different way.
I like to remove the breast and slice it into steak-like portions. These portions cook quickly and are easier to handle than trying to roast a whole bird. I save the legs, thighs and back meat for chili. The legs are tough and are better after cooking a long time in the chili pot.
The flavor of wild turkey, to me, is what turkey is supposed to taste like. The mild flavor of a store-bought turkey pales in comparison to their wild cousin. This recipe will enhance the fine flavor and hopefully make you a fan of the wild turkey.
The morel mushroom is another one of the Creator’s mysteries. They magically appear each spring and are quite elusive, if you don't know where to look for them. The taste of a wild morel is incomparable for those of us who love them. They seem to always disappear at my house when we cook a batch.
The morels love the little dark corners of the woods beneath old elm trees, abandoned overgrown apple orchards and mature white ash trees. If you find a bunch be sure to wash and soak them for a bit; they like to host little critters at times and you don't want to eat those!
This recipe combines a little bit of French cooking and a little bit of Americana, although the French use morels now because of the unique flavor and the rarity of them in Europe. The term Française means in the French style. It actually consists of dipping the turkey filet in beaten eggs and frying or sautéing in hot oil. French toast is actually toast Française. It is made the same way. The egg when sautéed in oil makes a tasty coating that protects the turkey and allows it to stay really moist and tender. The addition of a nice white wine and some fresh herbs make this dish comparable to dinner in a fine restaurant.
I paired these two items together for a meal one time after an especially memorable turkey hunt. I had been hunting a new property and was just kind of moving slowly through the hilly, wooded area. I heard a turkey gobble off in the distance and set up to call him in. He was over a small rise opposite me. I called a bit and listened for a response. I heard nothing for a good bit. I was sitting facing the top of the rise contemplating whether I should move, when I noticed a white head pop over the edge and peer down toward me. I watched the gobbler as he studied the area. I didn't move a muscle; my gun was already on my knee and I wouldn't have to move at all if he came closer. After what seemed like a long time, he slowly advanced down the hill a bit within range. I waited until he moved his head down a bit and walked behind some grass. I put the bead on him and fired. The big gobbler began to flop and roll wildly. He bounced down the hill in a few tumbles and came to rest about 20 yards away. I jumped up to retrieve the gobbler and when I got close, I noticed he had landed in a morel patch.
I froze and started looking around; there were a few dozen beautiful, yellow morels popping up out of the green grass. I was in luck! I tagged the turkey and filled my vest with morels. Needless to say, the hike out of my newly found hunting area was quite a happy one.
Turkey Française with Morel Mushrooms
- 2 pounds of cleaned turkey breast, sliced crosswise about 1/4 in thick
- 2 cups of fresh morels sliced
- 2 eggs beaten
- 1 cup flour
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- 1 cup Pinot Grigio wine
- 1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley
- 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh tarragon (or one tsp dried)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup chicken broth
- 1 lemon cut into quarters for squeezing
- Place the seasoned turkey filets in the flour and shake off the excess. Then dip them into the egg mixture.
- Preheat the oil in a heavy sauté pan or Dutch oven. Carefully place a few of the egg coated breast filets into the hot oil and slightly brown. Turn and brown the other side and remove and place on a warm platter. Brown the remaining breasts and do the same.
- Now take the morels and gently dust them with the remaining flour and fry them until they shrink to half size.
- Place all the breasts back into the pan and reduce heat to medium. Add the herbs and salt and pepper.
- Deglaze the pan with a little bit of the white wine. If there is some left drink it.
- Add the stock and simmer for about 25 minutes until the breasts are tender. The liquid will thicken slightly and make a delicious sauce for topping the breasts.
- Squeeze the lemon over the turkey to enhance the flavor.
I like to serve them with Yukon gold smashed potatoes or rice pilaf.