Spring ’13 Turkey Hunt/Food

Sometimes luck is with you. That was the case opening weekend of turkey season for me in Idaho. I am rarely in Northern Sections of my own state and decided that I could not miss opening day of turkey hunting no matter were I was.

That said, the populations of the thunder chickens in the northern stretches of Idaho are much greater than the southern half. I was in Couer d’Alene for the Western States American Culinary Federation annual meeting. It is an idyllic setting.

I made my way over to Post Falls, thanks to the father of a good friend named Sara, and found some public land to hunt. Rolled in the night before, heard a gobble and strolled out. Shot a tom the next morning with my fellow chef friend Jason Jones, Sous Chef at Bella Aquila in Eagle Idaho. The tom is the best turkey, trophy wise, that I have ever taken.

The next morning I was three hours south and hunting with my cousin in law Wally from IDA GLOW Antlers. He put me on a quartet of jakes; one of them filled tag number two.

I have two recipes up on the site for turkey as well.  Check them out, I will  have more soon.

This past year was, by far, the best turkey season I have ever had, tagged out in two days.  I took some pics while I was out and hope you all enjoy!

Wild Turkey Cutlets

The total mass of a turkey is always surprising to me. I shoot other big birds like geese and sage hen often but a turkey is just a totally different ball game, and as such needs to be treated that way.

Turkeys consist of 5 cuts of meat in total; the breast, the tenderloin, the wings, the thighs and the drumsticks. Each of these bird parts beg for a separate cooking method. It is not wise to just roast a wild turkey like a butterball. The breast will probably be dry, the drumsticks will be good for dog chew toys and the



thigh meat will require a steak knife.

This month I will concentrate on the breast meat of a turkey, by far the biggest bang for the buck.

Turkey breast meat is not as soft and juicy as store bought, but it has a ton more flavor. Think elk meat vs beef – similar but still different. But like store bought meat it still needs cooked to 165 degrees to be safe to eat. Be careful when cooking meat to this temperature, it can be very dry. To avoid dry meat make sure to remove it from heat a whole 10 degrees before it reaches 165 degrees on the inside. Carry over cooking will finish the job of getting the meat to 165.

Breaded Turkey Cutlets with Oil Poached Garlic and Tomatoes served with Pan Roasted Orange

This recipe calls for turkey “cutlets” AKA  slices of turkey breast. Lay your breast out on the counter. It will make half of a heart shape. Cut across the grain of the meat in about ¼ inch sections. You will get quite a few. It is even a little easier to cut when the meat is frozen a little.

Take those slices and place them between two sheets of clear plastic film about an inch from each other. Use a mallet or the bottom of a pan to hammer the slices into almost see through thin sections. You now have turkey “cutlets” and they are a transformed piece of wild game meat. Bread them and fry them, add a squeeze of lemon, and you have the German classic schnitzel. And that classic dish is what we are having fun with today. Replace the sour lemon with a sweeter caramelized orangeand add the roasted garlic and tomatoes – bang – a whole new take on a classic.

Oil Poached Garlic and Tomatoes

1 cup Olive Oil

1 cup garlic cloves, peeled

1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes

In a small sauce pan add the garlic, tomatoes and oil. Turn heat to medium low and let simmer for 20 minutes. Reserve in warm location. This will create more than you need for this recipe. Store them in a mason jar in the fridge, covered in oil and they will last up to a year. Just microwave the jar when you want some roasted garlic and tomatoes.

Pan Roasted Orange

2 ea Oranges, cut in half

1 tablespoon canola oil

In a medium sized cast iron skillet add the oil and then the orange halves, flesh side down. Heat on medium until the exposed orange flesh is dark brown. Remove pan from heat. Reserve.

Turkey Cutlets

8 each 2oz turkey cutlets

1 cup flour

1 cup milk

2 cups bread crumbs

1 tablespoon black pepper

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon Italian seasoning herb blend

¼ cup canola oil

Heat canola oil in a large sauté pan or cast iron on medium heat until a wooden spoon inserted into the oil just gives off bubbles and floats. Or head oil to 350 degrees. (This is an old German trick that I learned in Singapore, long story…all I know is that it works. The oil temp will be about 350 degrees)

Gather three small bowls. Place the flour, milk and bread crumbs in separate bowls. In the flour bowl add the black pepper, Italian seasoning and salt. Mix the flour and other ingredients  together.

Place cutlets in the flour and coat all sides evenly. Then place the cutlet in the milk, wetting all sides. Then place the cutlet in the bread crumbs, forcefully pushing bread crumbs into all parts of the turkey cutlet. Reserve the breaded cutlet on a plate. Bread the remaining slices.

Carefully place one cutlet at a time in the hot oil. Cook the cutlet until it is “GB&D”, or golden brown and delicious, on one side then flip. Cook the other side until GB&D as well. Reserve the fried cutlets on a paper towel lined plate.

Pheasant Hunters Corn Cakes

Hunters Style Corn Cakes

When making any recipe it is always important to gather everything that you need before getting started cooking. The concept, in French, is called Mis en Place. It simply means “things in place” and when you have everything in place while cooking, just like hunting, is that much more enjoyable.

Finding a use for the top half of a pheasant is easy. The legs however can be a problem. Large tendons on these running birds render them nearly inedible, but if you cook them long enough they become succulent and tender. For this recipe you are going to need to crock pot the lower half of a pheasant for several hours. I recommend overnight.


Crock Pot Pheasant –  hunter corn cakes

1 each pheasant, breasts removed

1 cup canola oil

2 bulbs garlic

1 ea apple, cut in 1/4

1 ea small red onion, cut into quarters

3 bay leafs

1 teaspoon cinnamon



Turn the crock pot on low and add the pheasant and remaining ingredients. Add enough water to just cover the bird. Place the lid on the crock pot and allow to cook for 8-10 hours on low heat. Turn off the crock pot and let rest for one hour, for maister meat let rest overnight in the refrigerator. Then remove bird and pick meat from the carcass. Reserve meat for the corn cakes.

You can save the broth created by the pheasant and use that in soups or stews if you wish.


Corn Cakes –

1 box instant corn bread mix

¾ cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained

1 ea Crock Pot Pheasant Meat – picked clean of tendons and bones

1 teaspoon red chili flakes

2 eggs


2 Tablespoons Honey

Salt and pepper

Heat skillet or large sauté pan on stove on medium low heat for 4 minutes.  The pan must be warm or the corn cakes will stick.

Mix the beans, pheasant meat, chili flakes, eggs, and honey together in a medium sized bowl. Add the corn bread mix to the bowl and mix through. The mix will be very thick at this point. Add milk as needed to thin the batter to a pancake like consistency. Salt and pepper to taste.

Using pan spray lightly coat the bottom of the sauté pan and pour ¼ cup cakes. Make sure to leave enough room so they do not touch. Cook cakes until golden brown on one side (2-3 minutes) and then flip and brown on the other. Reserve the corn cakes in a warm oven.

Serve Hunters Style Corn Cakes with a squeeze of lime and slices of fresh tomatoes for a great appetizer!

Lazy in Advance

Back in the day my family vacation and my fathers’ summer time elk scouting was rolled into the same week. We would pack up the wagon and hit the road. Camp would be located after about three hours on back roads. We would set out our stuff and let dad and my older brother go for a hike in the morning. (I was too little at the time to go scouting) When they would get back my mom, sister and I would have a big breakfast ready. Well, we would try to have a breakfast ready.


What would normally happen is some catastrophe that involved the cooking equipment. Some pipe on the stove would break; we would run out of gas or maybe we just forgot the coffee. It was always some sort of camping travesty; it never worked out as planned.

To try and solve this problem my father started to do a little pre camping in the backyard. He would set up all the equipment and test it out before setting out on the vacation. His buddies would make fun of him and call him overly prepared – he just said he was being lazy in advance. Plus he knew my moms cooking ability or lack there of. Dad would fix what needed it, buy what he had to, and then he knew he would get a hot breakfast when he got back. (Honestly, I think mom just wanted to eat at the café in town.)

The pre camping taught me a great lesson that seems rudimentary – check your equipment before you go camping/hunting. Fast forward to the present and I find myself asking simple questions. Did the hole in the tent from last fall magically fix itself? Nope. Did I buy fuel for my burners? No, then why would I expect to have any now. When was the last time my sleeping bag got used? Christmas when my brother got drunk and slept on the couch. Get the gear out and give it a test, maybe even a wash.

Ryan Cooking Ribs

The little details that make camping and hunting enjoyable need to be thought of before leaving or they will turn into big problems. (Kinda like the time we made it four hours up a logging road to find out we didn’t have any plates for my family of five. Nothing bonds a family like sharing a meal out of one pan…) To be honest, my wife does a better job than me with making sure we are prepared.

When testing the gear nothing gets me more ticked off than cooking equipment that is not working properly. In my case I have had a few of those fancy “grill-burner-griddle” contraptions over the years and none have truly impressed me. The griddles have hot spots and the grill is just a waste of space that gets everything messy. I like the idea of an all in one cook top but I am not sure I have used a functional one yet. Plus, those pictures of the perfectly cooked pancakes just piss me off. I am a chef and I can’t even come close to making those.

For most of my camp cooking I use, and don’t judge me now, is those little burners you see the omelet cooks at convention center using. The single burner propane cook tops. Last time I checked they are like $20 bucks at the Restaurant Supply store and like $35 bucks at the sporting goods store. I have four of them that make it camping with me. They stack into a tote with my utensils and I know as long as I have butane they are ready to cook some food. They are cheep, light, quick to pack and store well. Plus, clean up is a breeze.

Another great idea is to have a cleaning kit for all your cooking supplies. I use a rectangle Tupperware that my wife thinks the dog ate. I keep soap, a few shop towels, a sponge, paper towels and an old butter knife. The old knife is for scraping the sides of the pan in the morning.

Keeping cooking equipment clean and sanitary while camping is hard, but not impossible. Hands get muddy, that black stuff from the four-wheeler grips gets on your hands – it is part of the fun of camping. You don’t need to be clean to be a member of the group.

Don't want your stuff to mess up!That said, look at the guy who is making dinner, and then look at his fingernails. Ask him if he washed his hands before cutting those onions. Then ask if he washed after he peed. You won’t want the answers. Somehow sanitation just seems to fly out the window while camping. Frankly, that is a dangerous proposition.

Food that is not handled right and is contaminated becomes a hazard to eat. If you are making sure to cool the deer meat hanging in camp then make sure you wash your hands after you gut him. Follow the basic rules of sanitation and no one should get the squirts during elk camp or the summer vacation.

I make double sure to do a little backyard camping with my backpacking equipment. When I am seven miles from the nearest road lord knows that I need my equipment to be working right. My boys also love to look at all my cool gear spread out on a tarp in the back yard. Take the time to clean it and store it properly and it will last a lot longer. The family will enjoy the time fidgeting with all the stuff and you can sleep better knowing that your belly will be full.

A cost saving favorite of mine is using the large box retailers for backpacking food. I buy the dehydrated chili mix and then take it home and vacuum pack it into smaller and manageable portions. Same with dehydrated hash browns. I do the math on the amount of water each one will take and write it on the side with a permanent marker. You can get a whole meal for a buck instead of six. It is a good deal.Late Night Cooking with Dave

To me backpacking food is for backpacking and that is it. Eating that stuff when I have access to a cooler and a truck seems like sacrilege. I hate it when I show up to deer camp and someone is eating dehydrated “chicken teriyaki”. Don’t get me wrong I have downed a couple hundred of those over the years but they are not what I consider food. They are fuel. Dehydrated food is simply calories that just so happen to have to pass over my tongue to get into my belly.

A few things can make dehy food a little bit more palatable. First I like to add actual protein to the dish. This past bear season I packed in a 12oz pack of country ribs off a wild hog I shot a few years back for dinner. I browned off the ribs very well and then added the dehydrated food (Chicken and Rice) to my pan along with the suggested amount of water. I turned off the heat and let it all sit for a while and then – like magic – we had real food. The meat had a little extra seasoning and gave the whole pot substance. I fed three people with just a little package of meat and a little Mountain House.

Getting the equipment out is also a surefire method for back yard adventure. Take the kids out and listen for frogs in the backyard. While it might not be the wilderness the family will enjoy the time and you will know that your equipment works.

Korned Goose!

Goose HunterI was lucky to have even been in this cold, snow covered goose blind, or so I kept telling myself. My right boot had a hole in it and I was freezing my toes off. But I had accepted the late night phone call inviting me. Apparently the “normal” guy was out of town and the three man blind had an opening. I had been on the short list for this blind for several years, but had never managed to get in.
The morning started with setting out the decoys and fixing the blind. Our spread is good, about 100 decoys total. All of them facing into the wind and we even have an empty section of the spread for the “kill zone”. I was instructed not to “look up” at the geese as the captain was calling them in. I had always watched my game before, this was weird, I had to simply trust that that goose could be shot when I was told. The suspense was unbelievable.
But this last flock of geese over my head where smart. They can see something about our decoy set up and don’t like it. Maybe they know that we have the bodies of there dead brethren hidden under the hard plastic decoys. Maybe it is the slight skiff of snow that has formed; snow doesn’t stick to the back of real geese. Maybe it is all the human sized foot prints in the snow. They start to circle around but are not committing to the landing. I am having a hard time not looking right at the geese, revealing my face and blowing the cover. I can hear the wing flaps and the honking but force myself to look at my boots. Oddly, I am not cold anymore.
One goose finally locks up to come in for a landing causing a chain reaction among them all. When the honkers reach about 30 yards out I hear “blast-em” from my left side. I jump up and shoot the goose that is farthest to the right, keeping in my shooting lane in mind.
Two geese fall on that volley and it is time to pack up. Its only 10am. We shot a total of ten geese between the three of us. My father in law has limited out having shot four birds and I am going home with three for myself. It was a good morning. I got back in time to watch SpongeBob with the boys and even cook a little breakfast.
Speaking of breakfast, wild game tends to be overlooked for this meal period. It is a shame since most game meat packs more protein per ounce than the commonly consumed pig. Getting a good dose of protein in the morning is a great way to keep focused and healthy. With that I mind one of my favorite breakfasts is a corned beef hash. Cured beef simmered in spices, salt and sugar and served with roasted potatoes. Two eggs on top and nothin’ is better. Filling and a large amount of protein.
However it was only in the past year that I was given a recipe for corning wild game. Remarkably it was very similar to my beef recipe. Well, duh. Anyway, I started with a venison roast and moved onto smaller cuts. Eventually I landed on goose meat. It was a perfect fit.
But for a lot of hunters goose is a tuff nut to crack. Like duck it often ends up in the smoker as jerky. I know why, it has a very gamey taste. I like the taste but understand how it can a little over the top for some palates. An easy way to cure the gamey-ness from goose is to “corn” it. Basically the brine cures the meat and changes the flavor and texture to that of the brine. Not a bad idea for those who don’t want to waste the birds they shot.
To corn the goose I use the McCormick’s pickling spice mix. While purist might call this cheating I find it a heck of a lot easier to adjust a pre-done mix than keep fresh stocks of all the different seasonings that go into corned meat. To be honest the package has a decent recipe for corned beef on it. However, the flavor does not penetrate the meat as well as it could without a curing time.
To cure the goose meat I remove the breasts and reserve the leg meat. I cure only the breasts because they are easier to slice and I do not have to remove the bones. This recipe will work for whatever type of meat that you want to cure. I never simply trash goose legs, they are tasty and it is against most states wanton waste laws to toss the meat.Korned Goose Hash

Recipe – Corned Goose

2 quarts water
1 cup salt, I use kosher
½ cup sugar
1 ounce Speed Cure (Prague Powder or Insta Cure #1 work the same)
3 tablespoons pickling spices

Six goose breasts, or up to one five pound roast

1 large potato per pound of meat, ½ inch cubes
1 medium onion per pound of meat, diced
Fresh sage
Fresh thyme
Salt and pepper
Red chili flakes

Bring the salt, sugar, speed cure and pickling spices to a boil. The boiling of the spices will release the oils and flavors that might not otherwise fully develop.
The next step is to cool the brine to room temperature. If meat is added to the hot liquid it will start to cook and that can mess up the curing process. Not being one who likes to wait I have developed several methods of cooling the brine quickly after bringing it to a boil. An easy way is to simply cut the water amount in half that is brought to a boil and then add the remaining amount required in the form of ice at the end. So in this case I ask for 2qts of water. Bring one quart of water to a boil and then at the end add one quart of ice (32oz of ice, measure by weight not by volume on ice).
The method that I use a lot is the ice wand cooling. I have a frozen gel pack that I have vacuum sealed that I toss into brine. The ice pack drops the temperature very quickly and I don’t have to recalculate recipes. The icepack works well with soups and stocks as well. Make sure to vacuum seal it very well, no need to have any of that funky blue liquid in those packs in the brine! When I am done cooling the brine I simply rinse off the plastic and return it to the freezer, easy.
Next place the meat in the room temperature brine and place brine in the fridge, covered. For a venison roast, 5 pounds or so, it takes 5-7 days to cure. For a goose breast, about 1 pound each, it only takes 2 days. So all things equal cure for a minimum of 2 days and then add one day per pound of meat. This is a rough estimate of time needed. Adjust as your own to your taste.
When the meat is cured I rinse it off and let it air dry on a rack. Then I add it to a vacuum bag with a little butter and seal it closed.

Brined and Ready for Sous Vide

Next I place the vacuum packed meat into a crock-pot on low for about 24 hours. The low temperature cooks the meat gently and the yield is typically higher than if the meat is simply boiled.
When the meat is cooked, it should be nice and tender. Cool it down in the bag. This will allow some of the juices to reabsorb into the meat. When cool dice or slice the meat as you see fit.
Next brown the onions in a cast iron skillet with a little oil. Then add the cubed potatoes. Simmer the mix for 15 minutes until the potatoes are cooked. Then add the corned meat and heat. Toss in the fresh thyme and fresh sage. Season with salt a pepper. Add a little heat with a teaspoon of red chili flakes.
Serve with two eggs. This is a little slice of corned goose heaven.
This recipe also makes great meat for Ruben sandwiches. Also, feel free to simmer the goose with some more pickling spice, potatoes, carrots and cabbage for the Irish classic corned goose and cabbage.