After my first successful wild turkey hunt, I had the turkey prepped, roasted, and dressed on my imaginary dinner table before I even had the bird cleaned. The idea of a golden brown turkey slow roasted for hours with a side of homemade gravy from the drippings was basically a novice hunter’s perfect first meal for sharing with their family.
I plucked the entire bird, feather by feather, so the skin was left on. It was quite the task. I prepped the bird with plenty of butter and seasoning on the outside, and stuffed it with fresh herbs and citrus. It looked gorgeous.
The bird slow roasted for hours. I kept anxiously checking the temperature, wanting it to be absolute perfection when I pulled it from the oven. I even decorated a platter with sprigs of rosemary, nuts, and mandarin oranges.
With the table set and a look of satisfaction on my face, we all sat down to our perfect meal. But everything was the opposite of perfect. The bird was beautiful and golden brown, but it tasted awful. The meat was dried out, not moist and juicy, and the flavor was strong, not light and delicate.
That wild turkey was a learning moment for working with wild game. There are so many differences when working with wild game versus domesticated proteins. The fat content and structure is different because the animals’ diets are so incomparable. Wild game has a varied diet and it affects the texture, taste, and smell of the meat. You can’t cook most wild game the same way you would a domesticated cut of meat.
So, lesson learned. A full, on the bone, plucked wild turkey does not make the most amazing meal. I am sure if I practiced more with temperatures and times I could figure something out for roasting an entire wild turkey, but instead I have gone a different direction. One of my favorite uses for wild turkey breasts is to ground them up and create several meals from them, like this recipe for Wild Turkey Buffalo Balls. They make a great appetizer or a phenomenal sub sandwich.
Wild turkey buffalo balls
- 1 pound ground turkey
- 1/4 cup flour (almond, coconut, good old regular)
- 2 ounces cream cheese
- 1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
- 2-3 stalks celery, chopped
- 3 tablespoons green onion, diced
- 1 egg
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 1 cup buffalo wing sauce
- Preheat oven to 350.
- In a large bowl, add pound of ground turkey.
- Add flour, cream cheese, and egg. Mix with your hands to make sure the consistency is correct. If too wet, add another tablespoon of flour. If too dry, add more cream cheese.
- Once consistency is where you like it, add diced celery, green onions, and blue cheese. Salt and pepper.
- Using an ice cream scoop, create tablespoon size meatballs and place on baking sheet. I like to line with aluminum foil for easy clean up.
- Bake in oven for 15 minutes.
- While meatballs are baking, in a sauce pan over medium heat melt the unsalted butter. Mix in the wing sauce.
- Once the meatballs are baked, pull from the oven and brush on the hot wing glaze. Place under the broiler for two to three minutes, just long enough for the glaze to get sticky!
- Dress with additional hot wing sauce and serve with a side of ranch dressing, carrot sticks, and celery!
Lindsey Bartosh, an eighth-generation Moab girl, loves hiking, hunting, fishing, cooking, writing, photography and working on her website www.huntingandcooking.com.