Recipe: Wild Turkey or Pheasant Marsala

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A classic Marsala requires Marsala wine, which you can get in most liquor stores. There is no real substitute, although I suppose you could use Madeira or or a white Port. Other than that, the only trick is to have thin turkey cutlets.

Here's how: use the thinner portion of the turkey breast—the part farthest from the wishbone. Why? It's thinner. If you use the portion closer to the wishbone, you will need to slice the breast in half width-wise to get a thin enough piece to start pounding.

Cut portion-sized pieces and place one in between sheets of wax paper. Using medium force—about what you'd exert knocking on someone's front door—pound the turkey breast with a rubber mallet, meat pounder, or even an empty wine bottle.

How thin? Depends on your preference. Restaurants serve Marsala very thin, but I like it less mashed, unless I am dealing with a very old bird; you'll know by the spurs on its feet: if they're long, it's an old bird.

Serve this with smashed potatoes, white rice, or crusty bread, and maybe a salad or something green. A medium-bodied red wine is perfect with Marsala.

Serves 2, but can be doubled

    • 34 to 1 pound of skinless turkey breast
    • salt
    • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
    • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
    • 2 smashed cloves of garlic
    • 1 cup breadcrumbs
    • 2 tablespoons butter
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 13 cup Marsala wine

Once the turkey breast has been pounded, salt it well and set aside until it comes to room temperature, about 15 minutes.

In a large sauté pan, heat the butter and olive oil over medium-high heat until the butter froths. Add the smashed garlic and turn the heat to medium-low.

Meanwhile, dredge the turkey in egg. Sprinkle with some rosemary, then coat well in breadcrumbs. The reason you don't mix the rosemary with the breadcrumbs is because you want the herbs underneath the bread—that way they don't burn.

By now the garlic should be browned. Do not let it burn! Remove it and add the turkey. Turn the heat to medium and fry gently. Don't kick the spurs to it, or the breading will burn.

After two to three minutes, depending on how thin you pounded the turkey, flip. When the meat is cooked, remove it to a paper towel. Turn the heat to high and add the Marsala. If there are any burned bits on the bottom of the pan, scrape them up with a wooden spoon. Let this boil down until it gets syrupy, which should take two to four minutes.

As soon as it gets syrupy, put the turkey back in the pan and swirl around to coat. Turn over and do the same on the other side. Serve at once.

To read about how Hank used the "rare gift" of wild spring turkey in the kitchen, click here.

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Hank Shaw runs the website Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, nominated for Best Food Blog by the James Beard Foundation in 2009 and 2010. He is the author of the recently released Hunt, Gather, Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast. More

A former line cook, veteran political reporter, and fisherman, Hank Shaw is a freelance food writer who runs the website Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, which chronicles Shaw's search for what he calls the Forgotten Feast: The seasonal foods--mostly wild--we once delighted in, but are now curiosities at best. Game, wild mushrooms, seafood, and wild plants all have a place in modern cooking, and Shaw spends his days exploring their possibilities on the plate.

Hunter Angler Gardener Cook was nominated for Best Food Blog by the James Beard Foundation in both 2009 and 2010 and by the International Association of Culinary Professionals in 2010. He is the author of the recently released Hunt, Gather, Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast. His work has appeared in magazines such as The Art of Eating, Field & Stream, and Gastronomica. He hunts, fishes, forages, and gardens in Northern California with his girlfriend--and photographer--Holly A. Heyser.
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