The Call of the Wild Turkey

What do you do with the broth? Well, it's a great warm-up in winter, it freezes well, and it is perfect for soups and stews. Or, you could do what I did: make a wild turkey risotto.

Again, my version is simple; I want the ingredients to shine. I use a good Carnaroli risotto rice I got from Scott at Sausage Debauchery, the turkey broth, fresh sage, and good pecorino cheese. No meat. It's not needed if your turkey broth is strong enough. A lot of the Italian seafood risottos have no visible fish in them, either—it's the broth and the rice that make the risotto sublime.

On to the giblets. I normally save livers for my liver ravioli recipe, but last week at the International Association of Culinary Professionals conference I saw Chef Brad Farmerie of the New York restaurant Public demonstrate an odd yet delicious take on liver: a crème caramel.

Weird, huh? Chef Farmerie's version actually tasted good: definitely like a flan, but with savory, warm flavors and just a hint of liver. I actually thought it wasn't livery enough. He served it with roasted grapes, crisp pancetta, and some watercress.

I floundered around with the structure of this for a while, and then I emailed Farmerie, who was gracious enough to send me his recipe. Armed with this blueprint, I started work making my own version: wild turkey liver crème caramel.

I switched out Farmerie's Asian flavors (curry, soy sauce, kombu, five-spice powder) and added Worcestershire sauce and French quatre épices. I traded his watercress for wild arugula, grapes for dried figs soaked in balsamic vinegar, pancetta for my homemade lardo, and Farmerie's maple syrup in the caramel for some local dark honey.

Oh yeah: and I doubled the amount of liver.

shaw_lardo_5-5_inpost.jpg

Holly A. Heyser

Looks pretty cool, eh? I think so. But it was pretty much an epic fail.

First, I have only large ramekins, so it took forever to set. And it's a waaay too big portion. I don't make caramel often, and it burnt a little; not a good flavor there. As for the custard itself, well, Holly almost gagged and even I thought it was pretty nasty.

I am guessing that because I used two eggs (a pair of small pheasant eggs that I had lying around—don't ask ... ) instead of the one large chicken egg, the flavor was too eggy. And doubling the liver was a real mistake. Guess that much irony livery stuff really mangled the structure of the custard.

Oh well, I really liked the crispy lardo (duh!), and the balsamic-soaked figs and wild arugula were what I wanted, too. I also liked the background notes of the quatre épices and Worcestershire. So I do have something to build on.

When I finally get it right, I will let you all know.

Recipe: Wild Turkey or Pheasant Marsala
Recipe: Turkey Risotto with Sage

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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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