April is a special time of year across the Southeast. There is something for all outdoor enthusiasts to do. If you like fishing, there are opportunities of all kinds, freshwater and saltwater, and hunters can get back into the woods for encounters of the gobble, gobble, gobble kind.
If you consider yourself a sportsman and don’t look forward to April, you might want to reevaluate your opinion of yourself.
One thing I try to provide in April is an excellent recipe for wild turkey and many of them come from my friend, Robert Cardwell, of Rockingham County, N.C. You won’t be disappointed with this one. I can’t say he is the only one who influences my gastronomical experiences with thunder chickens, but he has shown me a lot. For several years running I have featured one of his recipes in April, and there have been others going back more than 10 years. If you tried any, you won’t need to ask why. He knows turkeys and knows how to prepare them.
If you still have a turkey breast in your freezer from last year, go ahead and try this. If you don’t, you’ll need to slip into the woods and send one an invitation to dinner that begins with sweet purrs and encouraging yelps, but is followed by a loud bang pushing a magnum load of No. 5 shot.
Oven-roasted wild turkey breast
I’m certainly not a expert turkey hunter, but I’m seeing a bunch these days. It appears they fared well during the winter and are on the move and feeding hard early this year. Once we had a few nice days in February, I began regularly seeing some pretty large flocks in a variety of places, and that has continued.
This recipe is about as simple as one can be. Someone said the only way it could be any simpler would be if the turkey prepares himself. It definitely is simple and surprisingly good, especially considering the effort — or, more appropriately, the lack of effort involved.
Recipe author Robert Cardwell’s instructions say to use Cracker Girl or your favorite seasoning, and he suggested Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning if you don’t have a favorite. This was fine with me, as Tony Chachere’s is a personal favorite, but I have to warn folks not familiar with it that it can jack up the spice if you get heavy handed. Cardwell said it was fine to just put this on and keep going, but my suggestion is to season the turkey and seal it in a Zip Lock bag, with all the air squeezed out, for at least and hour — and several hours is better. This helps it penetrates the meat, and the seasoning is throughout the meat, not just around the outside.
Cardwell uses his own barbecue sauce, but recommends John Boy and Billy’s Original Grilling Sauce as a close substitute. One of the reasons he and I get along so well is he also likes a little kick in his food and this, mixed with a fair dusting of Tony Chachere’s, provides just that. Folks who make their own sauce with a bit of sweetness and kick might try using it rather than purchasing any.
Cardwell specifies a white wine to create moisture while cooking, but not which white wine. I don’t care for the dry white wines many folks use for cooking, but I like sweet wines. I am particularly fond a muscadine-based wine; it’s just right for this recipe, and it helps channel my inner Justin Wilson to enjoy a glass (or two) while the turkey is cooking. I’ll gar-on-tee both are excellent.
Cardwell cooks this covered the whole time, but I experimented a bit, and think I prefer it with the foil removed for the last 15 to 20 minutes. This gets a little crust to the outside and seals in some of the flavor. You might not recognize this eating it the first time, but it shows if there are leftovers, to reheat. Trust me, this isn’t your Thanksgiving turkey and you won’t mind these leftovers. You’ll probably look forward to them and find a variety of ways to use them — I do. Enjoy!
TIP: To help seasonings penetrate meat to be cooked, don’t just brush it on and shove it on the grill or in the oven. Seal it in a Zip Lock bag for an hour or two, and the seasoning will wind up throughout the meat, not just on the surface.
One skinned turkey breast
Your favorite seasoning: Cracker Girl, Tony Chachere’s, etc.
Sweet barbecue/grilling sauce: homemade or John Boy & Billy’s Original
1/4 cup sweet, white wine
Non stick cooking spray
Season the turkey breast with the seasoning. Remember, with Tony Chachere’s, that more makes it spicier and less makes it milder). Allow to season in Zip Lock bag for 1 to 4 hours. Preheat oven to 350. Spray glass baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Put breast in baking dish with outside facing up. Add 1/4-cup white wine to baking dish. Lightly cover entire breast with barbecue/grilling sauce. Cover with aluminum foil and cook for 30 to 45 minutes depending on size (thickness) of breast. Remove foil and cook an additional 15 to 20 minutes (until breast reads 165 to 170 degrees on thermometer). Slice breast and return to baking dish before serving.
A green salad or steamed mixed vegetables go well with this. I also enjoy a slice of hearty warm bread with butter. A bowl of warm bread or rice pudding is an excellent dessert.