Outdoors: Various ways to prepare your turkey dinner

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Jerrod Vila has been dabbling preparing his turkey with the old school cooking technique of sous vide.
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Jerrod Vila has been dabbling preparing his turkey with the old school cooking technique of sous vide.

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In response to the forecasted soon-to-be meat shortage and people overall as a society staying home and preparing meals for themselves due to the pandemic, I figured what better time to elaborate on some wild dishes that one can provide solely from the field.

So now that you’ve harvested that big old Tom and foraged some fiddleheads, ramps and maybe even some Morels, the question now becomes what to do with them all.

Ramps are a wild version of leeks. The bright green floppy leaves and the bulbs are both very usable in any culinary exhortation. The bulbs contain a much stronger garlicky flavor than the leaves do.

Fiddleheads are the still coiled young shoots of the ostrich fern that remind me somewhat of a bit richer version of asparagus, but please make sure to do your research and pick the proper species of fern as it is only the uncoiled sprouts 2 to 4 inches out of the ground that resemble the top of a fiddle that you want. They will be encased in a papery brown sheath and have a clean “U” shaped stem leading up to the coiled portion of the head. No other fern types are suitable for the table.

Morel mushrooms are perhaps the single most recognizable wild mushroom on Earth, with their cone-shaped brain-like pattern. They are certainly the hardest to come by of the trio hence why they fetch upwards of $40 dollars a pound when fresh. They are just downright delicious and one of my favorite wild edibles period.

Over the past six months or so, I have been dabbling with the old-school cooking technique of sous vide (pronounced sue vee). It is a culinary technique of French descent, utilizing a controlled temperature water bath to precisely achieve the desired doneness of any given protein, or vegetable for that matter, without any possibility of over cooking. It is basically cooking within a vacuum at a low temperature for a long period of time.

This type of system has been gaining popularity in the past few years due to convenient smaller, and rather affordable units such as Anova. Chances are, at some point, you have seen an advertisement for such a unit. Let me just say some of the best meals I have had have been prepared in the sous vide method. Wild turkey was no exception. The system works on a basis of a conduction heat system via direct contact with a very specific sustained temperature water.

 

A vacuum-sealed bag containing your fare of choice is the most ideal way to capitalize on the sous vide method but even a water displacement method using run of the mill gallon freezer bags will work just fine.

Setting the unit for 145 degrees, which seems rather low for turkey or any typical poultry dish, keeps it incredibly moist and succulent. I have cooked wild turkey every conceivable way, and this was easily the way it turned out the best. Not that there is anything wrong with grilled, deep fried or oven roasted, but the sous vide preparation method has superseded all of them in my book; and it’s pretty much fool proof. After approximately three hours of the controlled temperature water immersion bath, your bird will be ready for the table.

Once your turkey is almost done cooking, now it’s time to prepare the other ingredients for the dish. Start by taking the fiddleheads and cleaning off as much of the brown papery shell on the outside as possible and then pre-boiling them for six to eight minutes. After that, rinse under cold water in a colander removing any remaining papery substance and set aside. Please note that this step is essential and do not omit it.

Trim the clean ramps up cutting off the bulb portion and leaves while removing the middle stem. I find the stem portion to be very fibrous and not all that enjoyable so I tend to discard it. Halve the bulbs and toss into a pan with some butter and olive oil, toss in the fiddleheads at this point as well.

Sauté until the ramp bulbs just begin to caramelize. Take your turkey breast and toss into another pan with butter for a quick sear. Realize the turkey breast is already fully cooked and you are just looking for a an outside coloring on the meat, which will only take a minute or so per side.

Pull your turkey out and get it ready to slice. Throw in the leaf portion of the ramps as they will cook down almost immediately. Toss the wilted ramp leaves into the bulb and fiddlehead mix and incorporate. Plate the mix of greens, fiddleheads, and caramelized bulbs and top with slices turkey. Possibly drizzle with a balsamic glaze if feeling adventurous.

There you have it. A 100% completely wild and foraged dish that could be served in the finest of restaurants!

DEC RUFFED GROUSE SURVEY

Have you been out turkey hunting and heard that tell tale cadence of an old and cold engine turning over recently? I know I most certainly have. If so, taking part in the annual ruffed grouse drumming survey might be a nice contribution to conservation for any spring turkey hunter.

DEC currently monitors grouse populations in the fall through the Ruffed Grouse and American Woodcock Hunting Log, where hunters record the number of birds flushed per hour of hunting effort. This Ruffed Grouse Drumming Survey provides a harvest-independent index of grouse distribution and abundance during the critical breeding season in the spring.

Check out http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/48169.html and then click on Ruffed Grouse Drumming Survey (PDF format) to download a printable form to fill out. You can also get on the mailing list by e-mailing DEC or calling 518-402-8883.

Completed survey forms can be mailed to Drumming Survey, NYSDEC, 625 Broadway, Albany, N.Y. 12233-4754, or you can use the survey form to record your observations while afield and then submit your data online at http://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/3481942/Drumming-Survey.

CHARTER BOATS ALLOWED TO OPERATE

As of Friday, fishing vessels for hire have now been allowed to reopen in accordance with Stage 1 of the statewide plan reopening. Agricultural, Forestry, Fishing, and Hunting are all contained within this first stage of the plan. Get out and support local businesses that have had their primary season affected by Covid-19.

Thanks to an overly cold spring, the annual striper run on the Hudson is just starting to get good! There are many boats that will be running full steam ahead now that they can legally take clients out for stripers. The spring brown trout bite in shallow water on Lake Ontario is also hot right now.

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