The editors at Field & Stream magazine call Thanksgiving the “hunter’s holiday,” referring to the fall hunting season for wild turkeys. Yet some hunters say that the best time to hunt for turkeys is actually in the spring, not fall. And, as local cookbook author and frequent Edible Twin Cities contributor Beth Dooley recently pointed out, who really knows what those Pilgrims ate at Thanksgiving: turkey, geese, ducks, pheasant, quail?
With these thoughts of wild game in mind, we offer two alternative recipes to the traditional, store-bought Thanksgiving turkey. The first, from those same Field & Stream editors, is for a grilled wild turkey breast. The second, from Beth Dooley, is for venison, a Minnesota favorite.
Wild Turkey Breast with a Coffee-Coriander Rub
From Field & Stream magazine
Ground coffee has been a “secret” barbecue rub ingredient for years. Mixed with ground coriander seed, it’ll give your grilled turkey breast a smoky, exotic, and eye-opening kick.
2 wild turkey breasts
2 tsp. finely ground coffee
2 tsp. ground coriander
1 Tbsp. freshly ground pepper
4 Tbsp. kosher salt
1. Using a whisk, a fork, or (best) your fingers, combine the coffee, coriander, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Rub the mixture into the turkey breasts, then wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least two hours, or preferably overnight.
2. Set up for indirect grilling. For gas grills, this means heating one side of the grill and cooking on the other side. For charcoal grills, divide your red-hot coals into two piles on the sides and cook in the middle. Lightly oil the grates. Place your gas grill’s drip pan directly below the cooking area. If it doesn’t have one, or if you’re grilling with charcoal, use a disposable aluminum roasting pan. Pour 3/4 inch of water into your pan. (This will help moisten the mean. It’s an optional step but a worthwhile one.) When the grill is ready, set the breasts on the grate and cover the grill.
3. The size of the turkey breasts will determine cooking time, so have your meat thermometer handy. Remove them when the meat thermometer reads 150 degrees. Cut into 1/4-inch slices.
Venison Loin in Pancetta with Cranberries
By Beth Dooley, from Edible Twin Cities: The Cookbook
¼ teaspoon coarse salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup chopped fresh thyme
1 1/2 pounds venison, silver skin removed
8 ounces pancetta, cut into strips
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 shallot, coarsely chopped
¼ cup orange juice
½ cup fresh cranberries
1 tablespoon honey
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Mix together the salt, pepper, and thyme in a small bowl and rub into the meat.
3. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the venison and brown on all sides, then transfer to a baking dish (Reserve the skillet). When the venison is cool enough to handle wrap the pancetta strips around the middle and ends of the meat and secure with toothpicks.
4. Roast the meat until the internal temperature registers 135 degrees F. on an instant read thermometer, about 7 to 8 minutes. Remove the meat from the oven to let rest while you make the sauce.
5. Return the skillet to the stove and melt the butter over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook until it begins to brown, about 2 minutes. Add the orange juice and cranberries and cook until the cranberries begin to pop, about 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the honey.
6. Slice the meat into ½-inch slices and arrange them on a serving platter or individual plates. Drizzle some of the cranberry sauce over the meat and pass the rest of it.