Sous Vide Turkey Breast

I’m sharing this wild turkey dish (that’s the bird, not the whiskey!) because although I made it with a wild bird harvested on our property, the recipe will work just fine with a store-bought bird. There’s no doubt that wild birds have more “turkey flavor” than anything you’ll find at the grocery store, but it’s also true that they are much leaner and store-bought birds are therefore more tender and more forgiving when it comes to cooking methods.

 Now, I know its poor form to publish a blog post about food with no pictures to accompany it, but this one kind of developed as a bit of an afterthought so I really wasn’t thinking about documentation at the time the pieces came together.  Rather, this dish came about through the unplanned (but happy) convergence of a few random events. 

The first piece was that I had homemade stock in the frig leftover from a curried Hungarian partridge meal a couple of days earlier.  Yes, I’m still working my way through last season’s bird harvest.

Next, given that Ann and I have a trip to Italy on the calendar for October, I’ve been working on some northern Italian dishes - sort of prepping the palate, as it were. In this case I made a classic Bolognese, which led me to prepare a “quick broth” needed for the sauce.  Not wanting to waste an opportunity, I wound up substituting partridge stock for about half the canned broth called for in the recipe, which I’m sure added some extra depth of flavor.  

And finally, the centerpiece for the dish – a wild turkey that my buddy Mark collected while in town last week.  To be fair, Mark had come up from Laramie for the stated purpose of hunting turkeys.  But I don’t think either one of us really thought we’d actually get one, since we are really rank amateurs when it comes to turkey hunting.  But hey, sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. 

With our turkey “reduced to possession,” I set my sights on dinner.  Wild turkeys are notoriously leaner and tougher than their distant, farm-raised cousins. After all, rather than lounging around all day getting fat, these birds have to work for a living! When I’m thinking of making a roast from lean wild game, I immediately consider sous vide as an option to ensure the end product will be as moist as possible.  And it just so happened that I had cooked a turkey breast using sous vide with excellent results last Thanksgiving. So why not?

For. this meal, I used only the breast, saving the legs and wings for a confit to come later.  The preparation, based on a recipe by Kenji Lopez-Alt that I had used for that Thanksgiving bird, involves filleting the breast meat and tying the 2 halves together in a sort of yin-yang fashion to make a single roast that is a more or less uniform cylinder.  You can view the full recipe (including pictures!) here: https://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2014/11/sous-vide-turkey-breast-crispy-skin-recipe-thanksgiving.html.  Although I didn’t make it for this version, I seriously recommend that you take the time to make the “crispy skin” described in the recipe.  It is so worth it!

With the roast in the water bath at 145 F, I turned my attention to making a gravy and realized that the leftover Brodo Rapido (quick broth) I had in the frig would make a perfect base, and save me a couple of steps to boot.  The broth had been pretty simple to make, but the preparation, based on a recipe from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper (https://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2014/11/sous-vide-turkey-breast-crispy-skin-recipe-thanksgiving.html)  , is pretty unique, at least to me.  I say that because it calls for lots of onion – some broiled and some raw, but all with the skins still on.  I found that the charred onion skins really added a punch to the broth, and as hoped, the resulting gravy was amped up as well. 

The final product – sous vide turkey breast and gravy served over homemade spaetzle – was really great.  It also looked great with a side of carrots, but you’ll have to take my word for it!

CuisineKeith Marcott