“No one is more in touch with what is truly seasonal than hunters. That knowledge of the wildlife and its forage are what will put beautiful turkeys on their Thanksgiving tables this year—rather than birds from a freezer in an industrial facility far, far away.”
Editors’ Take: For a chef known for his seafood skills (Heffernan is also a serious saltwater angler), he can cook a mean bird. The recipe at right is for an 11- to 13-pound dressed bird; adjust accordingly.
1 wild turkey
3⁄4 lb. fatback, salted pork, or bacon*
1 onion, minced
3 ribs celery, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 quart toasted diced bread
1 cup chicken stock
6 sprigs sage
2 sprigs rosemary
8 sprigs parsley Salt and pepper
*Have your butcher slice thinly into sheets resembling a slice of American cheese.
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mince and render half of the fatback slowly in a heavy--bottomed sauté pan. Reserve and keep warm.
2. Dry turkey very well with paper towels. Using a brush, coat exterior with some of the warm minced fatback and season well with coarse salt and pepper inside and out.
3. Heat up the remaining minced fatback on medium. Add the onion and season with salt and pepper. Sweat for 5 minutes, then add celery and sweat for 5 minutes more. Add garlic and sweat for about 1 minute. Remove from heat and add toasted bread. Moisten with stock and add minced sage, rosemary, and parsley (all stems removed).
4. Taste bread cubes to ensure they are moist and seasoning is correct. Add more broth and herbs as needed. Gently fill the cavity of the turkey with mixture and cover breast with remaining slices of fatback.
5. Place turkey, breast side up, in a heavy roasting pan and put into preheated oven. Roast for 1 hour. Remove fatback, increase oven temperature to 375 degrees, and continue roasting for 1 hour to brown breast. Check doneness by poking the tip of a sharp knife or metal skewer into thickest part of leg and using a spoon to collect juice. Look for a very light shade of pink. Clear fluids will likely indicate an overdone bird. Step 6 When cooked to desired doneness, let rest at least 20 to 30 minutes.
7. Carve with a sharp knife and across the grain.
Kerry Heffernan is the chef of South Gate in New York City.