A Recipe for Corned Wild Turkey Breast
Served with a side of charred cabbage, this riff on a classic spring dish is a gobbler game-changer
This turkey isn’t technically “corned,” or preserved, but a three-day steep in a pickling-spice-infused brine gives it the unmistakable tang of corned beef, that springtime staple. The ultra-gentle poaching technique—cooking the meat at less than a simmer—yields lush, juicy turkey breast, with just a blush of pink at the center. With a crispy, smoky finish, the charred vegetable amps up the springtime feel. Adapted from a recipe by the Sicilian-born chef Christian Puglisi, this slightly crazy method of cookery treats cabbage like a steak, producing a seared, flavorful edge and a tender center. Carrots with parsley or roasted potatoes would nicely round out this dish.
Ingredients | Serves 4
For the Corned Turkey
- 1 boneless, skinned wild turkey breast half (2 to 31⁄2 lb.)
- 1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
- 3 cloves
- 3 bay leaves, torn into pieces
- 2 Tbsp. mustard seeds
- 2 Tbsp. coriander seeds
- 1 Tbsp. celery seeds
- 1 Tbsp. fennel seeds
- 1 Tbsp. juniper berries, crushed
- 1 Tbsp. black peppercorns
- 1 Tbsp. red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp. dried thyme
- 1⁄2 cup salt
- 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
- 4 garlic cloves, smashed
- 1 slice fresh ginger, about the size of a quarter
For the Vinaigrette
- 1 Tbsp. whole-grain mustard
- 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar, divided
- 1⁄2 small shallot, minced
- 1⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1⁄8 tsp. liquid smoke
For the Cabbage
- 1⁄2 head of cabbage
- 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
- 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Steps to Make Corned Wild Turkey Breast
- Make the pickling spice: Combine the cinnamon stick, cloves, bay leaves, mustard seeds, coriander, celery, fennel, juniper, peppercorns, red pepper flakes, and thyme in a small bowl, and use your fingers or a fork to mix the spices evenly.
- Make the brine: Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a medium pot. Add the 1⁄2 cup salt, brown sugar, garlic, ginger, and 2 tablespoons of the pickling spice. (You’ll have some left over.) Stir until the salt and sugar dissolve, then allow the mixture to cool fully. Once it’s cooled, place the turkey breast and the brine in a sealable plastic bag. (The bones can puncture a bag, so double-bagging—or keeping the bag inside a bowl—is recommended.) Brine the turkey in the refrigerator for three to four days, turning the bag daily.
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- Bring a large pot of water to boil. Remove the turkey from the brine and rinse thoroughly under cold running water, brushing off most of the spice mix. Slide the turkey into the pot, and turn the heat to its lowest setting. You want the meat to cook at less than a simmer, just a very gentle poach. Cover and check the meat with an instant-read thermometer after 45 minutes. When the thermometer reads 150 degrees at the thickest part, transfer the breast to a cutting board.
- While the turkey is poaching, make the vinaigrette: Whisk together the mustard, 1 tablespoon of the vinegar, and the shallot in a small bowl. Whisking all the while, drizzle the olive oil into the bowl until the mixture is smooth and emulsified. Stir in the liquid smoke, season with salt and pepper, and set aside.
- Char the cabbage: Set a cast-iron skillet over high heat. Add the oil, and then add the cabbage half, cut-side down. Sear the cabbage, without disturbing it, for about 13 minutes. (If you have a vent hood, turn it on; the cabbage will smoke.) You’re looking for a profoundly blackened surface, so don’t worry about burning it. Turn the cabbage over and reduce the heat to medium-low. After a few minutes, add the butter. Once it’s melted, use a spoon to baste the blackened side of the cabbage with it, tilting the pan to get as much butter as possible. Cook this way, basting every few minutes or so, for a total of 15 to 20 minutes, or until there’s little resistance when you pierce the cabbage with a knife or skewer. Turn off the heat. Baste the cabbage with any butter remaining in the pan, then sprinkle the remaining tablespoon of vinegar over the top. Salt and pepper generously.
- To serve, slice the corned turkey breast and fan the slices on four plates. Divide the cabbage into four wedges, and lightly drizzle the vinaigrette over the cabbage and the turkey breast. Serves 4