Earlier this week, I took a couple days off work to get some much-needed work done around my house. I had plans to finish up a a few small painting projects and clean out the garage of a winter’s worth of salt, dirt and grime.
But Tuesday morning, I took a happy diversion. The Hubs brought home this:
I was so excited because I still haven’t used the cookbook I got for Christmas, Afield, even once yet.
Now, I had something to make.
When the Hubs has killed turkeys in the past with his dad, they only took off the breasts and discarded the rest of the bird. But I’m into “snout to tail” — or rather “beak to tail feather” eating, and I didn’t want to waste anything. And Afield has a step by step guide to butchering a turkey, along with recipes of how to use the various cuts a turkey yields.
So we plucked the bird. It wasn’t nearly as hard as you’d imagine. The tail and wing ends are cut off, which are where the big, sturdy feathers are. The body is covered in small, finer feathers that come out with a strong grip by the handful. It only took us about 20 minutes to pluck the thing, cut off the parts that we would discard (I know that some cultures probably eat the head and feet, but I’m not quite ready for that…), and gut it. We sprayed it off with the water hose, and I took it inside to clean it better and get down to the business of butchering it following the steps in the book. I didn’t do quite as neat of a job as the instructions show, but it wasn’t too shabby.
I was most excited for the random chunks of meat that are in the white quart-size containers. I am going to grind them up into turkey burger. I haven’t had turkey burger in about 3 years, since I stopped buying meat at the grocery store (occasionally, I do still buy free-range organic chicken at the grocery store). Tons of recipes call for turkey burger as a lean alternative to ground beef. While I do use ground venison and ground grass-fed beef, turkey burger has a totally different flavor, and it’ll be nice to have something different. I also cut up one of the legs into chunks for grinding, since it had some buckshot in it. There is a recipe for whole turkey leg in Afield, so I’ll definitely make it with the remaining leg.
For dinner, I kept some of the breast meat out. The first turkey recipe in Afield is for pan-fried turkey breast cutlets. And, they paired perfectly with ramp potato hash and fried morels.
My father-in-law, who spends his days in the woods as a logger, gave us a small batch of morels and a bag of ramps he “foraged” Sunday morning. I say “foraged” because that’s such a trendy term these days, and he gets a kick out of people hopping on the foraged foods bandwagon in recent years. He’s been bringing these things out of the woods and eating them his whole life. And what a tasty life that is!
I made hash with potatoes, ramps and pancetta. I used pancetta because I didn’t have any bacon, and that’s what I had. Bacon probably would be better since it is smoked. But the pancetta crisped up nicely.
I pounded the turkey breast cutlets to about 1/2 inch thickness and breaded the turkey very simply in a mixture of flour and breadcrumbs, according to the recipe in Afield. The recipe included a creamy wine and mushroom gravy, but I didn’t make it because I didn’t have any mushrooms–well, I didn’t have any button mushrooms. I did have morels. But I wanted to lightly bread and fry those as well.
And, to make the whole thing even more decadent, I topped the hash with a simple poached egg. Good gawd, that gooey orange yolk dripping down through the hash was the best thing I’ve eaten in a long, long time. I think it’s because ramps and morels have such a short season and aren’t readily available at the store that they tasted so good. It’s the anticipation of their arrival that adds to their enjoyment. A rare delicacy!
Now, because ramps are available more widely and are at many farmers markets, you might have seen them and wondered what to do with them. Their reputation is probably overstated that you’ll smell them for days if you eat them. They are in the allium family, and a close cousin to green onions. At any rate, here’s my hash recipe. If you don’t have ramps, you can always sub leeks or green onions.
Potato and Ramp Hash (serves 4)
- 2-3 large thin skin potatoes (I use kennebecs)
- 4 oz. pancetta or bacon, chopped
- 2 – 3 Tb. olive oil
- a handful (about 10) ramps, cleaned
- salt and pepper to taste
Heat a large skillet with a lid on medium heat. Add pancetta, and cook for a few minutes before stirring. Meanwhile, dice potatoes (leaving skin on if you prefer). Cook pancetta over medium heat, stirring occasionally until it begins to crisp and a good bit of fat renders out. Push it to the sides of the pan and add diced potatoes to pan. You may need to add oil at this point. Shake the pan a few times to get the potatoes coated with the oil pretty evenly. Place the lid on the skillet. Chop the ramps into small pieces, white parts and green. After 3 or 4 minutes, check the potatoes and stir well. Add the ramps to the skillet and recover. Continue checking ever 3 or 4 minutes to make sure the potatoes aren’t beginning to stick. Stir often to distribute the ramps and pancetta throughout the potatoes, and to get them brown on all sides. The potatoes should take about 20 minutes to get a nice golden brown crisp throughout. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately topped with a pan-fried sunny side up or poached egg.