Wild turkey is perfect to use for Coq au Vin because the dish was originally made with literally a tough old cock. At least according to my high school French teacher who was somewhat of a tough old bird herself.
Since cooking up wild turkey can often yield chewy and leathery results, I opted to adapt Anthony Bourdain’s recipe (as opposed to one like Julia Child’s) because it requires an overnight wine bath. The wine brine really helps loosen and tenderize this lean and somewhat tough meat. The recipe calls for one bottle of wine, however, a turkey (even half a turkey) is just larger and bulkier than your average chicken. I ended up using a magnum and then some. You can actually use any wine, even white wine or champagne; traditionally a lighter red wine is used like a Pinot Noir or Burgundy (which is really the same thing) so that’s what I went with.
Let me go ahead and warn you that this is not a quick recipe, even if you don’t count the overnight wine bath. The bird needs to braise low and slow and all the while there are other simple (but somewhat timely) tasks. This is the kind of recipe where many reach a point of zen and appreciate the enjoyment of the simple act of cooking. Or reach a point of zen and realize they hate cooking. It also involves a lot of wine, so feel free to sip as you go.
Traditional Coq au Vin is made with something called “lardons” which is basically oblong cubes of salt pork. “Salt pork” is not something you find very easily here in the states, so the typical substitution is bacon. This is, however, not a bacon blog but a wild game blog, so I used sausages that I cut into pieces that I visualized what a lardon must look like.
The recipe I went off also called for cutting a piece of parchment paper to the same size as your pan and top it as you cook the pearl onions. I call bullshit, because you can clearly see here that I did not cut it in a circle the same size as my pan and nothing exploded. And really all it does is partially cover the pan while letting the liquid reduce, so I say skip this step and just partially cover with a lid because when I pulled paper off I burned myself. Yes, I am not only here to share wonderful recipes, but I like to think to an extent I protect people by burning myself so you don’t have to.
Do make sure you let your turkey rest for about 5 minutes before cutting into it so the precious little juices can redistribute into the meat instead of onto your cutting board. Your results, once plated, should somewhat impress your dinner guests.
- 1/2 wild turkey butchered into smaller pieces, feet and head removed
- 1 magnum bottle of wine plus 1 cup
- 1 onion chopped
- 1 carrot sliced
- 1 celery rib sliced
- 4 cloves garlic smashed
- 1 bouquet garni aka bay leaf, thyme and parsley tied together with string or twine
- 1 tablespoon peppercorns
- salt and pepper to taste
- 6 tablespoons butter softened
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 2 oz smoked venison sausage ) cut into oblong cubes (lardons
- 1/2 lb button white or cremini mushrooms
- 15-20 pearl onions peeled
- 1 pinch sugar
The night before you plan on cooking, make sure your bird is cleaned, all the feathers are removed and it's cut into pieces. Put your bird into a large bowl. Top with the carrot, chopped onion, celery, peppercorns, bouquet garni, and garlic and pour the red wine (minus the one cuover until it covers the turkey. You may need a little more wine, just make sure you have about one cup of wine reserved for the next day. Cover with plastic and refrigerate over night.
Take the turkey out of the marinade and pat it dry with a paper towel. Strain the marinade through a sieve or strainer, reserving both the liquid and veggies. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large dutch oven or pot and season the bird with salt and pepper. Once the pot is nice and hot, sear the turkey on all sides. Once it's nice and brown, set aside. Add the vegetables previously set aside and saute over medium high heat stirring occasionally until the onions are translucent and starting to brown (about 10 minutes).
Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir until coated. Stir in the reserved marinade and put the turkey and bouquet garni in the pot and simmer for about 90 minutes on medium low.
Meanwhile, heat a small saucepan on medium high with the last tablespoon of oil and cook the venison sausage pieces until they are almost crispy. Remove and set aside. Add the mushrooms to the same pan and saute them in the sausage fat and oil until they are golden brown. Set aside. Once cool, chop the sausage pieces into bite sized squares.
In the same pan, add the pearl onions, pinch of sugar and 2 tablespoons of the butter with enough water to cover the onions. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook partially covered (or with parchment paper over the pauntil most of the water has evaporated. Then remove the covering and saute until the onions are golden brown. Set the onions aside and add the remaining one cup of wine to the pan, scraping up all the drippings at the bottom. Season with salt and pepper to taste and reduce by at least half, until it's thick enough to coat a spoon.
Once the turkey is cooked through (check by making sure the juices from the thigh run clear), remove from the braising liquid and slice, kind of like you would a Thanksgiving turkey, leaving the leg and wing in tact for the guest with a larger appetite. Arrange on a serving planner. Strain the cooking liquid into the pan with the reduced wine, add the sausage pieces, mushrooms and pearl onions and add the remaining butter. Pour the sauce over the turkey on the platter and serve with rice or noodles.