Spring Smoked Wild Turkey and Fiddlehead Risotto with Ramps and Lemon

Spring Smoked Wild Turkey and Fiddlehead Risotto with Ramps and Lemon

With respect to Donald Trump (and without making a partisan political statement), I think it’s fair to say that in a lot of ways America is greater than it’s ever been. A perfect example is when it comes to cooking. Thanks to the proliferation of fabulous cooking magazines, and shows on television, and recipes for everything available instantly on the internet, and the local foods movement, common people on real-world budgets have access to cooking techniques and fresh ingredients the likes of which have probably never been seen on such a scale in the history of our country.

In the spirit of springtime and good eating I figured I’d share my family’s go-to recipe that involves wild turkey and wild early-season edibles. It makes two meals, though if you count leftovers it’s probably more like three or four.

Step 1: Shoot wild turkey. Afterwards, collect some fiddleheads and ramps.

Step 2: Dress turkey and prepare a brine. I made this one following a recipe by David Rubel that called for 3 quarts of water, 1.5 cups soy sauce, 1 cup maple syrup, 2 cups brown sugar, 3/4-cup salt, 3 large heads of garlic, 2 large hands fresh ginger, 1 fresh bunch of herbs, red pepper flakes to taste. I made one-and-a-half times the recipe to fit the size of the bird. I brought all the ingredients to a boil then cooled it to room temperature. Then I put the turkey in a pickle crock and poured the brine over it. I had to take the legs off the bird to fit it in the crock, but in the end the important-to-be-marinated parts just fit.

Step 3: Soak the bird in the brine for three days in a refrigerator. (Or two, or four.) Refrigerate ramps and fiddleheads, too.

Step 4: Throw the bird on the grill and cook through under indirect heat, basting from time to time with butter or olive oil if you left the skin on. You’ll see in the pictures that I butterflied the bird to decrease cooking time. (To butterfly, just cut out the backbone with a poultry shear, and then split the breast bone with either the shear or a bone saw so the carcass lies flat. You’ll probably need a bone saw if it’s a big Tom, as the breast bone is substantial.)

Step 5: Enjoy a nice turkey dinner with your family, complete with mashed potatoes and gravy and something green. Raise a glass to the bird and say a prayer of thanks.

Step 6: Clean the carcass of the pickmeat, and add to whatever leftovers you have. If you’re super ambitious, make a turkey stock with the bones. Invite a bunch of people over for dinner some upcoming night.

Step 7: When said upcoming night arrives, warm 5 ½ cups chicken or turkey stock in saucepan on the stove. Then wash the fiddleheads; then dump the washed fiddleheads into a pot of boiling water for two minutes; then dump the boiled fiddleheads into an ice water bath to stop the cooking process. Then dice and sauté maybe a dozen ramps (or more to suit taste) and some minced garlic in butter in a cast iron skillet until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add 2 cups Arborio rice and stir until grains are translucent at edge but still opaque in center, about 3 minutes. Add ½-cup dry white wine and stir until liquid is absorbed. Add the warm stock, stirring until the rice has absorbed nearly all the liquid. When the rice is almost done (about 15 minutes) stir in the cooked fiddleheads and zest of 1 large lemon. Add ½-cup grated parmesan cheese and the diced pickmeat from the turkey. Heat through.

Step 8: Enjoy another nice dinner with family and friends. Raise a glass to the bird and say a prayer of thanks. Wonder how much people would pay for such a meal down in New York City, and smile smugly thinking that it’s not for sale.

  1. Kevin Beattie → in Londonderry VT
    May 13, 2016

    Looks tasty.  Some of us have been having a discussion about ramps and leeks. Is there a difference?

  2. Bill Shaw → in Trumansburg, NY
    May 15, 2016

    Wow. You nailed it. When I come in from turkey hunting, I collect ramps (and certain mushrooms, if lucky) and smoking turkey is a perfect way to highlight it. We will be having this menu this weekend.
    Aging Orion, Bill Shaw

  3. dave → in Vermont
    May 16, 2016

    Hi Kevin,

    I’ve heard that there is a difference, most recently by wild food harvester Nova Kim on a VPR radio show. I guess the wild leeks have the pure white bulbs (like the ones pictured above) while the ramps have that reddish/purplish color above the bulb. The leeks are said to have a milder flavor. I tend to call everything ramps, which I probably shouldn’t do.

  4. Patrick → in Gilmanton, NH
    Jun 10, 2016


    Thanks for this wild turkey recipe. Love the idea of adding the additional spring bounty of fiddleheads and leaks or ramps.
    I didn’t get out to my favorite field to hunt turkey this year (screwed up priorities, I know) but this recipe really makes me wish I had. Let me know if you have any fall recipes and I may try my luck this October!


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