By Joe Glotz
This recipe is honestly one of my all-time favorite wild turkey recipes. The combination of whiskey, orange, and honey make for a terrific glaze and compliment the flavor of the turkey to perfection. Because this dish is started by browning the meat on the stovetop and finished in the oven, it ends up with an extremely crispy skin without drying out the meat on the inside.
Here is the cast of characters:
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 turkey breast, skin on and brined
- Salt and pepper
- 1 cup turkey stock
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 6 tablespoons whiskey
- 1 tablespoon grated orange rind
- 2 tablespoons orange juice
- ½ teaspoon cayenne
You start by preheating the oven to 325 degrees F and then melting butter on the stove top in a nice heavy bottomed skillet.
Once it begins to bubble, you add the turkey meat, breast side down. Resist the temptation to move it as it browns. You want to get some nice color on there and you don’t want the skin to tear. Moving it too soon will tear the skin. Once things are nice and brown you can rotate it a bit to get the outer areas. Then you flip it over.
I highly recommend keeping the skin on your bird. Turkey feathers are quite easy to pluck as long as you do just a few at a time so the skin doesn’t tear. It is better to leave the skin on after you’ve harvested your bird, since attempting to remove it while the feathers are still on can result in a feathery mess. Nevertheless, if you don’t have skin on your turkey breast, simply layer it with bacon or lard before cooking. Most importantly, it is essential that you brine the breast meat before cooking it. I have a friend that uses a brine of simple filtered water from the sea, which has ample salt, then after 24 hours, switches to a bath of unsalted purified water. Or if you’re not feeling quite as adventurous, you can also us this simple turkey brine recipe:
- 16 cups water
- ½ cup white wine vinegar
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup salt
- 1 tablespoon mustard seed
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 tablespoon crushed black pepper
- 3 sprigs thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- Peel of 1 orange
- Peel of 1 lemon
- Combine all ingredients and bring to a boil.
- Remove from heat and let cool.
- Add meat and submerge, cover with a weight so it stays completely submerged in liquid.
- For a whole turkey, refrigerate in brine for 24 hours. For breasts, refrigerate for 12.
- Remove, pat dry and let rest on a rack for at least three and up to 24 hours before cooking.
Now, back to our prep. You are going to deglaze the pan with your stock and scrape up the brown bits with a wooden spoon. Once you’ve done that, turn off the heat and put the turkey in the oven covered in foil and let it cook for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a separate pan, melt the remaining butter. Add the honey.
Mix the honey in well as it begins to bubble. You want to keep the heat low, so the honey doesn’t over caramelize and burn.
- Then add the whiskey.
- Then the orange juice.
- Then the orange zest.
- Then the cayenne.
Let it bubble as you whisk until it is thick and a nice deep orange.
Brush half of the glaze onto the turkey until it is nice and blanketed in burnt sienna goo. Then cover it again with foil and return it to the oven. Then add the other half of the glaze about 20 minutes later. This time, leave the foil off when you return it to the oven and turn the temperature up to 400 degrees F.
15-20 minutes later, the internal temperature should read 140-150 degrees F. I highly recommend a digital probe thermometer as they are much more accurate than the dial thermometers.
And voila, a beautiful, juicy, tender wild turkey breast, with a sweet and tangy whiskey glaze.