The thunderous gobble reverberated through the dense morning air like the old bird was right on top of us. Sneaking down a creekbed, out of sight from the roost tree, we were able to get within a couple of hundred yards of where the bird had sounded off. A decoy was placed, and as the hens started to fly down, they immediately gravitated in our direction. Two big gobblers appeared, fanning and strutting as they raced circles around the ladies. It was easy to pick out the dominant bird, and when the spectacular old Merriam’s was at 30 yards, a load of shot put an end to its morning party.
Big, old turkeys are as addicting as nicotine—one positive encounter, and you are hooked. My spring foray to South Dakota produced a couple of big birds that were carefully prepared for transport and the freezer. A wild turkey is a favorite around our home, and a rousing cheer usually erupts just at the mention of enjoying one for dinner.
Wild turkey can be challenging to prepare, as it is easy to overcook and tends to dry out quickly. Breast meat is lean, and cooking them fast and at high heat helps maintain the moisture. Nuggets or fingers are a culinary treat that also allows the unique flavors of the bird to shine through.
How to Make Chipotle Wild Turkey Nuggets
Nuggets are easy to prep, and there are plenty of options to customize the perfect seasonings for the whole family to enjoy. Bread crumbs, Panko, cornmeal, or other breading provide the crunch, and Bearded Butcher Seasoning adds the spice and level of heat required to please the crew gracing the table. With young girls at home, a little heat can be tolerated, making the Bearded Butcher Chipotle Seasoning the perfect match. If I were in a hunting camp with my buddies, the Cajun or Hot would be used to kick things up a bit.
Buttermilk is an essential part of the recipe, as the bacterial cultures and enzymes work as a marinade to break down the turkey meat and make in tender and moist. The thick buttermilk also works well to hold the breading on the nugget.
Nuggets are such a treat at our house that we package them separately, providing more opportunities to eat wild turkey during the year. Two breasts can certainly be done at one time, but it is a lot of protein for a single meal and tends to make people overeat!
Here is what you will need.
- 1 boneless, skinless turkey breast
- 1 quart buttermilk
- 2 cups Italian breadcrumbs
- 1 Tbsp Bearded Butcher Chipotle Seasoning
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp smoked paprika
- 1 quart peanut, corn or canola oil
Directions for cooking the nuggets:
- Trim silver skins and connective tissue off turkey breast, and cut it into 1½-inch cubes.
- Place turkey cubes in a sealable bag and pour enough buttermilk over them to cover and ensure cubes are floating and not touching. Refrigerate overnight or up to two days (8-48 hours).
- In a large plastic bag, combine breadcrumbs, Bearded Butcher Chipotle Seasoning, garlic powder, and smoked paprika.
- Drain excess buttermilk off turkey nuggets in a colander for two minutes. Place 3 or 4 nuggets at a time in the breadcrumbs, and shake to coat.
- Add cooking oil to a 12 or 14-inch Camp Chef cast iron frying pan to a depth of about 1 inch. Preheat cooking oil to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, or medium-high. Gently place nuggets one at a time in the oil to fill the pan, and cook until they are golden brown, flipping once, about 2 minutes per side. A thermometer will help maintain the proper temperature. Avoid overcrowding the pan which can drop the temperature of the oil.
- Remove nuggets from oil and place on a paper towel-lined tray or plate to absorb excess grease. Serve hot with your favorite dipping sauces. Bearded Butcher BBQ Sauce is the perfect match, as as the Butchers say, “It’s whisker lickin’ good.”
The Bearded Butcher, from Ohio, makes outstanding seasonings and sauces for wild game that are gluten and MSG-free. The variety pack of seasonings includes Chipotle, Original, Cajun, and Hot seasoning blends, which work great to season nuggets.