Sporting Chef: Spicy Stuffed Wild Turkey Breast


Spicy Stuffed Wild Turkey Breast
While living in Arizona during the mid- to late ‘70s, I developed a taste, more like a craving, for Southwestern flavors. I like it spicy, but not so hot that my eyes water. Some folks can enjoy a habanero pepper or two—I’m not one of them:

4 wild turkey breast halves, boneless and skinless, butterflied

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 cups jack cheese

1/2 red onion, diced

2 limes, juice only

4 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup seasoned breadcrumbs (or cornmeal stuffing)

1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely diced

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 cup cilantro leaves

1 cup tomato salsa

Season turkey breasts liberally with salt and pepper. In a bowl, combine remaining ingredients except salsa. Place some of the stuffing mixture, about 1/4 inch thick, evenly on each breast. Starting from one end, roll the breast tightly, tucking in the ends with your fingertips as you roll. Place each breast, seam side down, in a greased shallow baking dish. Cover with lid or foil and bake in a 375-degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes, depending upon the size of the breasts. When cooked, allow the breasts to rest for a few minutes and then slice each into 3 to 4 sections. Serve with salsa.

To butterfly each breast half, place it on a flat surface, press down slightly with the palm of your left hand (if you’re right-handed). Keeping your fingers up and away from the knife blade, slice through the breast between your palm and the table along the long edge, but not all of the way through. The idea is to make a hinge so that you can open the breast up like a book.

Wild Turkey Tamales
Great with any wild game, including shredded wild turkey breasts. Slow-roast deer neck and shoulder roasts, shred the meat and wrap it up in masa.

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About the masa:
To prepare the masa, pick up a bag at the grocery store and follow the directions on the bag for tamale dough. I start with 2 cups masa harina flour, 2/3 cup melted Crisco, 1 1/4 cups warm chicken broth and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Start mixing with a fork, but eventually you’ll need to get in there with your hands to make sure it’s thoroughly mixed. The masa should be the consistency of moist cookie dough. If it’s too dry, add a little more chicken broth. Too wet, mix in a little more masa harina flour.

The corn husks:
Dried cornhusks are available in grocery stores and Hispanic markets. If you can’t find them, try it with fresh cornhusks or parchment paper cut into a large triangle about the size of an outside cornhusk.

And the stuffing:
The following recipe will get you started on your way to tamale greatness, but you really should experiment and make up your own signature tamales. One of my favorites is mushroom and Brie cheese.

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/3 cup onion, diced

1 cup fresh tomatillos, quartered (or substitute green tomatoes or omit)

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 cups cooked wild turkey breast, cut into 1/2 cubes or shredded

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, tomatillos, garlic and jalapeno and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes. Add chili powder, cumin, salt and turkey breast and stir to blend flavors. Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes and then allow to cool.

For each tamale, lay the cornhusk on a flat surface with the narrow end pointing towards you. Take about 2 to 3 tablespoons of the masa and spread evenly along the bottom quarter of the cornhusk, about 1/2 inch from any edge of the husk. In the center of the masa, place a few tablespoons of the turkey mixture. Fold the left edge over the stuffing. The idea is to surround the stuffing with masa. Fold the right edge over and fold the bottom up towards the center. Place in a hot steamer basket with a water level just under the bottom of the basket. Place tamales fold-side-down in the basket, leaving a little room between each so that steam can cook each one. Add water as they steam, if necessary. Tamales will take from 25 to 40 minutes to steam, depending on how big they are. They will be soft, moist and hot when cooked and will firm up as they start to cool.


Known as “The Sporting Chef,” Scott Leysath has been an executive chef for more than 20 years, and is a leading expert on cooking fish and game. Author of multiple cookbooks, including “The Sporting Chef’s Better Venison Cookbook,” he hosts “The Sporting Chef” and “DeadMeat” shows on Sportsman Channel. Visit