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Wild Turkey Birria Recipe

Wild turkey legs and thighs can be tough, so braising the meat, like in this birria (or Jalisco-style Mexican stew) recipe, is a great way to cook them.

Wild Turkey Birria Recipe
Whether you're looking for a recipe for winter stew or for summer tacos, this Wild Turkey Birria Recipe will do just the trick! (Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley photo)
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I first had birria at a taqueria in Omaha. They call it “consommé” on the menu, and on a cold day, nothing beats fresh, authentic Mexican tacos and consommé to slurp up on the side.

What I love most about consommé is that it’s actually the leftover liquid from a spicy, slow braise of beef (traditionally goat or mutton) called birria. The restaurant uses that beef in its tacos and burritos, but that leftover broth is like pure heaven in a Styrofoam cup. Hot, tangy, spicy and so rich – it’s everything I love in a good stew. It often comes out with a layer of beef fat on top, and every time I come up for air, my husband laughs at me because my mouth is always covered in a thin, orange layer of lip-smacking grease.

The Wild Turkey Birria Recipe I have here is made with the legs and thighs from an old Tom turkey that a friend gave to me. These parts on a wild turkey tend to be tough, so a slow, low braise like this is one is the best treatment for it. The dark meat in this area of the bird also holds up well to all the spices, which actually isn’t “spicy” as far as heat and pain, but spicy in that the stew is heavily seasoned and complex.

The one disadvantage in using wild game with a recipe like this is the leanness. You don’t get that bit of grease that is characteristic of traditional birria. The fat isn’t necessary, but if you want it, throw in a chunk of fatty pork or beef trimmings to simmer in step 3.



Serves: 4
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 4 hours

Ingredients:

  • Legs and thighs from a wild turkey
  • 6 dried guajillo chili peppers
  • 3 dried ancho chili peppers
  • 13 cups water, divided
  • 1 onion, halved
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano
  • 1 Mexican cinnamon stick
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste
  • Diced red onion, for garnish
  • Freshly chopped cilantro, for garnish
  • Lime wedges

Directions:

  1. Boil 2-3 cups of water. Toast guajillo and ancho chili peppers over a gas stove or under a broiler until warmed and fragrant, but not burnt, turning frequently.
  2. Wild Turkey Birria Recipe
    Guajillo peppers are mild heat peppers and have a slightly fruity taste. (Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley photo)

  3. Place toasted peppers in a container and submerge with the boiling water. Use a small heavy dish, or something similar, to keep peppers completely submerged. Soak peppers for 30 minutes.
  4. Wild Turkey Birria Recipe
    Placing the peppers in boiling water softens them so that you can put them in the food processor. (Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley photo)

  5. Remove stems from all the peppers and place into a food processor, along with 1 cup of the soaking liquid. Puree peppers until smooth as possible. Set aside.
  6. Wild Turkey Birria Recipe
    This mixture should be on the thicker side to create a purée. (Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley photo)

  7. Place wild turkey legs and thighs, 10 cups of water, onion halves, bay leaves, and garlic into a large pot. Bring to a boil, then back down to a simmer, and cook covered for about 2 hours. By this time, the turkey meat should begin to soften and can be pulled from the bones.
  8. Pull meat from the legs as best you can, add the meat back into the pot along with the bones (not the pin bones) and add the chili purée, cinnamon stick, thyme, chili powder, cumin and oregano. Continue simmering partially covered for another 1-2 hours or until meat becomes tender and the liquid has reduced by about half.
  9. Wild Turkey Birria Recipe
    True cinnamon is in stick form, and adds the hint of sweetness to this Mexican dish. (Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley photo)

  10. Discard turkey bones, thyme sprigs, cinnamon stick, and bay leaves before serving. Mix in vinegar, lime juice and salt.
  11. Serve birria as a thick stew with lime wedges on the side, or serve meat in tacos or burritos with some of the soup on the side to dip in and slurp.
  12. Wild Turkey Birria Recipe
    The great thing about this dish is that it can either be eaten as a stew, or use the meat in tacos! (Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley photo)

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