Wine-injected turkey adds a new flavor to your Thanksgiving meal

Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Hannah McClelland bites into a wine-injected turkey. McClelland is the granddaughter of William Perez. Perez’s grandmother created the original recipe for the Drunken Turkey. (Tom Harte ~ Submitted photo)

When it comes to Thanksgiving turkey a lot of people blithely ignore the clear lesson of Aesop's fable about the fox and the hedgehog and refuse to leave well enough alone. According to the National Turkey Federation more and more of us are looking for nontraditional ways to cook the holiday bird.

And there are plenty of them. Besides deep-fried turkey and turducken, which have both had their heyday, consider these other unconventional cooking methods for turkeys not lucky enough to be granted a presidential pardon.

* Braised Turkey: Championed by New York Times food writer Mark Bittman as a way to avoid the inefficiency of roasting a whole bird, this method calls for cooking turkey parts individually in liquid.

* Barbecued Coca-Cola Turkey: This recipe, too, calls for cutting the turkey into pieces ahead of time, then baking it in Coca-Cola laced barbecue sauce.

* Beer Can Turkey: The logical outgrowth of beer can chicken, this technique calls for propping up the turkey on a large opened can of beer so the brew steams the bird from the inside.

* Grilled Turkey: The perfect way to prepare the holiday bird if you happen to live in California.

* Tamale-Stuffed Turkey: A Texas specialty that pays homage to Mexican ranch hands who brought their tamale-making talents to the Lone Star state.

* White Castle-Stuffed Turkey: This recipe calls for using sliders (sans pickles) in place of traditional stuffing.

* Bacon-wrapped Turkey: This approach is based on the widely accepted culinary maxim that anything wrapped in bacon is bound to taste better.

Frankly, I've always thought approaches like these are more trouble than they are worth. But I've had a change of heart -- ever since Jacob McClelland of KRCU radio introduced me to a recipe for wine-injected turkey from his Panamanian father-in-law, William Perez. A recipe that goes back to Perez's grandmother, it's called, for obvious reasons, Drunken Turkey. In fact, in the old days Panamanians used wine to get a live turkey so intoxicated it would die happily.

Nowadays they use wine on a supermarket bird to make diners happy. It turns out that injecting a turkey with wine is the best way to flavor and tenderize the bird and keep it moist because it works from the inside. Sauces, marinades, rubs and brines, which work from the outside, can only go so far.

If you're looking for a great way to inject something nontraditional into your Thanksgiving feast, this is the tastiest way to do it.

Drunken Turkey with Panamanian Potato Stuffing

This is Senor Perez's recipe for wine-injected turkey. He advises using inexpensive port wine for the job, like what he gets for 95 cents a bottle in his home of Sona, Panama. You may have to pay a bit more here, but it will be worth it.

15 to 20 lbs. turkey, dressed

1 to 2 teaspoons each salt, pepper and garlic powder

1 bottle chilled port wine

2 pounds potatoes, boiled, peeled, and coarsely chopped

2 pounds chicken breast, poached and shredded

1 onion, chopped

1 apple, chopped (optional)

1 cup frozen peas

1 jar (5.75 ounces) pimento-stuffed olives

2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro

Combine salt, pepper and garlic powder and rub all over turkey. Fill meat injector or syringe with wine. Starting with the breast, insert the needle and inject into all parts of the bird, using one-half to two-thirds of the wine. Rub the inside cavity of the bird with some of the remaining wine. Chill the turkey in a large resealable plastic bag in the refrigerator overnight, turning at least once. Roast at 375 degrees, tenting with aluminum foil and basting occasionally with drippings, for 3 to 4 hours or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 170 degrees. Allow turkey to rest 20 to 30 minutes before carving. Combine remaining ingredients, moisten with remaining wine and, if necessary, chicken broth, and place in a greased baking dish. Bake along with turkey, basting with drippings, for 45 to 50 minutes.

Tom Harte's book, "Stirring Words," is available at local bookstores. A Harte Appetite airs at 8:49 a.m. Fridays on KRCU, 90.9 FM. Contact Tom at or at the Southeast Missourian, P.O. Box 699, Cape Girardeau, MO 63702-0699.

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