Cooking with Matanzas Creek

Lavender & Sage Brined Willie Bird Turkey

Lavender & Sage Brined Willie Bird Turkey

Serve with Matanzas Creek Alexander Valley Merlot


  • For the brine:
  • 1 quart water
  • ¼ cup kosher salt
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 10 sage leaves
  • 3 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 Tbsp. culinary lavender flowers
  • 1 Tbsp. black pepper, toasted and crushed
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 Willie Bird Turkey leg, deboned
  • For the risotto:
  • 3 to 4 cups chicken broth
  • 4 Tbsp., plus 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1½ cups Arborio rice
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 cup Sottocenere al tartufo cheese (plus more just in case), grated
  • For the turkey:
  • 1 Willie Bird turkey leg, brined
  • Butcher’s twine
  • 1 Tbsp. ground sage
  • 1 Tbsp. ground lavender
  • 2 Tbsp. kosher salt
  • 2 oz. cooking oil
  • 1½ cups hachiya persimmons, medium dice
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 2 oz. chicken broth
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Meat thermometer (digital preferred)
  • ¼ cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 Tbsp. black truffle oil
  • 2 Tbsp. chives, chopped
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper


For the brine:

Bring water to a boil.  Place ingredients in a container large enough to hold the water and the turkey. Once the water comes to a boil, add to container.  Stir until the salt and honey have dissolved.  Place in refrigerator until cold.  Once cold, add the turkey leg and refrigerate for 24 hours.


For the risotto:

In a medium-sized sauce pan, bring the chicken broth to a boil and keep hot over low heat.  

In a separate medium-sized pan, melt 4 tablespoons butter and add the onions.  Stir continuously with a wooden spoon and cook until onions are translucent, approximately 5 minutes.  Add the rice and continue stirring until rice is coated with butter and the edges turn translucent, approximately 2 minutes.  Add the cold wine and the salt.  Simmer gently, continuing to stir, until wine has evaporated.  Begin ladling the hot broth, ½ cup at a time, into the rice and stirring until rice has absorbed the liquid.  Repeat the process until rice is cooked through but still firm.  Remove the risotto from the heat and stir in the cheeses.   Add butter, salt and pepper to taste and finish with chives.  If the risotto gets too thick while plating, add a small amount of broth until desired consistency is achieved.


For the turkey:

Preheat the oven to 350º. 

Remove turkey from the brine. If the turkey is substantial in weight (more than 1½ lbs.), cut the leg in half.  Lay the turkey skin-side down on paper towels.  Begin at one end and roll the turkey to the other end.  Place the seam of the turkey leg down so it will hold its shape.  Begin by trussing the roll around the center, then the ends, and finally in between (each approximately 1-inch apart).  By starting in the center, it will ensure that the turkey keeps its shape and does not slide creating a thicker end.  This is important because even thickness in the roll will result in more even cooking.  Once the turkey is trussed, pat the outside dry with paper towels.

In a small bowl, mix the ground sage, lavender and salt.  Season the turkey with this mixture.

Heat a medium-sized oven proof pan over medium-high heat.  Add the oil, followed by the turkey roll.  Cook the turkey, turning it approximately every 2 minutes to ensure proper and even searing. Once the skin is golden brown, place the pan into the oven and cook until a thermometer reads 135º. The time needed to cook will depend on the size of the roll.

Remove turkey from pan.  Place onto cutting board and cover with foil.  Remove half of the oil in the pan and return pan to medium heat.  Once the pan is hot, add the diced persimmon and sauté until they are light in color around the edges.  Add sugar, vinegar and broth.  Stir until sugar is dissolved and liquid is reduced by half.  Remove from heat and add butter.  Salt and pepper to taste.


To plate:

Remove strings from the turkey.  Ensure the seam is facing down towards the cutting board.  Using a sharp knife, slice the turkey into medallions.  Portion the risotto onto a plate and place turkey medallions on top of risotto.  Garnish with the diced persimmon and a drizzle of sauce.  Or alternatively, serve the risotto and persimmon in a bowl and carve the turkey tableside.