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Native Cooking

In the past two weeks, I have been driving along and had to stop twice for two different flocks of wild turkeys crossing the road. I think nothing of it in the fall, but why now? Well, it got me thinking: ''What's in your freezer?'' Do you have some wild turkey breast, or pheasant, perhaps? If you're a hunter, I bet you have some venison, duck or even bison parts that you need to cook up before spring. If so, you can have some really tasty dinners, especially if you marinate this meat while or after it defrosts.

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Wild Turkey Breast Feast

This marinade is for a 4- to 6-pound turkey breast, split in half.

1 large sweet onion, sliced thin

1-1/2 cups lime or lemon juice

1 cup white wine

1 clove garlic, minced

2 teaspoons dried oregano

2 teaspoons dried basil

1 teaspoon dried sage

1 teaspoon dried parsley

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon salt

Use a large baking dish and place the onion slices on the bottom of the pan. Then put the turkey breasts skin-side down on top. Combine remaining ingredients in a bowl or blender and mix until smooth. Pour this over the turkey breasts, cover and marinate at room temperature for at least 4 - 6 hours or overnight in the fridge, 8 hours maximum.

Roast at 350 degrees for 1-1/2 hours, basting from time to time with the marinade. Reduce oven temperature to 275 degrees and continue to bake for another hour.

When you are ready to serve, turn the breasts skin-side up and put under broiler for 3 to 5 minutes to brown. To make a feast of this, and save calories, serve with Warm Bean and Root Salad, rich cornbread and warm spiced applesauce. (The gravy and stuffing won't be missed.)

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Warm Bean and Root Salad

1 small celery root

2 parsnips

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup white wine

3 cups Great Northern beans

1/2 teaspoon each: parsley, sage, brown sugar, salt and pepper

Cut the peeled celery root and parsnips into strips 1/4-inch wide and 2 inches long, and saute in the olive oil in a large frying pan until brown. Add the wine and cover the pan to steam the vegetables and cook them through. Add the beans and herbs to the pan, cover and heat all for a few minutes. Serve with turkey slices and warm, spiced (with cinnamon) applesauce.

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Really Pleasant Pheasant

2 pheasants, quartered

1/2 cup light oil

2 large sweet onions, sliced 1/2-inch thick

2 bay leaves

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1/4 teaspoon mace

1 teaspoon dried parsley

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups chicken broth

2 tablespoons flour

Extra water, if necessary

Heat the oil in a deep cast-iron (or heavy) frying pan and brown the pheasant. Remove the meat and drain on paper towels, leaving the fat in the pan. Saute the onions in the pan, and add the garlic and bay leaves. Sprinkle the mace, parsley and salt on top. Cook this for a minute or two to blend; return pheasant to pan. Combine the broth and pour over all. Cover, reduce heat and cook for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the pheasant is good and tender. Remove all ingredients except the liquid from the pan; set aside.

Bring the remaining liquid (add a little water if necessary) to a boil and stir in the flour to thicken. Pour this gravy over pheasant and onions to serve. It's really good with homemade biscuits or cornbread and a salad.

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Notes and Tips

* A lot of marinated game meats love the slow cooker. They will fall off the bone. You can just add onion, wild rice or potatoes, carrots and a little celery, and you have a delicious winter stew.

* I always have some kind of corn in the freezer, including some on the cob that are too small for much. It can add a dimension to a stew as well. A bit of corn, a can of tomatoes and some herbs (like basil or thyme) will get your taste buds all excited.

I want to thank all of you who have sent in suggestions and ideas to NativeCooking@aol.com. I am always learning things. Please let me know what YOU want to see for recipes in this column.

Dale Carson is the author of three books: ''New Native American Cooking'' (temporarily out of print), ''Native New England Cooking'' and ''A Dreamcatcher Book.''

For ordering information write to Dale Carson, P.O. Box 13, Madison, CT 06443 or e-mail NativeCooking@aol.com.