Earlier today we had 67 words that must be a record for a Christmas Turkey recipe! But at least with those timings, you can be confident of the main attraction being OK?
I said earlier, perhaps you would like a little more detail? Here we go!
I think the essence (and this is true for all our recipes and ideas in my book “Can Men Cook?”) is to keep things simple. This is even truer on this particular day, which can be a bit stressful if you let it. As there is likely to be a crowd of revellers interrupting and drinking and waiting, for many of you, this is even more important.
(Some of the foods may not be for you at all – it will be different for each of you. I have kept to traditional fare – and other meats or vegetarian options may be more in tune with your needs. This is true for the vegetables too – some will suit, some not.)
Get the kettle on at 7, and take your turkey out of the fridge. Kettle is for your well-earned cup of tea for getting up early on Christmas Morn. You should have taken the plastic bag containing the giblets out of the turkey, but check again just in case! These bits are excellent to boil up for stock to make real gravy. As you know, I always prefer to do most things from scratch, rather than using too many convenience foods (like gravy browning or stock cubes and the like). It feels easier to control salt, sugar, E numbers, antioxidants, and all the other additives that are in most convenience foods by doing this. It tastes better too.
I have two favourite stuffing’s – Sage and Onion and Apple and Chestnut. I will start with the second one.
- A tin of chestnut puree – or chopped chestnuts
- 1lb of pork sausage meat
- 1 large cooking apple (Bramley is best)
- 1 medium onion
- 1 beaten egg
- Salt and ground white pepper
I think this is easiest to make in a food processor, because it will chop the onion and the apple very finely. Peel the onion and apple first and chop them a bit to put into your food processor, and whiz for 10 to 20 seconds to chop them very finely. Add the sausage meat a bit at a time and blend between each addition (say in 5 or 6 portions). Then add the contents of the chestnut puree tin – whiz until all one consistency, then add the egg (which helps to bind it together) and the salt and pepper.
If you prefer Sage and Onion stuffing – here’s how to do that:
- Two pieces of white bread
- 1lb sausage meat
- 1 dessert-spoon of dried sage
- 1 peeled onion
- A squeeze of lemon juice
- Salt and ground white pepper
Again, a blender helps.
If the following sounds too fiddly or tricky – then cook the stuffing separately… but this is how I do it
The best and safest place to cook the stuffing is the breast end of the bird, not the main body cavity. This helps it to cook well – stuffing the body slows everything down. Also, stuffing the other end helps keep the breast moist. You need to ease the skin off the breast itself, and you do this easily by easing the skin away from the breast with your fingers and pushing gently You will find it comes apart easily. The middle bit of skin between the two breasts is slightly more stringy, and you will need to hook it with your finger to pull this apart. You can then spoon your chosen stuffing into this cavity. You should seal the end by pushing a couple of cocktail sticks though the skin flaps (but remember to take them out at the end so no-one eats them!) If there is some left over after stuffing the bird, you can put this in an over proof dish and cook it with foil on top for the last hour before serving.
Turkey can dry out remarkably fast if you don’t use foil. Chefs do mad things like having the turkey upside down (on its breast side) for the first 2 hours, then heave it over onto its back for the rest of cooking. Can you imagine wrestling with a roasting hot (literally) monster, weighing as much as a 3 month old baby, without causing huge injury to yourself, the oven and the kitchen floor?
I will stick to foil.
I tend to use the large grill pan from my oven as the roasting dish for a turkey. Quite honestly, I have nothing else large enough! Take a good metre long length of the extra wide turkey foil you remembered to buy (? didn’t you?). Place that lengthways with its middle bit in the centre of the grill tray. Now take a second piece – the same length, and place that at 90 degrees to the first piece. Pop the turkey on top of them, and parcel it up. Crimp the top of the foil like the edge of a Cornish pasty, and don’t force it onto the turkey skin – leave a bit of space for air movement inside the parcel. Pull the second sheet up and do the same. You want it to be pretty well sealed. Now put it in the oven (it will be 8.15 a.m. now) at high temperature (200 C) for the first 45 minutes. Set your timer for 45 minutes, then turn down to 160 (Fan) or gas mark 3 without opening the door (there is nothing to see yet!)
Now you just need to get one of your many helpers to peel the vegetables for around 11 a.m., so you can get them in the oven for about 11.30.
Here are my favourites and all but two cook blissfully away in the oven, taking good care of themselves.
Potatoes (need to peel and chop into roast potato size, then boil them for 5 minutes, and remove from the pot with a draining spoon (with holes in it)
- Sweet potato – peeled and chopped into lumps the same size
- Parsnips – peeled and chopped. Both of these do not need to be pre boiled – they will cook through just with roasting
- Carrots – chopped into rounds like coins, and boiled for 15 to 20 minutes, and mashed.
- Sprouts. These only start tasting badly sulphurous if you boil them too long. 4 minutes max. Drain them. And stir fry them for 30 seconds in a wok as you are about to serve everything else! You can put lard-ons of bacon with them, or some of the chestnuts left over from the stuffing. And you will learn to love them again.
You can cook a parsnip with the carrot – because mashed carrot and parsnip is really rather nice (and more tasty than carrot and turnip, I think).
You need to have a large roasting tin ready for the roasting veg – put this in the oven with about 4 tablespoons of oil (I use Olive Oil – but whichever is your favourite). Some of you will have bought goose fat as a Christmas treat for roasting. Now is the time to find it! After about 5 minutes, you will see the fat is hot – so clear the top of your hob, and pull the roaster out after remembering your oven gloves! Tip the tray so you can put the veg in slowly without splashing, and use the baster to cover them in the oil or fat once they are all in. You will need to turn them a couple of times in the next hour or so. And at 12.15, you need to peel back the foil on the turkey, and start basting it.
Sweetcorn or peas are useful and colourful and easy additions, if you have the crowds in– little people who don’t like sprouts yet…
Is it ready?
Right – it’s about 1.00. You have basted for the third time. Everything smells beautiful. Roasting veg are browning nicely. So is the turkey done? No-one wants a bad food reaction or even food poisoning– Poke a small knife into the fattest bit of the leg and wait to see what oozes out. If it is running clear, then it is ready. If there are specs of blood, then carry on cooking. The second test is to pull on the leg, and if it comes away easily, you have completed the cooking.
Get help to move the bird to your carving dish. Ask them to hold onto the foil (it cools quickly, so they can use their hands without getting burnt) while you lift the turkey off the foil. Often it sticks so they should gently pull off the foil if this happens. A pair of turkey lifters (like mini garden forks) are useful for this. (Have you got a picture??)
Increase the oven temperature to brown off the roast veg, finish off the other vegetables, You need to delegate the carving, or get help to serve. You can’t do both! The stuffing will carve with some of the breast meat or you can spoon it out into a serving dish (which I prefer).
The last 10 to 15 minutes are mad. Have a drink, if you can, and enjoy the applause!
Have a splendid Christmas one and all.