Monday, November 26, 2012

Talking Turkey

On Sunday evening we had our American friends over for a pot luck Thanksgiving dinner. All I do is the turkey, everything else arrives from a range of traditions covering the US from West Coast to East.
Anyway, everyone was very enthusiastic about the turkey, and I realised that every time I cook turkey, it is always well received. Apparently this business of cooking a turkey so it is moist and tasty is quite elusive, but mine are always like that. So I figure I owe it to the world to explain what I do, in case it adds to the collected wisdom in some small way.
You need:
 A Turkey (free range preferably)In this case, a size 4 (smallest I could find, still enormous!)
Streaky bacon made from happy pigs, about 250g
500ml chicken stock

Make sure the turkey is completely defrosted if frozen. I bought mine on Tuesday and it was only just defrosted in the fridge by Sunday! Remove the neck and other bits from the cavity. Give it a rinse out and a good drain before putting in a roasting pan. Ease your hand into the space between the skin and the meat, between the leg and breast. Gently lift the skin away from the meat, and start stuffing into it. And the cavity. Give the outside a good grind of pepper.
Now, arrange the streaky bacon in a herring bone over the whole bird. You know, on an angle alternating one side then the other, until the turkey is covered.
Cover the whole thing in foil, tucking it around it but not too tight because you're going to have to remove it a few times.
Put in an oven heated to 200 C, turn it down to 160 C and cook for about 3 hours, basting about once an hour. Take the foil off, transfer the turkey to another ovenproof dish and cook for another 15 minutes to brown. (I have a fan bake oven and I suspect without it, it would take longer) I think I need to say that one year, I put the turkey in the oven at 4.30am on 120C, same prep, and when I came around woke up at 10am, it was perfectly cooked. So, I don't think the cooking time is a factor - but length of time and temperature combined is.
To make the gravy, during the cooking time I sauteed the neck and giblets in a pot, added the chicken stock and the tops of the spring onions. Simmer for about an hour, covered, then drain. Discard the solids.
Put the oven dish on the stove top and turn any elements it covers to a low setting. Sprinkle about 1/4 cup flour over the tray, give it a good stir and scrape, then add the hot stock. Keep stirring until it is smooth and thickens up. Add the juice of the half an orange, and some pepper. I also added a dash of Worcestershire sauce. Finally, I sieved it to get any bits out but really, the bits are rather nice!
Now, that stuffing. It needs to be moist and tasty too. This is the one I did on Sunday:
6-8 thick slices of wholemeal bread, ripped into small chunks
about 250g chorizo, chopped
2 bunches spring onions, chopped up.
200g mushrooms, chopped up
a big handful of parsley, finely chopped
grated rind of an orange, juice of remaining half
about a cup of roasted cashews, roughly chopped
a sprinkle of drained capers
Lots of butter (sorry!)
This is all the wrong way around, as you make the stuffing first, so I used the same pot I went on to make the gravy in. Melt about 50g butter, and saute the chorizo. Add chorizo and the butter to the bread in a big bowl. Add another 50g butter and saute the onions, then add them. Do the same with the mushrooms. Add the other ingredients to the bowl, add a big grind of pepper, and using your hands, get in there and mix it all together thoroughly. Add a slosh of the chicken stock to it too.
Since you're all covered in it, get stuffing straight away. :)
I also do a stuffing using rice, for the gluten free bods in my life.

So why does this work? I am not sure. I figure the bacon is an essential part of the flavour and moistness containment. And putting lots of moist stuffing in under the skin, not just in the cavity too. And the foil.
So, happy turkey cooking, when the moment comes in...eep, 28 sleeps? Something like that!!


  1. Dear Mrs. C.,

    As the French say, "miam, miam!" Bacon on a turkey should go over well here in the U.S. because we are nuts for bacon. We're even putting it in cocktails (blarggghhh). Between that and the chorizo, oh, and the aromatics, I bet that turkey just begs to be eaten.

    Glad it was so enjoyed, and boy, I enjoyed taking down the tips.

    Very best,


    1. Oh it SO is yummy! :) We are pretty nuts about bacon here too! :) And it makes a nice alternative for people not so keen on turkey - they can eat the crispy bacon off the top!

  2. I love turkey...yours sound delish! My family's secret for moist (though not as pretty) turkey is roasting it upside down, so that the juices drain into, instead of out of, the breast. Is nommable.

  3. Gosh that is SUCh a good idea, I am going to try that at Christmas, thank you! My favourite bits are the underside for that reason, never thought about the smarts of turning it over!