Thursday, 22 December 2011

Christmas Turkey

  Turkey or turkey crown, 1 tbsp allspice, 1 tbsp cinnamon, 150g salt, 100g sugar, star anise, caraway seeds, honey, butter, bacon 

Serves: an army... Preparation: 2 days

So this is Christmas... and we're all exhausted from the shopping and the wrapping and the decorating and wondering how in the hell we're going to fit everything in the fridge, in the oven and on the table.
With this recipe I promise that your turkey will be absolutely delicious and hassle free - all it takes is a little preparation! I use a brine bath and I'll tell you why; here comes the science bit... the salt in the brine bath breaks down some of the proteins in the meat which allows water to enter all the little cells. It's important to add this extra liquid because when you roast a turkey, the proteins contract which forces out the natural liquid and can leave you with a dry, stringy turkey instead of this lovely juicy beast.

(PS I will update the image on Christmas Day once I've roasted my bird!)

23rd DecemberUsing a stock pot (if you have a small turkey or turkey crown) or a large bucket big enough to fit the turkey in fill it 1/2 full of the salt, honey, sugar, spices and water and chuck in your turkey.

You need to cover this well and keep it somewhere cool until Christmas morning, cool enough to stop the meat spoiling (the cellar or even outside) but for god's sake don't leave it out in the snow or your turkey will freeze!

25th December1) Get up early and remove the turkey from the brine bath, ensuring all the liquid drains from the cavity, then pat it dry and pop it in the roasting dish.

2) If you're stuffing the turkey (I recommend my chai tea loaf, pancetta, pear and leek stuffing), do this first and then get to massaging and pinching the skin of the turkey so that it's loose enough for you to work two tablespoons of butter under it and press and massage until it's evenly distributed under the skin.

3) Lay strips of bacon over the top of the turkey and it's ready to pop in the oven! The magical thing about brining the turkey first is you don't have to faff about with covering it and uncovering it to baste it and cover it back up again... the only thing you really need to get right is the timings for cooking which really depends on the weight of the turkey/turkey crown.

Once it has cooked, remove it from the roasting tin and put it on a serving platter, covered with foil to keep it warm and allow all the juices to settle back into the turkey. If you press the skin you will see how they have risen to the surface in an attempt to escape as steam - by allowing the turkey to rest, they do work their way back down so you don't lose any of that essential juiciness. This 30 - 45 minutes resting time is also very useful because you have space in your oven to do your roast potatoes or other trimmings!

4) To make gravy, skim off most of the fat from the roasting tin and then whisk in a teaspoon of flour. If you add the flour first, it will mix well with the fat to form a sort of roux and you will never get lumpy gravy. Add the flour last and you risk getting chunks of flour and a cloudy gravy rather than a lovely, rich, clear liquid. To the roux, add stock or wine - whichever you prefer and give it a good stir as it warms through.

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