Christmas, a time for family, rest and relaxation for all…wrong! Not if you’re the one in charge of the most important task of the day, the main event that everyone comes to your house for, no not trying to keep your Grandma away from the sherry but cooking the Christmas turkey. With the right planning and my step by step guide, you can now take the stress away and enjoy the most delicious Christmas turkey you have ever had. Your guests will want you to host Christmas every year (but don’t let them make you).
Turkey often gets branded as dry and that’s because the legs will take longer than the breast, to cook. The best solution to this is to use the stuffing between the meat and the skin of the Turkey. This makes the breasts thicker so the bird cooks evenly giving you a juicy well cooked turkey.
So you will need….
A hand full of sage
12 slices of Pancetta or streaky bacon
6 Cloves of garlic
2 sticks of celery, finely chopped
2 handfulls of breadcrumbs
1 handfull of dried apricots
300g minced pork
A pinch of nutmeg
1 large egg
Salt & Pepper
12 small sprigs of rosemary
1 large orange
2 tablespoons of Plain flour
1 litre of Chicken Stock
Pre heat the oven to the Max setting
Heat up a sauce pan on a medium heat with some olive oil, add the sage leaves half of the pancetta, two peeled and chopped garlic cloves, a finely chopped onion and the celery to the pan and soften altogether until brown.
Once that’s done take it off the heat and add your breadcrumbs in. roughly chop your apricots and add them to your bowl and when your mixture is completely cooled add your pork mince, lemon zest, nutmeg and egg, season with salt and pepper and mix well.
Now get your remaining garlic and cut them in to thin shards, halve your pancetta slices in half lengthways and then cut them into 5cm long rectangles. Take a small sprig of rosemary and roll the garlic and rosemary tightly (a bit like wrapping sausages in bacon). Repeat this until you have 12 little parcels. Create six holes in the thighs of each leg and push the little wraps into the slits you have just made. This will add a wonderful flavour.
Now cut your second onion into chunks, and roughly chop your carrots and wipe your turkey on the inside and out with kitchen paper (never wash in the sink, it spreads food poisoning bugs around the sink and kitchen surfaces) then with the neck facing you find the edge of the skin that covers the breast, put your fingers in and start to separate the skin from the breast very gently, trying not to break the skin. Then take your ready prepared stuffing and push it in between the skin and the breast, Once you have done this use the excess skin and flap in underneath to prevent any thing spilling out.
Heat your orange in the microwave for 30 seconds to release the oils and push it into the Turkey cavity. Then place the turkey in a large roasting tin, surrounded by the onions, garlic and carrots.
Cover the bird in foil and turn the oven down to 180/gas 4 and roast for the correct time, until the juices run clear. For the last 30 mins take off the foil and let the skin brown. Before taking your bird out of the oven remember you will want to save the juices in the pan for your gravy!
Once your bird is cooked, carefully put it on your serving tray and loosely cover in foil or a clean towel and leave to rest 20 minutes.
Now we can use the juices you saved from the turkey. Cook some flour in a pan for a minute, (this is important to avoid a floury taste) then add the juices and chicken stock, keep stirring until thickened.
There you go, Turkey and gravy that will have you wanting seconds and thirds.
Here are cooking time guidelines, but most birds but always check the packing or ask your butcher. Remember to add on a little bit of weight to take account of the stuffing!
8 – 11lb / 5-5 kg 2 1/2 – 3 hours
12 – 14lb / 5.4 kg 3 – 3 1/2 hours
15 – 20lb / 6.75 – 9kg 3 1/2 – 4 1/2 hours