Christmas Roast Turkey 5 ways

How to make it yummy and not dry? How to impart flavour to something which can be a bland? Not 100% that Turkey is the Christmas roast for you? Here are some ideas to give the your turkey its best shot at being the star attraction on your Christmas table 🙂

Bird 1:
Turkey a la Jamie Oliver:

4-4.5 kg higher-welfare turkey, at room temperature
1 sprig fresh sage, leaves picked
12 strips higher-welfare pancetta or thinly sliced streaky bacon
1 bulb garlic, broken into cloves
4 medium red onions, peeled
2 sticks celery, trimmed and chopped
1 big handful breadcrumbs
1 handful dried apricots
300 g higher-welfare minced pork
zest of 1 lemon
1 pinch grated nutmeg
1 large free-range egg
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
12 small sprigs of fresh rosemary, plus a few extra
2 carrots, peeled
1 large orange
olive oil
2 tablespoons plain flour
1.1 litres organic chicken or vegetable stock

Method:
Preheat the oven to maximum. Heat a saucepan until medium hot and add a splash of olive oil, the sage leaves and 6 of the pancetta or bacon strips. Peel and chop 2 garlic cloves and 1 onion. Add the garlic, celery and onion to the saucepan and fry everything gently until soft and golden brown. Take the pan off the heat, add the breadcrumbs and, while the mix is cooling down, chop the apricots roughly and stir them in. When the stuffing has cooled down, add the pork, lemon zest, nutmeg, egg and lots of salt and pepper, and mix everything together well.

Slice the remaining strips of pancetta or bacon in half and slice 1 peeled garlic clove into thin slivers. Place a rosemary sprig and a garlic sliver on one end of a halved strip of pancetta and roll it up tightly. Repeat with the other pieces of pancetta until you have 12 little rolls. Stab the thighs and drumsticks of the turkey in 6 places on each side. Push a little pancetta roll into each hole until it just peeps out.

Chop the remaining onions in half and slice the carrots thickly. Give your turkey a good wipe, inside and out, with kitchen paper, and place it on a board, with the neck end towards you. Find the edge of the skin that’s covering the turkey’s breasts and gently peel it back. Work your fingers and then your hand under the skin, freeing it from the meat. If you’re careful you should be able to pull all the skin away from the meat, keeping it attached at the sides. Go slowly and try not to make any holes! Lift the loose skin at the neck end and spoon the stuffing between the skin and the breast, tucking the flap of skin underneath to stop anything leaking out. Pop the orange in the microwave for 30 seconds to warm it up and stuff it into the cavity. Weigh the stuffed turkey and calculate the cooking time (about 20 minutes per 500g/1lb 2oz).

Place the bird on a large roasting tray, rub it all over with olive oil and season well. Surround with the chopped carrots, onions, remaining garlic, cover with tinfoil and place in the preheated oven. Turn the heat down right away to 180°C/350°F/gas 4, and roast for the calculated time, or until the juices run clear from the thigh if you pierce with it a knife or a skewer. Remove the tinfoil for the last 45 minutes to brown the bird. Carefully lift the turkey out of the tray and rest on a board that’s covered loosely with foil for 20 minutes while you finish off the veg and gravy. Skim the surface fat from the roasting tray and add the flour and stock. Place the tray on the hob and bring to the boil on a high heat. When the gravy starts to thicken, strain it into a bowl. Carve your turkey, serve with the gravy and trimmings.

Bird 2:
Turkey a la John Torode

4.5kg turkey, with giblets removed and cavity wiped clean
100g butter, softened
2 tsp sea salt
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 large onions, halved

Method:
The bird should be prepared the night before. Mix the butter with the salt and freshly ground black pepper, then season the cavity of the bird.

Rub the butter mix all over the turkey. Fold a large piece of greaseproof paper to double thickness and lay over the breast to protect it during the cooking. Leave it in the fridge overnight.

On the day you wish to serve the bird heat the oven to 220C/430F/Gas 7. Take the turkey out of the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature while the oven is heating up.

Put the onions in a large roasting tray. Put the turkey on a trivet or wire rack in the tray.

Pour one cup of boiling water into the cavity of the bird and seal with a skewer. Pour two cups of boiling water into the bottom of the tin, then cover the whole thing with two layers of foil, making sure it is well sealed around the edges.

Cook for 20 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 200C/400F/Gas 6. After 1½ hours, remove the foil and greaseproof paper. Cook for a further 40 minutes and don’t open the oven door until the cooking time is up.

To test whether the turkey is cooked, insert a skewer or knife blade into the point where the thigh joins the breast – the juice should run clear. If it is pink, cook it for another 20 minutes and test again. Leave the turkey to rest in a warm place for at least 15 minutes before carving.

Strain the juice from the bottom of the tin into a large jug – the fat will rise to the top, leaving the aromatic turkey and onion beneath. Skim off the fat use the juices to make a gravy or serve as it is.

Bird 3:
Turkey a la Phil Vickery

5 kg Bronze turkey, with giblets and the wish bone removed.
2 large carrots, peeled
2 large onion, peeled
6 sticks of celery
1 leek
2 bay leaves
2 chicken stock cubes
½ bottle dry white wine
2 pints cold water
salt and freshly ground black pepper
55g melted butter
2 tbsp roughly cornflour
4-6 tbsp cold water

Method:
Pre-heat the oven to 200°C gas 6. First job is to remove the giblets from the bird and if you are using a frozen bird, then make sure that it is fully defrosted.

Season the bird well inside and out well with salt and pepper and pack the stuffing into the body cavity. Tie the legs and the Parsons nose together with a piece of string and secure well, so the stuffing is held inside the bird.

Chop all the vegetables into large chunks and place in the bottom of a large baking tray – place the turkey on top. The tray should be large enough so the bird has at least 2 inches gap around.
Pour in the white wine, cold water and chicken stock cube, and place the whole tray on to the stove.
Bring to the boil and cover tightly with two layers of foil and pop into a preheated oven. Cook the bird for about 2 hours, approximately.

To check if the bird is cooked, remove from the oven carefully as there will be a lot of stock, wine and turkey juices. Remove the foil and insert a knife where the thigh attaches itself to the body of the bird, the juices should run clear. If not, then cover again with foil and cook for a further 20 minutes.

When the bird is cooked, remove from the oven, turn the oven up to 230 degrees C, Gas 8, brush with the melted butter and cook until browned, about 15 minutes. When nicely browned, remove from the oven and carefully, tip off all the stock and keep warm. Wrap the turkey in foil to keep warm, it will keep perfectly wrapped for 1 hour. Re-boil the stock and juices – you may need to add a little more water in a saucepan – and skim well. Mix the cornflour and water together and thicken the bubbling stock. Carve the bird – the flesh will be soft and juicy, and serve the gravy and stuffing separately.

Bird 4:
Nutmeg roasted turkey a la Steve Parle

1 free-range or organic bronze turkey (5kg will serve 10)
A bunch of thyme
2 bay leaves
1 head of garlic, broken into cloves, unpeeled
3 onions, quartered
1 celery heart, quartered
4 carrots, peeled and halved lengthways
125g butter
2 nutmegs
1 lemon, halved horizontally
½ bottle white wine

Method:
On Christmas Eve, just before going to bed, cover the turkey inside and out with sea salt, put in a bag and pop into the fridge. Take it out 2-4 hours before you want to cook. Rinse the turkey and pat dry with kitchen paper.

Preheat the oven to 475F/240C/gas 9, or its hottest setting. Season the cavity of the bird, then stuff a couple of thyme sprigs, a few cloves of garlic and the bay leaves inside. Place the onions, remaining garlic cloves, celery heart and carrots in your largest baking tray and scatter over the remaining thyme sprigs.

Grate one of the nutmegs into the butter and season it well. Mix with your fingers to combine, then carefully push half the butter under the skin, paying attention not to break it. Spread it out with your fingers, then rub the remaining butter around the outside of the bird. Squeeze the lemon halves over the bird, then stuff them into the cavity. Grate the remaining nutmeg over the turkey and in the cavity, season with a little salt, then sit the turkey on top of the vegetables.

Cover with tinfoil and place in the oven. Immediately turn the oven down to 350F/180C/gas 4 and roast for 15 minutes per 450g (1lb). Remove the foil for the last hour and pour the wine over for the final half-hour.

Once the turkey looks golden and delicious, test by prodding the fattest part of the thigh with a knife – if the juices run clear, you’re good to go. Once cooked, remove the turkey from the tin (keep all the juices for the gravy) and transfer to a warm plate to rest. Cover tightly with a layer of foil and a tea towel, and another layer of foil to keep it warm. Rest for an hour while you cook everything else.

Bird 5:
Turkey a la Gordon Ramsey

For the herb butter
250g pack unsalted butter, softened
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
sprig of fresh rosemary, chopped leaves only
2 tbsp fresh parsley leaves, chopped
salt
freshly ground black pepper
5-6kg medium-sized turkey
3 or 4 good quality, thick sausages, skins removed

For the stuffing
125g butter
1 onion, finely chopped
large sprig of thyme and rosemary, chopped leaves only
200g white breadcrumbs
6 fresh sage leaves
1 lemon, zest only
50g pine nuts
1 tsp sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

For the gravy
1 onion or large shallot, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
125ml dry white wine
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
500ml chicken stock
200ml double cream
pan juices from roasting
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Method:
Pre-heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 Make the herb butter, mix herbs and butter together to form a paste, season well and chill.

Prepare the turkey, to remove legs, cut through the skin and pull joint firmly away from body then cut through ball and socket joints. Cut away the ‘oyster’ on the back of the turkey so leg and thigh comes away cleanly. With a thin, sharp knife, bone both legs and stuff with sausage meat. Wrap tightly in tin foil and chill to set the shape.

Prepare the crown, cut off wing tips and, for easier carving, take out the wishbone and cut away back bone with poultry shears. Lift up the breast skin with your fingers and separate it from the flesh. Divide the herb butter between the two breast flaps and pull the skin back over. Season well, place in a roasting tin and cover loosely with butter paper or foil.

Cook the turkey, put the foil-wrapped legs in a roasting pan and cook at 180C/350F/Gas4 for 45 minutes. Reduce temperature to 160C/320F/Gas 2 and cook for a further 15 minutes then remove foil and cook for a further 30 minutes, straining off any juices for the gravy.

Cook the crown for 1-1½ hours at 180C/350F/Gas 4 until juices run clear and let the bird rest for 30 minutes before carving.

Make the stuffing, melt butter in a large frying pan and gently sauté onion for five minutes until soft. Stir in the herbs for one minute then add breadcrumbs to absorb butter.

Mix in zest, pine nuts and seasoning and cook over medium heat for about seven minutes until crumbs start to brown and crisp. Take off the heat, mix in the parsley and serve warm.

Make the gravy, sauté the onion in the olive oil for about five minutes. Pour in the wine, add the thyme and bay and boil until reduced right down. Add stock and boil until reduced by half then add cream and boil for further five minutes. Season with freshly ground black pepper.

Remove from heat, cool for ten minutes and strain. Add turkey pan juices, boil for two minutes, season with salt and strain.

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