Sunday, 11 January 2009

Perfect Christmas turkey?

This year I was cooking a small Christmas dinner, just for 7. Last year, I did duck breasts with a port and fig glaze, which was glorious, but this year, I wanted to remind myself of home a bit, so decided to do a turkey. I had planned to do my prosciutto and leek stuffing, but when I heard that one of the guests doesn't eat pork, did a bit of a rearrangement. So it was roast turkey with a leek and chestnut stuffing instead.

I also decided to try brining for the first time. I used a modified Nigella recipe for the brine:

1 turkey (3 kilos)
1 cup sea salt
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon allspice berries
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
2 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly smashed

I mixed the brining ingredients, and, putting the turkey into a plastic food bag, poured the brine over it and sealed it. I kept the turkey in the fridge overnight.

The stuffing was pretty straight forward.

4 small cleaned leaks, sliced and then sweated in butter until soft
1 loaf of white bread, a little stale, torn up into small pieces
500g cooked chestnuts
3 eggs

Mix the ingredients together and stuff into the bird. Easy eh? Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Put a piece of baking paper on top of the bird in a deep oven tray, then cover the whole thing with foil and seal in.

Bake for 30 minutes at the higher temperature then drop the temperature down to 180 degrees. Total roasting time is an hour per kilo. I took off the paper and foil about 45 minutes before the time was up to allow the skin to brown. Rest a little before carving.

I was a bit cynical about whether brining really would make a difference, but some research came up with some scientific reasoning, and now having done it, I can confirm that it really does make for a moist and tender bird. The only negative is that I thought that the meat did end up a little salty and I can imagine my parents chucking a fit about the evils of salting food. (They keep no salt in the house at all... I can live with that but for two things: boiled eggs and gravy) None of the dinner guests found the bird salty I should add!

Photo courtesy of Ed


Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

It looks delicious! I love stuffed turkey!

Cheers and Happy New Year!


Cynthia said...

Hi Hon, if I wanted to make the leek-prosciutto stuffing, would I just replace the prosciutto in the amount that you have stated of the chestnuts?

Cynthia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joie de vivre said...

After brining one year, I loved the results so much that now I do it every year. It's just a pain to find a place to keep it cool while it brines, but worth it.

Kiriel du Papillon said...

Cynthia: I think you would find that 250g of proscuitto would be enough - more than that, and its flavour dominates the leeks. You can use more chestnuts as their flavour is so mild.

Joie: I am a convert now that is for sure! It is easier to keep things cool while I am living in Europe as at this time of year my balcony becomes my extra fridge. Back in Australia I guess it wasn't such an issue either as I used to do a lot of catering so have 3 extra fridges in my garage just for such occasions.

Toasty said...

the brining thing is really interesting - have never heard about it. I'd be interested in trying it but cautious about doing a whole expensive thing that way.

I can't stand cooking with salt for a lot of things, like boiling potatoes for instance. I will add a bit of salt to a potato on my plate but the taste of a potato boiled in salted water makes me gag.

you're making me think now!