Preparation time: 1 hour, plus overnight dry brine
Cooking time: 2.5 hours
With its rich, meaty and slightly gamey flavour, cockerel makes a delicious alternative to turkey at the Christmas table. Paired with a superb stuffing made in-house by The Butchery Ltd, and an earthy morel cream sauce for a little hit of luxury, this flavoursome bird is sure to impress.
This is by no means a quick, everyday recipe. But if there was one time of the year where you wanted to go all out and fancied pulling together something a little special, this could be one for you.
1 x 4kg Fosse Meadows free-range Cotswold Gold or White cockerel
Herb butter (from below)
6 fresh sage leaves
2tbsp sea salt
For the herb butter
200g butter, softened
1 tbsp fennel seeds
Zest of 1 orange
10 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
2 tsp smoked garlic powder
2 tsp fresh ground pepper
Salt, to taste
For the stuffing log
500g pork, black pudding and prune stuffing (freshly made by The Butchery Ltd) if you don't fancy black pudding we there are others options or make your own.
Cockerel giblets, finely chopped (Note: do not use the neck)
12 rashers smoked streaky bacon
For the morel cream sauce
30g dried morel mushrooms, rehydrated in 200ml boiling water, rubbed to remove any grit,
Note: if you can’t find dried morels, dried porcini or shiitake also works well. Also, do not discard the water used to rehydrate the mushrooms as this contains precious flavour!
1 tbsp butter
2 shallots, finely chopped
300ml good quality chicken stock (fresh often in stock at The Butchery Ltd or order)
150ml double cream
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
The first 3 steps of this recipe are jobs that can and should be done in advance – because, let’s face it, the last thing you want is to be stuck in the kitchen slaving away for hours on Christmas Day!
1. Dry the skin of the bird with kitchen paper. Season well with sea salt inside and out making sure to work the salt into every nook and cranny. Place the seasoned bird on a tray and leave uncovered in the fridge for 12-24 hours. This process is called dry brining. As well as allowing time for the salt to penetrate and season the meat, this aids to intensify the natural flavour of the bird as well as keeping it juicy and succulent whilst cooking.
2. To make the stuffing log, combine the stuffing mix with the chopped giblets. (Note: if you prefer not to use the giblets, it will still taste great if you leave them out). Lay out about 30cm of cling film onto a work surface. Place the streaky rashers on the cling film, overlapping each one with the next. Leave about 5cm clear on each side. Place the stuffing mixture across the centre of the bacon sheet in a log shape. Wrap the bacon around the stuffing, and tightly wrap the cling film around. Pinch and twist the ends to seal, trying to remove as much air as possible. Tightly wrap the stuffing log lengthways with another layer of cling film to make it watertight. In a pot large enough to fit the stuffing log, half fill with water and bring to a simmer. Place the stuffing log in the water and simmer for 20mins. Remove from water, allow to cool, then place in the fridge until required.
4. When you’re ready to roast, take the cockerel from the fridge, place on a roasting tin and allow to come up to room temperature. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 220C. Lightly oil the skin of the bird with some mild olive oil. Place an ovenproof meat thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh meat, taking care to ensure it is not touching any bone. Put the bird in the preheated oven and after 10mins turn the temperature of the oven down to 170C. Roast until the internal temperature reads 65C, basting the bird with its own juices every 20-25mins. Take the bird from the oven, place on a plate and allow to rest in a warm place, uncovered, for at least 25mins. As it rests the temperature of the bird will continue to rise to a perfectly moist and succulent 75C. This is known as carry-over cooking. Note: If you don’t have a meat thermometer, roast for approximately 30mins per kilo or until the juices run clear from the thigh when pierced with a skewer or knife.
6. To make the morel cream sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until translucent. If there are any large morels, cut them in half lengthways. Turn up the heat, and add all of the mushrooms to the pan, and sauté for 2 mins. Next, add the reserved morel water taking care not to add any of the grit which will have settled at the bottom of the bowl. Meanwhile, take the cockerel roasting tin and skim off the excess fat. (Tip: Reserve fat for Leftovers Pie). Place the roasting pan over a high heat and once hot, deglaze the pan with the marsala. Once the alcohol has boiled away, add the chicken stock and any resting juices from the cockerel. After boiling for 2 mins, transfer the contents of the roasting tin to the pan with the morels and shallots. Reduce by half. Finally, add the cream and allow to boil for 2-3 mins or until the sauce has reduced to a consistency that coats the back of a spoon. If the sauce becomes too thick, simply add a splash of hot water to rehydrate. Check seasoning – add salt and pepper to taste. Turn the heat to lowest setting and keep warm until required.
Simpler version and Leftovers Pie recipe next......
Recipe and photos by Mike Heywood, South London resident, regular customer, pork devotee, home chef and instagrammer extraordinaire. To see more stay tuned to this blog or follow Mike on Instagram @4TELIER
Meat by The Butchery Ltd and Nick and Jacob at Fosse Meadows Farm