Preparation time: 1 hour plus overnight brine
Cooking time: 4.5 hrs plus 1 hour resting
Whether it’s Christmas or Thanksgiving, many traditionalists will insist that it’s just not the same without a good old roast turkey forming the centrepiece of the festive meal. Paired with all the familiar trimmings and lashings of delicious gravy, sometimes tradition is truly hard to beat. Safe to say we want it to be done well – the last thing anybody wants is a dry bird. This recipe suggests a few easy tweaks to the basic approach, to safeguard against this fowl crime. Firstly: brine. Submerging the turkey for a good amount of time in brine will help to boost juiciness, and the addition of a few aromatics will complement the natural flavours of the bird. Second: butter. Lathering copious amounts of flavoured butter under the skin, directly onto the breasts will baste and season them internally as they cook, again serving to keep that all-important moisture locked in. Third: accuracy. Cooking to exact internal temperatures with the help of a meat thermometer will ensure against overcooking, and undercooking for that matter. These simple steps will help to make your bird that extra bit special; after all, your friends and loved ones deserve it.
1 x 9kg free-range turkey, use the trimmings and giblets for the gravy (right, below)
For the brine - you can skip the brine is still have a lovely Roast
8 litres of water
250g sea salt
250g brown sugar
8 bay leaves
1 lemon, zested and sliced
2 tbsp peppercorns
1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
For the compound butter
250g unsalted butter, slightly softened
1 tbsp truffle salt (you can use any other flavour, or regular sea salt)
½ cup (packed) finely chopped fresh rosemary, sage, thyme and parsley
½ tbsp freshly ground black pepper
For the stuffing or CHEAT and order from The Butchery Ltd
600g sausage meat
24 rashers rindless streaky bacon
400g day old bread, cut into 1cm cubes
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 sticks celery, finely chopped
10g fresh sage, finely chopped
½ a nutmeg, finely grated
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large egg
½ tbsp freshly ground black pepper
Salt, to taste
For the gravy
turkey trimmings – neck, wing tips…etc
4 chicken wings, jointed
turkey giblets (optional)
2 large onions, roughly chopped
500ml white wine, reduced to 250ml over a medium heat
500ml good chicken stock
3 tbsp plain flour
turkey roasting juices and 3 tbsp of reserved turkey fat
5. Meanwhile, prepare the flavoured butter. Place all of the ingredients in a small bowl and combine well. Next prep the turkey to receive the butter. Working from the top of the breast, the neck area, carefully loosen/separate the skin away from the meat, taking care not to tear the skin. The flat plastic handle of a spatula or similar can be useful to reach the far end of the breast, particularly with larger birds. Place half of the butter under the skin on one breast, and gently work the butter down by pressing the skin to evenly coat as much of the breast as possible. Repeat for the other breast.
6. Lightly rub the skin with olive oil and season the bird inside and out with salt and pepper. Place any leftover fresh herbs inside the cavity, along with some lemon zest if desired. Tie the legs together with some butcher’s string. Insert an oven-proof meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh, without contacting any bone. Cover the turkey loosely with foil and place in the preheated oven.
7. Roast the bird for 40 minutes initially at 200C, then turn the oven down to 150C. Continue to roast until the internal temperature reads 65C (about 3 to 4 hours depending on the size of the bird), basting every 30 mins or so.
9. Once the temperature of the turkey has reached 65C, turn the oven back up to 200C, remove the foil and continue to roast for approximately 30 more minutes, until the internal temperature reads 75C. This is also a good time to pop the stuffing into the oven (you want this to ultimately reach an internal temperature of 75C, also).
11. To finish the gravy, pour the contents of the roasting tin into a jug and allow the roasting juices and the fats to settle. Using either a baster or a spoon, separate the fat and the roasting juices. Place 3 tbsp of the fat into the roasting tin and place over a high heat. Once bubbling, add the flour and cook for a couple of minutes or until the flour is lightly browned and cooked out. Deglaze the pan with the roasting juices, ensuring all sticky bits are scraped from the base of the pan, before adding to the saucepan of simmering stock along with any resting juices from the turkey. Turn the heat up on the saucepan to reduce the gravy to the desired consistency. Pass the gravy through a strainer and reserve until required. For the stuffing, remove from the oven after 1 hour – like the turkey, check that the internal temperature has also reached 75C before allowing to rest for a few minutes.
Free-range bronze turkeys farmed by Nick & Jacob, Fosse Meadows, Leicestershire, are available to order for Christmas at The Butchery Ltd, while stocks last.