Back from a lazy long weekend here is the recipe for our Thanksgiving turkey – with plenty of time until next year, or a head start for Christmas if turkey happens to be on your menu.
Apple chestnut stuffing
I am not bound by tradition when it comes to stuffing, so I don’t consider it essential to include bread. This recipe was initially inspired by a goose stuffed with lady apples but has evolved quite a bit.
For a 16-18lb (7-7.5 kg) turkey:
1 large bunch parsley
2 handfuls fresh thyme
2 handfuls fresh sage
10 thick slices bacon
800 g (5 cups) whole peeled cooked chestnuts
8 medium-sized tart apples
5 medium-sized red onions
Maldon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Pick leaves from herbs and discard stalks. Set aside.
Place half the slices of bacon in a large skillet over medium heat. Once it is brown and crispy on one side, turn over until brown and crispy on the other. Remove from skillet and set aside, keeping rendered fat in the pan.
Peel, core, and cut apples into quarters, then cut each quarter in half crosswise. Brown apples in bacon fat for 3-5 minutes over high heat.
Crumble 2/3 of the chestnuts, leaving about a third whole, and add them all to the apples. Stir to combine and remove from heat. Chop the thyme and sage and add to the apple/chestnut mixture. Transfer to a bowl.
Place the remaining slices of bacon in skillet over medium heat and repeat browning process. Remove from skillet and set aside, keeping rendered fat in the pan. Slice onions and cook them in bacon fat until translucid and just starting to brown. Add to apple/chestnut/herb mixture.
Chop bacon, chop parsley leaves, add to the rest of the stuffing, season generously with salt and pepper, and mix carefully.
I don’t make turkey often enough to have acquired proficiency in roasting the birds, but they have usually turned out anywhere from quite fine to fairly spectacular. I am refining the technique, one turkey a year at a time, to hit the high moisture marks every time. These are the steps I followed this year, with decent, though improvable results. 29 November 2010
Note from 25 November 2011: I edited the recipe slightly and reduced cooking times after another Thanksgiving turkey cooking adventure this year.
16-18 lb (7-7.5 kg) heritage turkey
Coarse gray sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Take turkey out of refrigerator well in advance (for example before you start making the stuffing), so it has time to come to room temperature.
Preheat oven to 475°F (245°C).
Once turkey is at room temperature, separate skin from breast meat and rub softened butter onto breasts. Season inside of turkey, then spoon stuffing into the two cavities, front and back, and sew shut with kitchen string. Rub skin on all sides with generous amount of coarse sea salt and black pepper, and tie legs together with string.
Place turkey in a roasting tray, breast side down, and roast for 10 minutes. Turn turkey breast side up and roast for another 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350°F (175°C), add a little water at the bottom of the pan, and roast for about 3 to 3 1/2 hours, or until a thermometer* inserted in the inner thigh registers 150°F (65°C). While the turkey cooks, place a wet muslin cloth over the breasts and baste over the cloth and legs regularly, adding water to the juices if needed. Remove the cloth after about 3 hours to allow the skin to become very crispy.
Let the turkey stand for 45 minutes. Meanwhile reduce the juices and make the gravy, but I won’t tell you how because I prefer to just reduce the juices, keep them piping hot, and pour them over the meat before serving. (Full disclosure: I have asked willing guests to make gravy in the past couple of years, and I must admit it was very good – maybe next year I will tackle the sauce myself).
Check at the joints of the thighs and legs. If they are still uncooked (juices running bloody), remove from the turkey, return to the oven, and cook for another 25-30 minutes or until the juices run clear.
Carve and serve breasts, thighs, and legs.
*I acquired a thermometer unintentionally when the owner of Flying Pigs Farm gave me one at the market one day. He was obviously nervous I might overcook the beautiful loin roast I had just bought from him. I must admit the thermometer came in handy for the pork, and is very useful for turkey.