The Christmas turkey that is…
Recently it seems that cooking your stuffing separately to the bird has become fashionable. And with good reason – it is delicious that way. I like the traditional method as well and it has its benefits when it comes to the cooking but I think on the whole I prefer it cooked separately. If you are going to do this then it is a good idea to stuff the cavity with something nice but disposable too so the breast doesn’t cook from the inside as well. Something nice could be a big lump of bread soaked in wine, thyme, black pepper, lemon zest, the lemon itself, juniper berries. This will encourage even cooking throughout.
For the outside stuffing get some minced belly pork, some cubes of white bread (NOT brown, it’s Christmas for Christ’s sake), some thyme, salt, pepper, lemon zest, sage, bay leaf, lard, parsley and some peeled, diced apple. Put all of these things into a bowl and mix together nicely. Then pack it all into dish that will look good on your table but also can go in the oven. Cover it with silver foil and bake that mother. Bake it at 180 degrees with the fan or 220 degrees without. When the fat starts to bubble and sizzle take off the silver foil and keep cooking it till forms a crust. Take it from the oven and keep it warm until the rest of the meal is ready. This can be done in advance and then reheated but avoid this if you can.
A really funky, simple yet whisk-you-away-with-excellence touch are prunes stuffed with pate. Good pate is remarkably simple to make and tres tres satisfying. Both prunes and pate last for days so you can get them done well ahead of time.
Firstly soak the stoned prunes in almagnac if you can get it or brandy if you cain’t. Soak them for 12 hours more or less (they can happily sit in the liquour for months so don’t worry about precise timing).
Make your pate with the liver that came with your turkey. If your turkey has been eviscerated and some thief has stolen YOUR liver then get some goose, duck or chicken livers instead (in that order). Melt some butter in a pan and then add a rasher of chopped smoked streaky (the best brand available on the island is Oscar Meyer) and some thyme and cook them in the butter. When the bacon begins to be cooked add the cleaned livers and turn up the heat. Stir them round and round until they start to colour and begin cooking through. At this point add salt, pepper and brandy. Ignite the brandy being careful to pay attention to just how beautiful that little moment is. If you’ve got some port hanging around then add a glug of that too. Cook out most of the liquid and remove from the heat. Chop it or mash it up and then cool it. When it is cool stuff each prune with some of the pate. Keep them in the fridge until the morning of your feast, when you’ll add them to the juices in the bottom of the pan half an hour before the bird comes out of the oven.
And now for the bird itself. Cook that sucker upside down. The trick with all large bird roasting is not drying the breasts out before the legs are done and a way to avoid this is to cook it upside down until just before the end. This way the breast is away from the heat and the juices and fat from the underside of the bird have to run past the breast. Most of the fat and a good deal of the juices are concentrated in the wings, legs and undercarriage so having those juices running past the breast makes good sense.
A last piece of advice – if you can, pop out and buy an old finca with a wood burning stove and cook the turkey in that. Gives it a certain je ne c’est quoi.