Thursday, 30 August 2012

First, Catch Your Turkey

I grew up in the country, which meant that my first experiences of turkey involved wild turkeys.  Wild turkeys are generally fairly large, bony birds with a gamey flavour and a tendency to dry out on cooking (not to mention that they arrive intact, feathers and all).  They don’t roast particularly well, and are usually boned out or casseroled.

I’ve only ever cooked bought turkey a couple of times and have been lulled into thinking that they can be treated like chickens.  Despite experimenting with brining, I have been vaguely dissatisfied with the results – too dry and lacking any depth of flavour. 

I recently found myself gazing into the local butcher’s freezer at his supply of turkeys… and before I knew it, the smallest size turkey was coming home with me.  I spent my time on the bus to work thinking about my problems with cooking turkey, and eventually came to the conclusion that the turkey would benefit from braising.  So what does one do when faced with a turkey dilemma?  Turn to the experts!  One little search on the interweb and I discovered a Mr Michael Ruhlman, and his braised turkey recipe.  There wasn't a lot I could do to improve on it, so here it is, with a few little adjustments!

Tender Braised Turkey

1 turkey (that will fit in your braising dish – mine was around 3.5kg)
1 lemon, quartered
2-3 cups white wine
1-2 litres chicken stock
1-2 carrots, roughly chopped
1-2 onions, roughly chopped
2 stalks celery, roughly chopped (including leaves)
Handful of fresh parsley, thyme and oregano sprigs
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 200 C.

Place the lemon inside the turkey, along with some of the herbs and some onion.  Place the turkey into the braising dish, along with all other ingredients (I only add a pinch of salt at this stage and adjust at the end).  The liquid should be covering about 2/3 of the turkey.
Place into the oven, uncovered.  After 15 minutes, turn down to 180 C.  Baste with cooking liquid about every 15 minutes.  After 1 hour, remove from oven and rest for 5 minutes. It should be nicely browned.
Carefully remove the breast, including the ribcage.  To do this, I used a sharp knife to cut diagonally from the neck across the top of the wings, and then used kitchen scissors to cut around the sides of the breast and lift it off.  Cover the breast and rest.

Return the braising dish to the oven, with the remaining parts of the turkey submerged in the braising liquid.  Cook for another 30 minutes.  Remove the turkey from the braising liquid and scoop out all the flavouring vegetables (I didn't sieve the liquid as I like to have a slightly rustic gravy).  Skim off any visible fat.  Bring the braising liquid to a boil for 5 minutes, then add 1 tbsp cornflour dissolved in a little water, and stir until thickened.  Taste the gravy and adjust to taste – some redcurrant jelly (or cranberry) for sweetness, salt and pepper. Remove from the heat.

Joint the legs and wings and place in the gravy.  Remove the breast meat from the bones, slice, and place in the gravy.  We served it straight away, but it would easily keep for another 30 minutes on a very slow element, or in the turned-off oven.
Serve with potatoes and green vegetables.

Leftovers freeze well in the gravy, and make for a delicious emergency dinner on rice with vegetables!

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