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Roast Christmas Turkey

Extract from Roast • By Marcus Verberne • Published by Bloomsbury


$ $ $ $ $
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I have always preferred to remove the legs from the turkey, stuff them and cook them separately from the crown, the day before. It reduces the cooking time drastically and means that most of the preparation can be done the day before, giving you more time to spend with your family.

When buying your turkey, go to a good butcher. Try to find a bronze turkey as their flavour is superior. They are a bit more expensive but as with most things, you get what you pay for. White turkeys can be good if they’ve been reared slowly and given enough time for their flavour to develop. Never buy a frozen turkey. They take so much time to defrost fully that it can become dangerous to eat them.

It’s really important to have a temperature probe when cooking a turkey. If you decide to cook your bird with the legs separate, probe into the thickest part of the breast. If you choose the more traditional approach, place the probe into the inside of the thigh.
The temperature should reach 72oC.

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© 2022 Marcus Verberne / Bloomsbury · Reproduced with permission. · Extract taken from Roast: a very British cookbook by Marcus Verberne (Absolute Press), £25.00, Hardback Photography © Lara Holmes
  • Step 1

    Preparing the stuffing

    Remove the giblets from inside the cavity of the turkey. Reserve the neck and gizzard for the gravy and roughly chop the heart, liver and kidneys to use in the stuffing.

    Heat a saucepan over a medium heat and melt the butter. Add the onion and sage and season with a little salt and pepper. Cook the onion for about 4-5 minutes, until it’s soft and translucent. Add the breadcrumbs and mix well before removing from the heat to cool.
    Once cool, add the sausage meat and
    the chopped offal and mix thoroughly until all ingredients are combined. Keep covered in the fridge until required.

  • Step 2

    Preparing the turkey

    Remove the turkey’s legs by opening them out and cutting the skin with a sharp knife, down the inside of each one. Open the legs further and pop each leg, one at a time, out of the turkey’s hip sockets. Cut between the now open socket and the thigh bone all the way through, removing the legs one at a time.

  • Step 3

    Remove the thigh bone from each leg by slicing down each side of the bone and then underneath it, being careful not to leave too much meat attached to the bone. Pop the thigh bone out of its socket and cut through any tendons holding it in place. With the thigh bone removed, slice down the full length of the inside of the remaining leg bone, all the way to the bone and open it up. Remove the leg bone from each leg by slicing down each side of the bone and then underneath it detaching it at the end knuckle.

  • Step 4

    The sinews in a turkey’s legs are more like little bones. These will all need to be carefully removed using a small knife before stuffing the legs. Pull off the skin from each boneless leg in one piece,
    and reserve.

  • Step 5

    Lay a sheet of clingfilm on a solid area of work surface and place the first boneless turkey leg on top with the inside facing upwards. Place another sheet of clingfilm over the leg and using a meat tenderiser or the bottom of a small solid saucepan, give the leg a few solid taps, flattening it out. Don’t bash it too hard. Many lighter taps are more effective than a few hard taps, or you risk tearing the meat. Repeat the process with the remaining leg.

  • Step 6

    Spread the skin of each leg out flat on the worktop with the inside of the skin facing up. Place the flattened legs inside the skin. Season each one. Place a log of stuffing down the middle of each leg and roll the legs inside the skin, wrapping the stuffing inside. Tie the stuffed legs with cooking string to hold them together. Roll the tied legs tightly in many layers of clingfilm, twisting and tying the clingfilm in a tight knot at each end to seal them in. Bring a pan of water to the boil and poach the legs for 20 minutes, until cooked through. Remove from the water and allow to cool, still wrapped in the clingfilm.

  • Step 7

    To prepare the crown, using sturdy kitchen scissors, cut through the ribcage along either side of the breast. To remove the backbone, continue cutting all the way through the bones just underneath the wing where it joins the carcass. You should be fine cutting the ribcage with scissors, but you may need a cleaver to get through the heavier bones to remove the backbone. Once removed, chop the backbone into six pieces and reserve with the giblets for the gravy.

  • Step 8

    Using the heel of a heavy knife or a cleaver, remove the wings at the second joint and chop them each into three pieces. Place the chopped wings with the rest of the bones reserved for
    the gravy.

  • Step 9

    To roast the turkey, remove the crown from the fridge 2 hours before cooking to allow it to come to room temperature. Preheat your oven to 200oC/Gas Mark 6.

  • Step 10

    Place the crown in a large roasting tray and rub it with the butter. Season the skin liberally and cover the tray with foil. Place the crown in the oven and roast for 80 minutes, basting regularly.
    Place the reserved bones and vegetables in a separate tray and roast these on the shelf under the turkey for about 45 minutes turning them from time to time so they brown evenly.

  • Step 11

    To prepare the legs, remove the clingfilm from each one. Heat a frying pan over a medium heat, and in a little vegetable oil, fry them on all sides until the skin is crispy and browned, then transfer to a roasting tin.

  • Step 12

    Fifteen minutes before the turkey is due to be ready, remove the foil and increase the temperature of the oven to 220oC/Gas Mark 6 to brown the skin. Before removing the turkey crown from the oven, make sure its core temperature has reached 72oC. If not, leave in the oven until it has, covered with foil if it’s browning too quickly. Once out of the oven, rest the crown for 20 minutes. While it’s resting turn the oven back down to 200oC/Gas Mark 6 and roast the rolled legs for 20 minutes. Serve with all the trimmings.

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