Are you hosting Christmas this year? Are your knees already knocking at the thought of banging out a feast for the five thousand? Does cooking with turkey terrify you? Maybe it’s the only time of year you cook with the bird.
Well here’s a handy guide to taking the stress out of the Christmas Roast gleaned from Marco Pierre White at a special event I went to recently hosted by the Lean On Turkey campaign.
I know I know, it’s far too early to be thinking about Christmas, but why not print this out now and store it ready for the big-build-up.
Marco’s tips for making Christmas Dinner
Just buy a turkey crown – it’s quicker to cook, easier to carve and takes up less space. Take the wishbone out – or get the butcher to do it for you – it makes carving easier! To stuff the crown, pull the skin back slightly and insert the stuffing into the neck end only. Pull the skin back over the meat to seal it into place.
Stuffed turkey thighs are also delicious if you’re a fan of the juicier dark meat. To stuff the thigh joints, peel back the skin, insert the stuffing underneath and pull the skin back over to seal.
Bring the bird to room temperature before it goes in the oven and it’ll cook quicker. Get it out of the fridge at least an hour in advance.
Baste the bird with melted butter to protect the bird while it cooks.
Don’t over-cook the turkey – no one likes dry stringy meat and that’s what gives the bird a bad name. Use a meat probe to see if it’s cooked. 72C thigh 66C breast. If you don’t have one simply insert a skewer and if the juices run clear it’s done, if they’re pinkish return to the oven for a bit longer and test again.
Let the turkey rest under some foil once it’s out of the oven, as it’ll result in juicier more tender flesh. It’ll also give you a chance to free up some oven space to finish off any of the trimmings like stuffing balls or pigs in blankets.
Carving – use a sharp, good quality carving knife and be confident! Make sure you use the full length of the knife in long, smooth motions to avoid pulling the slices back and forth, as this will cause the meat to break into pieces.
Make the gravy first or even the day before to get a head start. Roast legs and wings (use chicken if you like) in a baking dish with butter, onions and garlic for 3o-45 minutes, add water and some gravy paste and simmer for an hour and 30 mins then sieve and skim off the fat. Thicken with cornflour mixed with a little water and add gradually until it’s as thick as you like it.
Prep ahead veggies – there are vegetable sides you can make in advance to save you juggling multiple pans on the hob – braised red cabbage or swede mash are winter classics. Try roasting frozen sprouts in butter to get away from that old school boiled vibe.
Marco’s roasties – par boil the spuds until the edges start to fray, drain and cool. Preheat the butter/oil in the roasting tin and then add the potatoes – roast and do not take them out to shake them, let them form a glorious crispy crust.
Make your own cranberry sauce – it’ll taste divine and your guests will be impressed. It also makes fabulous gifts if you’re visiting friends and relatives over the festive season and want to take something a bit different.
Marco’s Cranberry Sauce
100ml orange juice
Cook the fruit and sugar together in a large pan and bring to the boil, once the fruit starts to break down add the liquid and simmer until spoonable jam-like consistency. Pot in clean glass jars, seal and store in the fridge.
Need more info about cooking with turkey? Average cooking temperatures, times, instructions and tips for birds of all weights are available at www.leanonturkey.co.uk
Disclosure: Travel expenses were covered to attend this masterclass with Marco Pierre White and I have been paid to share these tips with you.