Dry Turkey on Thanksgiving (or Christmas)… Never!

Turkey & Trimmings!

By By Guest Chef: Harvey Pincis

I cannot recollect when my much better half and I started stuffing turkey with rice and fruit, but I guess like all things it was a matter of evolution. Hailing from the potato consuming north, rice was not a usual or frequent part of the home kitchen. For my wife, however, rice plays a much bigger role in Egyptian cuisine. Somehow, ‘my’ Northern Christmas dinner (and for our US friends, Thanksgiving on 23rd November) met with Egyptian rice and as they say, one has never looked back.

It seems that for many people, turkey dinner has been a tradition that is almost sacrosanct, yet at the same time, the very same people eat the bird with dread and then complain of the meat being dry and stringy.

My hunch is that with the correct preparation and stuffing, such problems will be eliminated. The other benefit is that due to the turkey cavity one ends up with some extra portions of very tasty turkey risotto, flavoured with nuts and raisins, different fruits, mushroom (or truffle) and pâté, for this is a festive dish after all!

Just to inject a science into the discussion, essentially the rice, par-boiled on the hob first, is being cooked under pressure, i.e. in an oven within an oven. This means that the turkey is cooking in heat under the foil and being steamed from the inside, not just with water, but with fruit, herbs and aromatics and the rice is getting juices from the turkey in exchange.

For the rice I would suggest, Italian, Jasmine or Egyptian rice as we are aiming for a more soft, moist risotto style.

 

Ingredients:

 

  • 1 turkey

 

For the marinade:

  • 1 medium onion
  • Thyme
  • Oregano
  • Garlic*
  • Sea Salt
  • Black pepper
  • Cumin
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 100g Yoghurt or Labneh, but you can be more generous.

* How much garlic is very personal. Being generous is good.

 

For the rice:

  • 1 -1 1/2 cups of rice for the stuffing (depends on the size of the turkey). If you like rice anyway, you can double up or more depending on desire and how many you wish to cater for etc.
  • Slivered almonds
  • Pine nuts
  • Green Iranian raisins
  • Raisins of Corinth
  • Golden Raisins
  • Chopped, dried apricot

 

Stuffing Extras:

  • Dried Porcini mushrooms
  • 1 Portobello mushroom or truffle (or Fagar – local truffle)
  • Chicken liver pâté
  • Cut giblets

 

For the roasting dish:

  • Potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Celeriac
  • Squash
  • Parsnip (when in season)

 

Method:

  • Prepare the turkey, removing giblets. Clean the turkey well with salt inside and out. Rinse and pat dry.

 

  • In a mill, combine your onion, spices and yoghurt or labneh together and coat.

 

  • Leave overnight, covered in the fridge.

 

  • Soak the dried fruits – mix and match to taste – dates could also work, as do dried figs (get your 10-a day!)

 

  • Toast the nuts until changing colour.

 

  • Soak the rice a couple of times, the waste water is good for your plants/trees so is not really wasted and the same goes for water used for washing leaves.

 

  • Put rice in saucepan on hob, stirring in the additional fruit, nuts and seasoning with some of the chopped giblets. Put 1 ½ cups of water to 1 cup of rice. (multiply or divide up or down).

 

  • Check to see when rice is half-cooked.

 

  • By this time your oven should be pre-heated to 400F, so make sure your turkey, vegetables and stuffing essentials are ready and prepared.

 

  • I up-end the turkey so it may receive a layer of fruits, followed by some pâté. You can then add rice, mushroom/truffle or whatever until the cavity is well filled to bursting.

 

  • Lay in the tray and scatter your ancillary vegetable medley around the bird and (as a personal thing I add (it can be left out), one or two whole heads of garlic to roast with the vegetables.

 

  • At this point, add any extra seasoning you like – or honey/maple syrup on the turkey.

 

  • Add a good amount of water to the tray, so steam can circulate well during the cooking process, take your foil and coat the underside with some oil with a pastry brush or spray and give the foil a very good seal. I suggest using double foil to keep that seal well and truly tight to give extra pressure in the cooking. You will thank me for it.

 

  • Place in your hot oven and leave for 20 minutes/half an hour before turning down to 350F/175C for the main cook. The rule of thumb is 20 minutes per pound/ 1/2kg, but a tad more when stuffed. The trick is, after a decent guestimate, to check the turkey – mind your fingers releasing the foil… steam is very hot! You may judge the voice of experience here, and stick a fork in the skin. If no juice runs out we are pretty well done, if juice still oozes, more time is needed.

 

  • Once ‘ready’, uncover the turkey and the vegetable medley and put back in the oven for 20 minutes or so to crisp the skin and vegetables.

 

  • Once the skin is looking pleasingly browned, serve with a smile and enjoy.

 

Something to go with the turkey… Mash will never be the same

 

Celeriac is in season, not the best looking, or most glamorous of vegetables, unlikely to win any beauty contests, but then as a bulbous root, it spends its life underground and unseen where wild attraction does not really count. Having said that, the celery root (one version of) is very nice to eat. These days it is in the market big time and can literally bring something to the table. Celeriac combines with potato, parsnip and carrot very well indeed so here is a side using some mash. It can go with the turkey or indeed anything else. Mash some potato (you can include carrot or parsnip if you like or leave them out) and mash some celeriac with the potato for a ‘firmer’ mash. Be generous with butter and some milk – not too much to be sloppy, but neither dry as dust either and add ground almond to the mixture. These are four vegetables that work well with each other and are a taste and nutritional hit. It is worthwhile playing with these tastes.

 

Happy Thanksgiving to All!

 

Pip pip!

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