Cost: Oh my. One of the cheapest meats per kilo – £4.60 for a 1.6kg thigh-and-drumstick at Morrisons. Substantially cheaper, and healthier, than red meat and easier I think to carve than chicken. Per portion – this made two helpings for a main meal (with a starch and vegetables), two pies which fed two couples for 2 meals each, and I reserved a small portion of the meat to brown in a frying pan and top the turkey soup made with the bones and served with noodles and pak choi (leftover soup became the base for a stew with butter beans and bacon…you get the idea). So average cost per meal per person would have been something like 60p for the meat, plus pennies for vegetables, pastry ingredients, noodles and so on.
It’s March, and therefore the season for turkey! By which I mean, it is not Christmas or pre-Christmas, when turkey is expensive and often out of stock at the local supermarket(s). Until this winter, I’d only ever experienced turkey in the context of institutional Christmas dinner – it’s not a feature of our festivities at home (goose and beef…I’m not sure whether to be proud or embarrassed that the “and” is not an “or”). My impression of turkey was that it was dry, pallid and (ironically) joyless, more fuel than food, for exercise-lovers rather than food-lovers. My best friend had the same idea…but after tasting this she exclaimed, “I didn’t realise turkey could be this tasty! You made turkey taste like…chicken!” I’d be lying if I claimed that had been the plan all along.
Recipe: Slow Roast Turkey
Heavily inspired by Wutangdan at Epicurious but with changes to the ingredients and method
One turkey leg (thigh and drumstick), about 1.6kg (Note – if you can buy just thighs, this is easier to carve, by which I mean zero effort as the single bone slips out without resistance. However with a drumstick, it’s very, very low effort rather than zero. Sometimes these things matter)
Mirepoix ingredients – 2 onions, 2 cloves of garlic, 2 carrots and 2 sticks celery (celery is optional as it’s not really worth buying a whole bunch for unless you have creative ideas about what to do with the rest of it. Eat it? Nah. I wash and finely chop and stash in the freezer for mirepoix situations but I’ve never seen that recommended anywhere else)
About 100ml chicken/turkey/vegetable stock – Marigold vegetable bouillon works if you’re not into homemade stock – not worth buying it just for this. Or ever, when leftover bones are, you know, there.
Splash of cooking sherry/white wine or 1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
Bay leaf (optional)
2 Tbsp cooking sherry, white wine (if on hand) or white wine vinegar
Preheat oven to 140C (conventional), perhaps whilst you chop the vegetables (or peel and food process them! So many shortcuts!)
1. In an roasting tin or ovenproof casserole dish (with lid, to make life marginally easier) big enough to fit the turkey without overlapping, place the vegetables and tuck in the bay leaf if using.
2. Nestle the turkey pieces amongst the vegetables skin side down, rub with a little oil or soft butter and grind a bold amount of salt and pepper over them. Pour the stock and alcohol/vinegar over the vegetables.
3. Cover the roasting tin tightly with foil (or with the lid on the casserole) and roast for 3 hours. After this time, test the thickest part of the thigh with a meat thermometer, it needs to be 80C (or just make sure the juices are clear and there is no blood). The meat should be very soft.
4. Turn up the heat to 220C, or use the grill on a medium setting with the meat uncovered to crisp the skin on the turkey (about 10 mins, but keep checking that it doesn’t burn). Then remove the meat to a board, cover with foil and boil the juices (there will be a lot), thickened with a tablespoon of cornflour dissolved in boiling water, into a lovely rich gravy. (Save the soft mirepoix for the pie if you’re going to make one with the leftovers, of else they should be soft enough to push through a sieve into the gravy)
5. After the meat has rested, about 10 minutes, carve the turkey – I’m no expert but the bones should slip out easily, and then using a fork and a sharp knife, the meat can be sliced against the grain into chunky slices. Enjoy!
Any leftover gravy can be added to a pot of the bones covered with water (add any spare chicken bones as well), salt, more chopped vegetables and simmered for a rich stock, just like for this noodle soup.
This stock is also a helpful ingredient in this pie with any leftover meat – alternatively, the filling can be made like a stew, with pastry lids to make a pot pie.
As well as working well as a centrepiece for a Sunday roast, this also works well as a hog-roast style sandwich filling. We served this for a Christmas party – 7kg of turkey (the turkey, cooked and carved, can be reheated except for maybe the crisp skin) fed 60 people in soft white rolls, with gravy, homemade cranberry sauce, roast carrots and crispy onions jammed in there as well.