But it’s not really turkey time is it.
Since Christmas I have had a 7.5kg (13 stone), free-range turkey in my freezer and while delighting in how I was able to purchase it at cost price, it’s actually started to annoy me because it was taking up 85% of my freezer space. I was intending to cook it on Easter Sunday but bumped its day in the oven forward to create room for necessities like ice cream.
I thought Alfie’s birthday lunch would be an appropriate occasion for a meal that’s normally associated with Thanksgiving or Christmas.
The preparation began on Thursday when I took the heavy bird out of the freezer and placed it in the fridge to thaw out.
I knew I wanted to serve gravy but it’s always quite stressful to do ‘in the moment’ as there’s so much going on around serving time. For the first time ever, I made day-ahead gravy. I roasted vegetables and chicken wings then mashed and bashed everything in the pan and put it on the hob while adding some cornflour. When it was nice and brown I poured in two litres of water then reduced the mixture by half and strained it. It went into the fridge overnight and when it came time to carve the turkey I poured it into the pan juices and added a splash of sherry and some cranberry sauce. Very easy and it took away a lot of last-minute stress.
I decided not to brine the turkey (mostly because I didn’t have a container big enough that I could also keep cold). Instead I made a hazelnut, parsley and garlic butter that I carefully rubbed under the skin of the turkey to not only flavour it but also help prevent the meat from drying out.
I stuffed the turkey with a mixture of rice, sausage mince, onion, dried apricots, apples, celery and thyme so it was also a gluten-free seasoning. I made far too much stuffing so the extra was wrapped in baking paper and then foil and put in the oven for the last hour of the cooking time.
I served the turkey with duck fat potatoes that were firstly par-boiled on the stove. For the last hour of the turkey’s cooking time I put them in the oven and when the turkey came out to rest, cranked up the heat and baked them until they were golden and crispy.
Keeping it simple, I made just one salad. I made the same salad on Christmas Eve and I liked it so much I thought I’d make it again. With the ice berg lettuce it has wonderful crunch and there’s additional great crunch and texture and flavour from the scattered toasted pine nuts and crispy bacon.
- 80gm toasted pine nuts
- 12 thin rashers of belly bacon
- 2 iceberg lettuces, cut into wedges
- 1 cup firmly packed fresh torn herbs - chives, dill, parsley
- Buttermilk Dressing:
- 160ml buttermilk
- 50ml lemon juice
- 50 ml mild olive oil
- 2 heaped tbspns finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard
- Preheat oven to 200C (400F). Roast bacon on a tray lined with baking paper, turning occasionally, until crisp and golden (about 20 minutes). Set aside to cool, then break into shards and set aside.
- For buttermilk dressing, shake ingredients well in a sealed jar, season to taste and refrigerate until required.
- To serve, arrange lettuce in a large bowl, drizzle with dressing, then scatter with bacon, pine nuts and herbs.
I chose a dessert I could make a day ahead. When I pulled the turkey out of the freezer I noticed I had so many little bags of frozen egg whites that needed using. I thawed them out and when they were finally at room temperature, made 32 pink meringues. You can pipe them onto the trays but I chose the free-and-easy method of dolloping them onto the trays and saved myself the task of cleaning a piping bag. Of course it was a very hot and very humid day and meringues are best made when it’s cool and dry but you can’t pick the conditions so I just hoped for the best. The moisture didn’t affect them and they were lovely and dry.
I joined the meringues together with whipped vanilla cream and served them with berries. And then realised they were all devoured before I took a picture.
Alfie wasn’t at all fussed with his birthday/Christmas lunch but did enjoy seeing his cousins and opening presents. He went back to school the next day and was awarded Junior Swimming Champion and has had his name engraved on a trophy that stays at the school and given a medal to keep. He was pretty chuffed as was not expecting to be awarded Junior Champion.
And…thanks so much for all your concern for Miss Arabella. She is currently still in hospital but on the road to recovery. She is well enough now to be doing some uni work from her hospital bed so she is doing her best to keep up with her courses. She is in good spirits.