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Heston Blumenthal's roast turkey


Start a day ahead to brine the turkey.

You'll need

1 turkey (4kg-4.5kg) 800 gm salt 200 gm unsalted butter, at room temperature 3 onions, sliced 2 carrots, sliced 3 leeks, sliced (white and pale-green parts only) 50 ml dry white wine 15 gm rosemary 15 gm thyme   Gravy 2 tbsp peanut oil 225 gm unsalted butter Reserved turkey neck and wings 1 onion, thinly sliced 1 garlic clove, crushed 250 gm button mushrooms, thinly sliced 250 ml dry white wine 500 ml chicken stock Reserved pan juices and vegetables from the turkey 2 sprigs thyme 1 sprig rosemary 1 bay leaf 1 tsp Sherry vinegar

Method

  • 01
  • Chop the wing tips off the turkey and reserve, along with the neck, for the gravy.
  • 02
  • Mix the salt and 10 litres of water in a clean container and stir until dissolved. Submerge the turkey in the brine, cover and refrigerate for 9 hours or overnight. Remove the bird from the brine and submerge in cold water for 1 hour, changing the water at 15-minute intervals. Dry the turkey well with kitchen paper.
  • 03
  • Preheat the oven to 210C. With clean hands, work the skin away from the flesh of the bird and rub 100gm butter between the skin and flesh, being careful not to tear the skin. Rub any remaining butter over the skin. Season with salt and black pepper. Put onions, carrots and leeks in a roasting tray, set the bird on top, add the wine and cook for 30 minutes to colour the skin.
  • 04
  • Melt the remaining 100gm butter in a pan and add the rosemary and thyme.
  • 05
  • Reduce the oven to 130C. Baste the turkey with the herb butter and cook until the thickest part around the neck or thigh reaches 70C, basting every 45 minutes (when the butter is finished, use the cooking juices in the roasting tray). Cooking time should be 3-3½ hours, depending on the size of the turkey and type of oven. Check the turkey is cooked by cutting into the thickest part (between the breast and thigh) and ensure none of the meat is pink, and the juices run clear.
  • 06
  • Remove the turkey from the oven and rest for at least 30 minutes before carving. Reserve the pan juices and vegetables for making the gravy.
  • 07
  • To make the gravy, heat the peanut oil and 125gm butter over medium heat. When the butter begins to foam, add the turkey neck and wings and brown on all sides for 8-10 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  • 08
  • Cook the onion, garlic and mushrooms in the same pan until soft.
  • 09
  • Increase the heat and add the wine to the pan, scraping up any bits caught on the bottom. Bring to a simmer, then reduce until nearly all the liquid has gone.
  • 10
  • Add the stock to the pan along with the turkey neck and wings and reserved vegetables and juices from the turkey-roasting tray. Simmer for 30 minutes, then strain into a clean pan.
  • 11
  • Meanwhile, gently heat the remaining 100gm butter in a pan until it’s brown and smells nutty. Strain through a fine sieve.
  • 12
  • Use a hand-blender to whisk 50ml of the brown butter into the gravy (keep any remaining butter for another use). Add the herbs and allow to infuse for 10 minutes, then remove them. Add the vinegar and salt to taste; keep warm before serving with the turkey.

For me, Christmas means time with family and friends - and roast turkey for the big feast. Growing up, we always had roast turkey for the holidays and it has become not only a ritual but also a tried and true way to quickly get everyone around the table to celebrate. It wouldn't be Christmas without it.

I've tried cooking turkey every way possible, but roasting has always been my preferred method. Judging the cooking time and temperature is always the key - alongside brining - to a succulent bird. I discovered that whether you're cooking the whole turkey or just roasting the crown, roasting low and slow after an initial blast of heat gives the ultimate results.

It's a challenge to keep a roast turkey - and a roast chicken, for that matter - moist because of their natural water content.

A great way to help keep the moisture is by brining, which not only keeps the flesh juicy but also helps to tenderise it. The salt in the brine alters the proteins in such a way that moisture is retained and you end up with a juicier turkey on the dinner table. You definitely shouldn't skip brining.

Cooking a turkey is a balancing act. Different parts of the bird have different ratios of muscle tissue and connective tissue and therefore cook best at different temperatures and cooking times. To tell when your turkey is done, pierce the leg with a knife and if the juices run clear, you're there. Of course, I would strongly advocate the use of an accurate thermometer. Overcooking turkey can result in a dry tasteless bird. I always use a probe for precision. When the turkey has reached an internal temperature of 70C, you know the bird is ready.


At A Glance

  • Serves 6 people
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At A Glance

  • Serves 6 people

Featured in

Dec 2014

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