A few weeks ago, I ate my first Christmas lunch of the year, cooked by Marco Pierre White. Not a bad way to spend a day. Eating festive food, drinking good wine and chatting to blogging friends whilst picking up top turkey tips from one of Britain’s most talented chefs.
The masterclass was organised by Lean on Turkey and Marco has provided them with a whole range of turkey as well as general Christmas cooking tips on their website.
Marco demonstrated his culinary skills, with us bloggers scribbling notes, taking photos and watching a master at work, whilst answering some of our cooking queries. I found myself thinking back to the days I spent slogging in hot pressurised, often dark and dingy kitchens. No natural light and double shifts.
Do I miss it? No. Professional cooking is tough and I had a boyfriend who is now my husband. I don’t think we would have stayed together if I had pursued my career in the professional kitchen. I think I made the right choice but at the same time, I do wonder where I would be now if I had stuck it out.
So here is what I learned from Marco about Turkey. I know it’s only October, so you might like to bookmark this post to re-read nearer to Christmas.
Marco’s Top Turkey Cooking Tips
Why not try cooking a turkey crown?
Marco suggests using a crown turkey roast which only takes 90 minutes to cook. A whole turkey can take at least double that time. Marco used the drumsticks and wings as well as the neck to make his turkey gravy. He kept the thigh meat separate and placed stuffing under the skin. He also stuffed the turkey crown, dismissing all worries bout the turkey not cooking properly. Who was I to argue!
How do you make a good gravy?
As mentioned above, use the bones from the turkey. If you are cooking a whole turkey then you could use chicken wings for your gravy along with the giblets and the neck. Place the bones in a roasting tray with some butter and roast for about an hour. Once browned, take the bones out of the oven and top with water and some gravy paste (I suspect this is from Knorr who Marco works with). Let the mixture bubble away on the hob for one to one and a half hours before straining. This process could be done the day before which gives you less to do on Christmas day.
How do you make stuffing and where does it go?
Stuffing can be placed in the turkey carcass, under the turkey thigh skin or can be cooked separately in an oven proof tray. Marco uses and combination of PAXO and sausage meat. This is something I wouldn’t do myself. I loathe the taste of dried sage and to me, it dominates the flavour of the stuffing. I would recommend using a mixture of breadcrumbs, fried onion, garlic, chestnuts, sausage meat or sausages with the cases removed and I like using dried cranberries too. (Recipe to follow nearer Christmas)
The stuffing should be placed in the bird once it has been seasoned first with salt both inside and outside of the turkey. Personally I prefer cooking the stuffing separately as I like my stuffing to have a crisp outside texture. When stuffing is cooked inside a bird it has a soft, squidgy texture that I am not fond of. This is something to be aware of if you are as fussy as me about texture.
What should I serve with my turkey?
This depends on how complicated you want your Christmas day to be. For simplicity, go for tons of roast potatoes, cranberry sauce and watercress, Marco style. This is how we ate the turkey lunch after the masterclass. I would say you must have chipolatas. Yes, even with a sausage meat stuffing. Bacon wrapped ones are even better. Some greens are essential and Marco likes to use frozen peas. Again, it’s the ethos of keeping things simple. I would agree with this but for me it would have to be sprouts. I love them, all nutty and buttery. Some say there have to be parsnips. I could not fit them into my oven. The oven becomes a juggling act on Christmas day and this is one roasted veggie too far for me. And don’t forget the cranberry sauce.
Should I make my own cranberry sauce?
Simple answer. Yes, definitely. It is way better than any shop bought variety and it makes the best turkey sandwich filling ever. Cranberry, stuffing, turkey on crusty white bread is just the best. Here is Marco’s recipe.
500g cranberries, 250g sugar ,100ml orange juice, 100 ml Port
Cook the cranberries with the sugar until the begin to burst and break apart. Take it off the heat, add in the orange juice and Port and cook the mixture until it becomes a spoonable jam like consistency but do not reduce it too far.
What about carving the turkey?
Remember to leave the turkey to rest before carving. This ensures all the juices seep back into the turkey, keeping it succulent.
This is where you will appreciate the benefit of a turkey crown. Remember to remove the wishbone before carving which makes it even simpler. Marco recommends removing the wishbone before cooking the turkey. You could try this or ask your butcher to do it for you.
The most important tip is to have a very sharp knife. Carve downwards in slices with a confident smooth action. If you are carving a whole bird then take off the legs and carve them separately or keep them to use in pies and salads or curries. This ensures you can carve slices right down the side of the turkey breast without becoming entangled in the depths of a drumstick!
I hope you have found these tips useful. You could apply the same principles when cooking a large chicken for your Sunday lunch. Apart from the Paxo tip (yuck!) I found Marco’s masterclass an education in all manner of useful ways. For me, his gravy, cranberry sauce and the tip about stuffing the turkey thighs were the highlights. And watching him butcher a turkey was quite something. He certainly knows how to handle a meat cleaver.
Disclosure:-Thanks to Lean on Turkey for inviting me to the Masterclass with Marco. I was financially rewarded to attend this event, however all opinions expressed in this post are my own and have not been influenced by others in any way.