I promised you my turkey recipe before Christmas, so do go and get that big bird before you have to settle for a ham. Not that a ham is a poorer choice because here they are selling for more than RM400 for a turkey-sized ham.
I've done my turkey this way for as long as I've roasted turkeys, which is over 20 years. And I do roast more than one bird a year, one for friends and one for family. I've only tried a commercial (mushroom) stuffing once and it was so bad that I've stuck to my chestnut stuffing since.
This stuffing recipe was--surprise--originally printed in The New Straits Times and was from The Equatorial Hotel in KL. Is the hotel still in existence? The original recipe had chipolata sausages and fresh ground pork but one year my friend Jo of Drool Team whom I had shared the recipe with, told me that she omitted the meat and the stuffing turned out even better. So I tried it the next year and sure enough, it was better. Not just better, but best, so I've done a vegan chestnut stuffing since. It really is better because it goes well with the turkey without messing up the taste of the poultry.
The stuffing is essential to a moist turkey plus it is super tasty after baking inside the bird for hours. And my son Wey swears that the best thing about roasted turkey is The Gravy. Yes, what is turkey without gravy. He loves the gravy so much that he eats the leftover (I make sure to make plenty) the next day with rice. And he goes around going "Mmm mmm!"
I like to roast my turkey with a loose piece of foil over for most of the cooking time and then one hour before it's done, remove the foil to brown the bird. I also add water to the pan about an hour into the roasting so that the juice doesn't dry up and burnt. The reason I do not add the water from the start is because I usually have extra stuffing around the baking pan and adding water early would erode the stuffing into a wet mess. I learn from my mistakes sometimes.
To transfer the huge bird onto a platter, do not lift it by the legs because 1) it's too hot 2) It might tear off (learnt from experience again). I use two big frying ladles to lift the bird. A willing man can do this job provided he's not clumsy.
One more advice. Get birds bigger than 5.5 kg. I find that the bigger the birds, the moister they are. It is quite hard to get a bird bigger than 6 kg here (this year's bird was 6.3 kg) because, according to the bird sellers, most families are small and their ovens are, likewise, small. Makes sense.
Turkey With Chestnuts Stuffing
5.5 to 6 kg oven-ready turkey
1 T melted butter*
*I just use the wrapping paper from stick butter, put it into the hot oven for a sec and rub it all over the bird. Saves having to melt butter.
500 g chestnuts, unshelled
70g day old bread
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
2-3 sticks celery, diced finely
1 large egg
about 2 cups fresh milk
70 g grated cheddar or parmesan cheese
3-4 T Bristol sherry or red wine
1 heaped t ground marjoram
1 t salt, 1/3 t pepper
note: alternatively, for a meat stuffing, reduce the chestnuts & potato and make up the weight with chipolata sausages (remove the casing) & fresh ground pork.
For the gravy: bay leaf, black peppercorns, sherry, cornflour and chicken stock cube.
1. Boil the chestnuts for 30 minutes and then shell it. Blend 1/2 the chestnuts with 1 cup of milk until it is like thick puree. Cut the remaining chestnuts into 2 or 3. Toast the bread and cut into 1 cm cubes. Peel and boil the potatoes and mash them with 3/4 to 1 cup of milk and the cheese. Season lightly with salt & pepper.
2. Put about 1 T veg oil in a large pot and fry the onions and garlic over medium heat until they are soft and transparent. Add the wine (I prefer the sherry), stir 10 seconds and switch off the flame. Add everything into the pot and stir well to mix. Taste and season. Do not add too much salt as the turkey is already injected with a broth solution.
3. Switch oven to 190 C. Rinse the turkey and trim off butt and excess fat. Keep the flap of skin over the neck so that the stuffing is covered. Keep the skin over the cavity too if you don't mind the fat. If you remove it like I do, your turkey stuffing may make the bird look like it has real bad haemorroids (that's how someone described my turkey the other day). Btw, do not remove the ovenable clamp that holds the legs together. Put turkey into your baking tray/pan (shouldn't have high sides or turkey won't brown so well) and dab dry with paper towels. Stuff the front neck end with the stuffing and then stuff the cavity until full. If there is excess stuffing, put it around the turkey in round pats or balls.
4. Brush melted butter all over the turkey so that the foil won't stick to the skin or do as I do, use the paper from the stick butter. Tent the turkey loosely with aluminium foil with the loose side towards the front of the oven so that it will be easier for you to peep or add water later.
5. Put roasting pan with turkey onto lower rack of oven. After one hour of roasting, add enough water to the baking pan so that water level is about 1.5 cm high. This will keep the juice from drying out. While turkey is roasting, put the neck and giblets & liver into a small pot and add 2 liters water, 1 large bay leaf and 1 heaped teaspoon of black peppercorns and boil for 2 hours to get stock. If water level has gone down, add water.
6. Once an hour or so, check on the water level in the baking pan. After 2 1/2 hours (for 5.5 kg bird) or 3 hours (for 6 kg bird), remove the foil completely and increase the heat to 200 C. If the turkey is browning too fast, you can put a small piece of foil over those areas or turn the heat back down to 190 C. Baste it every 15 min or so. I like to brush on some dark soy sauce (mix with some juice from the pan) to help the browning. You can use browning sauce if you prefer.
7. Carefully remove the baking pan from the oven, then lift bird onto a large platter and let it sit for 20-30 minutes before carving. For neater slices, carve out the whole breasts and then slice them rather than slice pieces off the bird. Meantime, do the gravy.
1. Pour the juices from the roasting pan into a pot. Skim away the oil. Add the stock from the turkey neck to boil.
2. Break in 1 chicken stock cube if like. Mix 1/4 cup cornstarch or plain flour with some water and thicken the gravy with this, stirring well. You may have to add more flour/cornstarch. Season with salt, pepper and 5-6 T sherry.
3. Strain the gravy through a fine sieve.
Note: I don't have to tell you to use leftover turkey for sandwiches. But do you know, I used to throw my turkey bones away until a dear friend, VMS, told me that the bones make the best soup with carrots, celery, potatoes, tomatoes, onions, a bay leaf, barley if you like...we love the smell of turkey soup permeating through the house. It's a tradition for us to have turkey soup for lunch the next day.