Saturday, December 20, 2008

Turkey With Chestnuts Stuffing


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.

Chestnuts Stuffing
500 g chestnuts, unshelled
300g potatoes
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.

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.


Anonymous said...

Your turkey looks great, makes me hungry. Have you heard of roasting Turkey with cheesecloth covers it? It will result a very moist Turkey. I agree gravy is the best part of eating turkey. You are missing cranberry relish =p

Anonymous said...

love the new look of your blog. 2 have it both ways U can combine the 2 names in the title, i.e. : Hunger hunger - A Daily Obsession.BTW ur turkey presentation looks great & w/ 20 yrs experience, ur recipe is fail safe no doubt.Will try it out @ Easter....we didn't have 2 cook turkey this Xams.A freind did a deep-fry turkey one year & it was quite good.

the lunch guy said...

again i must say, YOUR AWESOME TERRI! for someone who lives in a country that does not have native turkey, or a tradition of cooking these birds, you have really out classed most who do live in such places. congrats all around, my mouth is watering.

as you say, meatless stuffing is best, but if i am using meat, i use a good american style breakfast (sage) sausage that i cook down and render the fat off of first, then i add it to the finished chestnut stuffing. these keeps the fat content down and the consistency of the stuffing remains almost the same. (chicken livers are also a good thing to add, but they do have a much stronger aroma and can dominate if not used sparingly.)

as far as using the carcass for soup, also a must. i tend to cook very large birds or 2 medium ones, so i get a lot of bones. i also scavenge any leg or wing bones and skin that are coming back into the kitchen off the table. [some may think that unsanitary. but cooking them down will pretty much take care of that aspect, and those parts impart a lot of natural pectin to the broth. also - i do not do this in a public kitchen, only at home and lastly, don't tell anyone. ;0) ]

i find that a good roast turkey carcass can produce a lot of stock, so i tend to make a stock, use some for a soup, and then sand bag the rest for a later use. one good trick is to pour the remaining stock into a shallow glass, ceramic or plastic tray and refrigerate it. if the pectin content is high enough it will gel. i then cut the gel into 2 inch cubes and freeze those. if it is not high enough in pectin content i simply pour it into plastic ice trays and freeze it. then when i am making other dishes that require stock in small amounts, like a sauce for sauteed chicken or pork, i have a nice bit of portioned stock to work with. a good gelled turkey stock is like a good veal demi-glace in this respect. it also will impart a flavor that is great, and unique. any stock or broth can be portioned this way for future use.

i see that linda mentions cranberry relish. this is also another must and something my mom has developed a recipe of her own for. in our family we like to use fresh cranberries, easy to find here in new england, and we then add orange slices and a bit of candied ginger to them after they have been cooked. sometimes we stir a few chopped walnuts into it at serving time and also the addition of the orange zest helps the texture and the taste.

my mom made a very big batch of chestnut stuffing last month in anticipation of my coming home this week for a visit. we will pull it out of the freezer and have it with a roasted free-range chicken. there are only 2 of us at home so a turkey is a bit too much.

in closing, i would like to say that i associate turkey and the trimmings with family and friends. and when i sit down with my mom, and we have our little bird with stuffing and yams, i will think about yours and what must have been a great time around your table with family and friends - which leaves me leaving you with this:

the table is an alter to be set up and decorated to celebrate the cult of friendship ... one can only cook well with love, it is a matter of promoting around the table friendship and fraternity among men.

Precious Pea said...

Mmmm mmmmm mmmmmm.....Wey is so LUCKY!!!!! The bird looks gorgeous!!!! How do i get into your 'friend' invitation list.

By the way..i prefer "A Daily Obsession" cos I am always obsessed with your blog and yes, on daily basis.

Anonymous said...

Love the new header, and Merry Christmas!


Icey said...

It looks so juicy and yummy ~

*drooling* I wan ~~ I wan ~~

TeaLady said...

Terri - that is a beautiful turkey. Perfectly brown and yummy! Love your new head picture - very elegant.

The 'snow' on the little cakes is chantilly cream. 2 cups heavy cream + 3 Tbl powdered sugar + 1/5 tsp vanilla. Combine and whip til cream is stiff but not buttery.

Icey said...

Oh ya ... I've try your apple cake recipe. I made it over the weekend =)

Terri @ A Daily Obsession said...

linda: no never heard of tt. wouldn't it stick to the turkey's skin? i bought 2 cans of cranberry sauce but decided to keep them for christmas dinner with the family.

mike: thnx, i think it looks more sleek n elegant:)

deep-fried turkey?? whole or parts bc wouldn't tt require a HUGE wok/pot n take a long time?

lunchguy:*takes a bow*

rendering the fat off is a good idea, thnx for tt tip. yeuukks, i wouldn't eat gravy in restaurants frm now on!!i've heard about ppl keeping the bones for soup (a canadian family my friend stayed with) & i didn't believe it but after what you've told me, i do now.
hmm, i don't like cranberry sauce with my turkey but since i've hoarded 2 cans of them (i've never eaten fresh cranberries, just not available here), i will add some orange n zest n walnuts to it for Christmas eve dinner.

i think americans eat their christmas dinner on Christmas Day but we eat ours on the eve, like some europeans.

pp: hey, u r always welcome really. ok, i've got both names on my header...

kim: thnx :D

icey: :D so did u like the cake?

tealady: u've given me an idea. i can make a Christmas tree with scones...but unfortunately the hot weather here means the cream'll not stay stiff for long.andrealyx

Icey said...

Yeah,is quite nice, guess next time can add more cinnamon. =)

Anonymous said...

Yah, U deep fry the whole bird in a large, deep pot over a propane burner purpose-built for the job. It takes about 1/2 d time than d oven. And u do it outside d house for obvious reason - it's more popular in d southern states. Here we don winter gears & duke it out in d backyard. If snow is 2 deep back there,the battle ground is deployed 2 front of the garage!

Rei said...

Merry Christmas to you and your family! I would like to try this with chicken though. Turkey is too big for us. :)

Julie Jams said...

Beautiful pictures! Your turkey sounds delicious.

terri@adailyobsession said...

icey: yes, u adjust the sugar n cinnamon to ur taste.

mike : sounds like fun. i hear there's lots of snow this year.

rei: merry Christmas to u n fam too. yes, a roast chicken with stuffing is very good too

julie jams: hi, welcome:) i love ur profile photo. merry christmas to u!

pigpigscorner said...

Nice looking bird you have there! Mine turned out a bit dark this year =( Will try to perfect it next year!

Anonymous said...

I just recently saw it on Food Network last month, it is quite popular way to roast turkey. Cover the turkey with cheesecloth soaked in melted butter or olive oil, and it will baste itself! Remove it during the last 30 minutes of baking to let the skin get brown.

this recipe uses cheesecloth:

Anonymous said...

Sorry, here is the link

Anonymous said...

oh, dunno why i cant paste the link.
after the cookbook, it is /turkey_martha.html

Anonymous said...

Looks good! I've only learned to like roasted turkey with stuffing, gravy and cranberry jelly when I moved to Boston 5 years ago. Now, I love my mother-in-law's new england style bread stuffing. It is easy to make and it tasted so good. I like my stuffing without meat as the turkey itself is a very heavy meal. Yeah, we eat our Christmas Dinner during lunch time (you wonder why?) and it will last through dinner. Cranberry jelly is a must. Still, I miss some of the Malaysian food a lot. Hokkien Char, Asam Laksa and stuff.

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