Yes I took a different stance on the old turkey this year, thanks to Nigella, I decided to brine the big bird! I had read the recipe earlier in the year and was rather intrigued but as the day drew closer I was not sure that this was the way to go. I had another look at the recipe on the morning of the 24th but decided that perhaps the safest option would be the traditional version as the ingredient list was extensive and my herb and spice collection sadly depleted after our move here.
Now in true ME style I only decided to go with this method a about 13h00 on 24 December after I had already been to a heaving SuperValu for supplies, without a list of the required ingredients (the brining idea only took hold as I stood in front of the spice selection at said supermarket) A LOT goes into the brine, salt (duh),oranges, mustard seeds, ginger, star anise, allspice berries (?), cinnamon sticks, pepper corns, caraway seeds and more. So of course I did not have at least 50% of the ingredients, including a bucket, I did say it was a BIG bird. I had managed to get some of the spices I needed but when Malcolm went to the shop I gave him the rest of the list, LONG list, he was slightly unamused...especially as did I mention...I had already been to the shops...so when I cut the orange that was called for in the recipe and discovered that it was a grapefruit I pointed out long sufferings mistake and hastily added that, as it was still a citrus fruit I would make do and added it to my brew. I also could not find star anise and nor could Malcolm and he really did try! So I adapted the recipe slightly again and used juniper berries instead of allspice berries (what are they???) just to make things even more interesting.
I happily mixed up my brew merrily adding a box of Maldon salt and 125g table salt as the recipe stated and put my turkey in its bucket feet first. Now Nigella enthuses about how she cannot stop herself from looking in on her lovely vision of a brining turkey, but let me say that this is not the case when using a cream plastic bucket! Of course fridge space is not an option so luckily we are in the Northern hemisphere and the turkey was sent outside and spent the night in the boot of my car, to ensure that the fox did not get our Christmas dinner before us.
I also made egg nog which is still sitting in my fridge as Malcolm has terrible sinus and is avoiding dairy at the moment, wonder whether they would make great snowballs as described in englishmums blog....
Then off I went with my neighbour Geraldine for mince pies and wine at a house 3 doors down, of course not REALLY 3 doors, only Irish 3 doors!!! While there we were all discussing our Christmas day feasts and one of the ladies had heard a huge debate on the radio about the correct cooking time for turkey and how Nigella Lawson had it all wrong in her book. So now my ground was feeling a little shaky underneath me as I was determined not to dry my turkey out, but nor did I want to serve it medium rare! AND I had elected to go the Nigella route....what if she did have it all wrong? Nigella reckoned I needed 2 hours 30 minutes, Marks & Spencer (very sensibly) put the cooking time on the weight label of the turkey which was 3 hours 50 minutes.
On Christmas day I decided to follow the recipe for allspice gravy as per Nigella's suggestion and while reading the recipe and I quote... "1 tablespoon maldon salt/ 1/2tablespoon table salt" Note the slash in that sentence...I paled, VISIBLY and my stomach quietly knotted as I turned back to my brine recipe....yes,
250g Maldon salt/
125g Table salt
The slash of course means either or but I did not see the slash when I made the brine because the ingredients were listed below each other and by now my feet first turkey had been happily marinading in the Dead Sea for 18 hours! I felt nauseous. I also knew that I would just have to carry on regardless and hope that we did not have jerkey turkey...
I also had the cooking times of the turkey to worry about, by now Christmas was not fun anymore and I no longer wanted to play "Nigella, Nigella".
Anyhow....I brought the turkey to room temperature and put it in the oven to roast and consoled myelf with the fact that with all the veggies, (cauliflower cheese, roast parsnips, caramelised cinammon carrots, brussels sprouts butternut and peas) garnish selection (sage and onion stuffing balls, chipolatas and bacon rolls *thanks Marks and Sparks*)and ham nobody would go hungry if the turkey was a disaster.
I went with Nigellas cooking times, I took the turkey out of the oven and did the knife in the thickest part trick and the juices were clear. I was still worried that after the required rest (the turkey was tired after all that time in the oven) we would carve and hit pink and by then all the veggies etc would be ready and I would be manically microwaving turkey...
And now I can say with authority that Nigella is right, Marks and Spencer wrong and my turkey was cooked through, maybe even ever so SLIGHTLY dry. The gravy was fabulous Nigella and the roast potatoes (par boiled 4 minutes add 2 T polenta and shake that pot! Add to very hot oil and roast about 60 minutes) perfection! Sadly I do not even have a picture of my slightly over bronzed bird and PERFECT potatoes to proudly display so you will have to do it all justice in your imaginations!
The wine flowed, the family were together and we stuffed ourselves instead of the turkey. Merry merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!
And the results are in
1 day ago