Turkey: the unforgiving bird
Turkey is one of those meats that is hard to pull off. No matter the brine, method of cooking or quality of the farm it was raised on, you will always struggle with the inevitable dryness.
So why do we bother? Because it’s tradition! Can’t do Thanksgiving or Christmas without a gigantic roast turkey as the centerpiece. We all want that Norman Rockwell holiday, so we persist.
As for me and my jaded nature, I had recently given up on turkey. Partly because I never really much cared for it but mostly because I was living in a part of the world where turkeys were hard to come by. Now that I’m in Scotland where turkeys are fashionable for holidays, I find myself tempted to try my hand at it once again.
When in doubt, brine it and stuff it!
How does one add flavor to humdrum poultry? Brine it! Wet brine, dry rub or a simple marinade, treating your meat hours before cooking is a foolproof way to add BIG flavor. For this recipe, I am using a thyme, lemon and garlic brine to help best bring out the flavor of the turkey.
What to do with all those delicious juices that ooze out of the bird? Soak it up with stuffing! Inspired by my recent move to bonny Scotland, I decided to forego my beloved bacon almond and herb bread stuffing and instead go all out with a black pudding and pear combination because why not? It is the holidays after all and that salty-sweet combination is so delicious.
If only all gifts were wrapped in bacon
When it comes to lean meats such as turkey, the best thing to do is throw fat at it. Now, I could cook my turkey in a sea of butter (don’t tempt me with a good time), but I decided to go with the next best thing, bacon. This is going to protect and baste the turkey with fat as it slowly roasts in the oven. What a beautiful solution to dry meat!
Breats, leg or the whole body?
The first time I tried out this recipe, I did it with a turkey leg. I thought it was a good idea since I love dark meat but trying to remove all the tough tendons inside proved to be beyond my skill set. If you are up for a challenge, have a sharp knife and your surgical skills are on point, give a stuffed turkey leg a go. Or better yet, debone an entire turkey!
As for me, I can’t be bothered, especially if I am just cooking for a small bunch and have loads of other things to do. If you are like me and want to keep it simple, buy a turkey breast, roll it out and butterfly the inside. Spoon the meat stuffing in it, roll it up and wrap it in bacon.
Brined turkey breast stuffed with black pudding and diced pear then wrapped in bacon and roasted. Turkey done right. #turkey #bacon #blackpudding #pear #roast
100g (about 1/2 cup) salt
100g (about 1/2 cup) sugar
1 tbsp black peppercorns
1 lemon thinly sliced (this allows you to add both the juice of the lemon and the zest of the lemon peel)
1 head of garlic (garlic cloves crushed)
3–4 bay leaves
2.5 L (8 1/2 cups) water
1 tsp dried thyme
1 turkey breast
8–12 strips of streaky bacon
1 cup diced pear (I used conference pears for mine)
1 tbsp salted butter
250 g (~9 oz) Black pudding or whatever is your favorite sausage
kitchen twine or plain floss
1 tbsp salted butter
1 shallot (minced)
1 tsp flour
2 cups (475 ml) of boiling water
1 tbsp whisky or bourbon
2 small sprigs of fresh thyme
1/2 tbsp brown sauce
In a medium to a large pot, combine salt, sugar, black peppercorns, lemon slices, crushed garlic cloves, bay leaves, dried thyme and 1 liter (34 oz) of water. Stir together and bring to a boil over high heat. Let boil for 5-10 minutes to make sure all the flavors marry together then turn off the heat and let cool.
Add the remaining 1.5 liters (51 oz) of water and stir together. The mixture should taste like a salty soup. If you find it to be too salty, add a mug or two of water but not much more as you don’t want to dilute the brine too much.
Add turkey to the brine, cover pot and place in the refrigerator to chill overnight.
When ready to cook, remove the turkey from the brine, pat dry and remove any herbs that might remain on the meat.
Discard brine once used, do not reuse.
Stuffing and Roasting
Preheat oven to 190 C (375) or 170 C (340 F) with fan
While the turkey is warming up to room temperature, start work on the stuffing.
Melt 1 tbsp of butter in a saute pan over medium-high heat. Add diced pear and cook until it starts to brown and caramelize. Once picking up color, add 1/4 cup of water and turn heat to high. Continue cooking on high until most of the water has evaporated and the diced pear has turned golden brown. Make sure you stir it often and keep an eye on it to prevent burning. Remove from the heat and let cool.
When cool to the touch, crumble up the black pudding mixture (or sausage mix if you are using that) and mix together until everything has incorporated into each other. Set aside.
When ready to stuff, roll out the turkey breast onto a cutting board. You want to try and make an even layer of meat, so using a sharp knife make slight cuts into the meat and then gently fold the meat up and away (the same technique as if you were butterflying a chicken breast). Continue doing so around the turkey until you feel like you have an even layer of meat.
Take the black pudding and pear mixture and evenly spread it over the turkey meat. Try not to coat everything with the stuffing mixture and make sure you have some empty room on the sides for the stuffing to flow to when you roll it up.
Carefully lift and roll up. Once rolled up, tie it together with kitchen twine or plain floss if you are in a pinch. I do one tie lengthwise and 3-4 ties around the middle and ends.
Now comes the fun part-cover the rolled up turkey with strips of streaky bacon. Use as much or as little as you like.
Place in a roasting tray and cover it with foil.
Roast in the oven for the allotted amount of time. This will depend on the weight of the turkey breast. The rule of thumb is 40 minutes per kilo (20 mins per pound). So, 1 kg = 40 min, 1.5 kg = 1 hour, 2 kg = 1 hour 20 min and so on. It can be challenging to get a roast turkey right, so my suggestion to you is to invest in a good meat thermometer. If in doubt on whether it is done or not, stick the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat, If it is 65 C or up, stop cooking because it is done.
To get some color of the roast, remove the foil and let cook uncovered in the oven for the last 20 minutes.
When finished roasting, let rest somewhere warm or wrapped in foil for 20 minutes. Don’t cut into it too soon or you’ll risk all the juices running out and the meat getting dry and don’t forget to remove the kitchen twine before cutting into it.
For the Gravy
Carefully remove the turkey from the roasting tray and place it on a serving platter or cutting board.
Add 2 cups (475 ml) of boiling water to the empty roasting tray. Using a spoon or spatula scrape all the crusty bits from the bottom of the tray and stir into the hot water, Let rest for 10-20 minutes then pass through a strainer. Set liquid aside.
In a medium-sized saucepan, melt 1 tbsp of butter over medium heat. Add finely chopped shallot and cook until translucent and soft.
Add 1 tsp of flour and whisk into the butter and shallots to form a roux. Let the roux cook for a minute or two then slowly add in the strained liquid made from the roasting tray, whisking as you go to prevent lumps from forming.
Add 2 small sprigs of thyme, 1 tbsp of whisky or bourbon, and 1/2 tbsp of brown sauce. Whisk together and increase heat to medium-high and let bubble away for 5-7 minutes or until all the flavors are married together. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.
If you don’t know what black pudding is, don’t like it or simply can’t get your hands on it, don’t worry. Simply substitute it with your favorite sausage mix. I recommend Cumberland sausage, caramelized onion sausage mix or just a plain salt and pepper sausage mix. The choice is yours.
- Category: Main, Turkey, Roast
- Method: Roasting
- Cuisine: Western
Keywords: turkey, roast, black pudding, pear, stuffed, bacon, gravy, whisky, brown sauce, thyme, sausage, holiday recipe
More fabulous roast recipes to feast on: