Last Christmas I cooked Christmas dinner for my family with a lovely free range turkey from Crowe’s in Tipperary but what I didn’t know is that my parents had got one too as a gift from a supplier who they use for their shop (my dad, in true Italian style, runs a chipper). Of course, two 5kg birds is far too much food even for Christmas so my mam froze theirs and we used mine for our dinner.
Now, I cooked the turkey in quite an unconventional way after reading a Matthew Fort article where he suggested roasting it at a low temperature for nine hours to prevent overcooking and I went to some ludicrous lengths to ensure the breast cooked at a slower speed than the leg which both require different cooking temperatures (65°C for the leg, 60°C for the breast). Amongst others, these included putting an icepack on the the breasts after leaving the bird out to come up to room temperature and only putting oil on the legs to aid the heat transfer from the oven. And all of this was done at four o’clock in the morning to make sure it would be ready for dinner at three.
I’m lucky enough to have an oven that can go down to 30°C so as per the article I cooked at 70°C overnight but unfortunately this wasn’t enough so I had to turn the temperature up to finish; thankfully, as with most things at Christmas there was overrun and the turkey wasn’t need till after four. Still, I wasn’t entirely happy with the results: the breast was good but the legs weren’t great and I’d guess it was because they didn’t get to spend enough time at a higher temperature to help break down their abundant connective tissue. Also, as expected the temperatures were so low there were barely any pan juices (meaning they were all still in the meat) so I made a gravy out of chicken stock from the freezer and white wine.
When my mam suggested we have the leftover turkey this Easter I decided to come up with a different approach which involved breaking the turkey up into light and dark meat (here’s a video showing how to do this) and cooking them separately. (The only way I have seen to cook the whole bird in a sufficient manner is recounted in all it’s ridiculous glory on the brilliant Cooking Issues blog.) As you can guess the dark meat comes from the leg and requires braising: I figured it would be a perfect job for the pressure cooker and the cooking liquid would provide an excellent base for the gravy. I was then reminded of a recipe from Sat Bains involving pressure cooked mutton that was then shredded and rolled into a sausage before being sliced into rounds and fried until golden brown.
For the white meat there’s some quite important considerations from a food safety perspective: when cooking turkey meat to 60°C it must be held for thirty minutes at this temperature to ensure any pathogens are destroyed and the meat is pasteurised (see page 11 here). You can’t rely on your oven’s thermostat so the only way to do it, as Matthew Fort says, is by using a meat thermometer and sticking it into the thickest part of the breast to see what the internal temperature is. I use the Thermapen which from what I’ve read online seems to be one of the best around and really does give very quick and accurate readings.
I know this whole recipe is pretty mad (I think step one is pretty hilarious, ah sure just stick it in for 14 hours!) and I’d be surprised if anyone tried it but it was a interesting exercise and I was very happy with the results; I do most of my meat in the oven at low temperatures and it can be hard to find information on it that doesn’t relate to cooking sous vide so I thought this might be informative for anyone trying to do likewise.
For the turkey breast:
1 turkey crown
For the braised turkey legs :
2 turkey legs
1l turkey stock
150ml white wine
100g diced onion
50g roughly chopped carrots
50g roughly chopped celery
2 bay leaves
4 sage leaves
3 sprigs thyme
3 sprigs parsley
15ml worcestershire sauce
5ml sherry vinegar
- For the turkey breasts, place the turkey crown in an oven at 60°C for 14 hours.
- Using a meat thermometer check that the internal temperature of thickest part of the breast stays at 60°C for at least 30 minutes.
- Take the crown out of the oven and coat with the butter.
- Increase the oven’s temperature to maximum and when heated put the turkey back in.
- Cook for 10-15 minutes so that it is golden all over.
- Remove from oven and leave to rest for half an hour.
- Slice the breasts off the bone and then cut across the grain into rounds.
- For the braised turkey legs, joint the legs into thighs and drumsticks to make them easier to fit into the pressure cook.
- Over a high heat brown the meat in a pan until golden brown and then place in the pressure cooker.
- Lower the heat in the pan and add the onions and sautée until lightly golden.
- Add the carrots and celery and fry for a few minutes until soft.
- Deglaze the pan with the white wine, boil off most of the alcohol and then add everything to the pressure cooker.
- Add the stock, bay leaves, peppercorns, worcestershire sauce, sage, thyme and parsley to the pressure cooker and if needs be ensure the meat is covered by adding more stock or water. (Remember that most pressure cookers only recommend that they are filled to two thirds capacity for braises.)
- Bring the cooker to full pressure and from that point cook for 35 minutes.
- Using the natural release method allow the pressure to return to normal and then remove the legs and drumsticks.
- Strain the liquid through a fine sieve into a large saucepan and reduce over a high heat by two thirds.
- Strip the meat from the braised turkey and flake it using a fork into a bowl.
- Add two thirds of the reduced liquid to the meat, season and mix thoroughly. Reserve the rest of the reduction in the fridge for the gravy.
- When cooled put the meat mixture the fridge to firm up a bit.
- Get a large rectangle of cling film, shape the meat into a cylinder and place in the middle of the film and wrap it tightly around the meat. Twist the ends a few times and roll the mixture to make a nice solid sausage shape. Place in the fridge for a few hours (or overnight) to solidify.
- Slice the sausage into large rounds and fry in butter until golden on both sides. Place in a low oven to keep warm.
- Reheat the reserved braising liquid in a pan, if the flavour is too intense then dilute with water to taste.
- Adjust the thickness of the gravy using the roux if needed being careful to make the sauce slightly thinner than you would like in the pan as it will thicken as it cools on the plate.
- Stir the sherry vinegar into the gravy just before serving.
- To plate, serve some rounds of the breast meat with two of the turkey slices and top with the gravy.