I decided to cook a mini-Thanksgiving dinner for my first winter here in the UK. I had originally considered inviting lots of people over for dinner, but rather quickly backed off from that idea once I had more carefully considered the amount of work ahead of me. So on Tuesday night Becky gave me a lift to Tesco, where I bought the fixings for our meal (the new, sane guest list was just the 5 of us living at 43 Osler).
I got a 5.4kg turkey for 50% off, plus numerous other things needed to make stuffing, gravy and a roast vegetable medley which comprised the menu. The stuff that's hard to find in stores here always surprises me; this time it was dried cranberries (for the stuffing) and apple cider of any kind other than Scrumpy's, which they only sell in a 1.5L plastic bottle, usually to homeless people.
I foolishly left the turkey in the fridge to defrost on Tuesday night, disregarding the info on the label stating that it would take 40 - 48 hours to defrost in a cool room! I took the turkey out after I got home from work on Wednesday, assuming it would be completely thawed. Well, it was probably 40% unfrozen at that point and it needed to brine overnight (the ultimate secret to a moist bird). I left it on the counter for a couple of hours before coming back downstairs to prep the brine in the big 3 gallon bucket I had procured for this purpose. One interesting problem with completely submerging a turkey in brine is that turkeys float in water which is at the proper saltiness for brining. I weighed the bird down with the remainder of my bag of cooking salt, covered it up and left it to do a combo thaw/brine overnight.
Thursday morning I had to lead the group meeting at work at 10:30AM. After that was taken care of I came back home to start cooking. I had two very similar recipes for cranberry/apple/sausage stuffing but unfortunately they differed in relative proportions of some of the ingredients by as much as twofold! At first I tried to figure out which one was safer to follow, but I later decided that what it really meant was that even if I really screwed up I could almost always be claiming to be following one of the recipes. I also at this point realised that instead of buying rosemary, sage and thyme I had bought sage, sage and thyme. So from this point forward it was gonna be "Sage Turkey ala Geoffrois".
I sauteed the sausage, onions, celery, apples and cranberries up into a nice mix, cubed and toasted my bread and then mixed them up in what was turning out to be a very nice smelling beginning (there was a strong aroma of sage). I pulled the turkey out of his bath, removed the giblets and the "neck" (what the hell are you supposed to do with that thing?) and arrayed the bird on the roasting tin. I had mixed up some olive oil with herbs, spices and garlic, so I liberally applied to ensure a moist, evenly browned turkey. I stuffed it with about half my stuffing, inserted a meat thermometer and popped it in the oven.
A little more than three hours later, the bird was at the right temp and looking deliciously browned. The vegetables (onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots and courgettes) were roasting (kudos to the MRhé technique of liberally applying olive oil, salt and pepper) and the extra stuffing needed a few more minutes of baking. I pulled the bird out, and siphoned off some pan drippings to mix with chicken stock and the giblets to cook up some gravy (another thing I'd never done before). I never really got why people always complain about lumpy gravy before, but I finally understood the difficulty of breaking up the clumps of flour while trying to thicken same. Also, in case anyone is wondering, you can use self-raising flour (all we had in the house) to make gravy.
When all was ready, Becky and I carved the bird (which was mangled, despite my sharpening the knives) and everything turned out to be delicious. The turkey was moist and tender, the stuffing was great, the veg were a nice medley that didn't require too much effort (how does anybody actually do a full version of this?!) and the gravy (I don't even like gravy) was really nice. We had home made berry crumble (with homegrown redcurrants and brambleberries) for dessert, which was actually really good (although not exactly traditional Thanksgiving fare).
All-in-all a successful feast; and for that, I am Thankful.
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