Getting the best from your Christmas bird
I wonder how many Cypriots are cooking whole lamb or kid, or joints of meat over an open fire, this Christmas? I suspect most will be indoors and the meat of choice will be turkey, which has become a tradition in itself in recent years. Not being the greatest lover of turkey, I often prefer a chicken. My butcher is always prepared to bone this out (providing a carcass which made lovely stock). Stuffed, rolled, tied and roasted, it is delicious. Not difficult, either!
Open out a boned chicken, skin-side down. Make your stuffing from: 450 g of slightly fatty pork pieces, finely minced; 4 slices of streaky bacon, finely minced; 1 large onion and 6 medium-large mushrooms very finely chopped; 2-3 sage leaves, finely chopped and 1 flat tsp each of powdered cinnamon, cumin and garlic; a little salt and a generous sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper. Mix everything together in a bowl and then lay in a long sausage shape in the centre of the spread-out chicken.
Fold the sides and ends of the chicken over and either tie or, as I do, put some wooden kebab skewers through at strategic points, to prevent the poor stuffed boneless bird coming apart. Turn the whole thing skin-side up, brush a little oil over and roast in the middle of a medium-hot oven (200C). This will take about an hour and a half. Turn once during cooking.
During the cooking a lot of lovely juices will be released. Drain them and put them in a small saucepan with a cup or two of water, a tablespoon of tomato purée (ketchup does as well, or better), a tablespoon of dry sherry and seasoning. Bring to the boil and thicken with corn-flour (mix one heaped teaspoon in a cup with water and tip into the saucepan, stirring briskly).
Bring the masterpiece to the table and carve lovely succulent slices off. Add some sauce and serve with roast potatoes and a green vegetable. If there's any left (as if there will be!) it's super cold. Slices thinly and beautifully.
If you want to be more ambitious, you may use more than one bird, boned and flattened. A goose, a duck and a chicken, for example. We did this five years ago for Christmas dinner for 18 and it was a great success. Here, too, it slices well cold.
If you want your bird roasted whole… this is a good method…
Fresh sage and onion are the classic ingredients of stuffing for rich meats, such as pork and duck, but I love it in chicken and turkey, too.
450 gr of onions, peeled and finely chopped; 100 g of home-made breadcrumbs, 6 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped; 25 g butter or 1 tbsp olive oil and salt and pepper.
Put the chopped onion in a small pan and barely cover with water. Simmer for 10 minutes. Remove onions to a mixing bowl, keeping the water. Mix all other ingredients in and moisten with a little of the onion water until you have a well-bound mixture. Then stuff your bird. Moist breadcrumbs can be the vehicle for all kinds of variations of herbs and spices: thyme, oregano, garlic, parsley, and so on. Cold stuffing is delicious sliced and served cold or fried to a golden crispiness.
4 thick slices of turkey breast, beaten flat 8-12 very thin slices of Hiromeri Thin slices of Kefalotiri, Cheddar or similar cheese A few sage leaves - Seasoning to taste
1. In a large heavy frying pan or skillet melt a little unsalted butter and crumble in one or two sage leaves. Gently fry the turkey fillets until cooked through and lightly browned on both sides.
2. In the pan, drape over each fillet the thin slices of Hiromeri (or very thin sliced lountza or ham if you prefer) and then the thin slices of cheese.
3. Continue cooking on low heat until the cheese softens and begins to melt. Sprinkle some black pepper over the top and serve.
A sauce made from slightly thickened stock, a little tomato purée and a drop of white wine could “lubricate”.
Turkey Dish for Four