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Roast turkey crown with thyme-stuffed legs

best roast turkey recipe how to make
Scattered with chesnuts and fragrant with stuffing, this bird is leagues above any dry turkey dishes of the past - Carol Sachs

Once you have purchased your Christmas bird, there’s always the problem of fridge space. This recipe involves taking the legs off first, stuffing them, and cooking the turkey in different stages to get the best results – and to free up crucial fridge space for all your other Christmas goodies. The stuffed legs, wrapped in clingfilm, are simmered first, then roasted in the oven with the crown, which is rubbed simply with butter.

Sliced and served with chestnuts tossed in juices from the roasting tin, this is a great way to use the whole bird to maximum effect.

Timings

Prep time: 1 hour, plus chilling

Cooking time: 2 hours, plus resting

Serves

8-10

Ingredients

  • 1 medium turkey, weighing about 4-6kg

  • 100g caul fat (optional)

  • butter, for basting

  • 150-200g roasted and peeled chestnuts, or use vacuum-packed prepared ones

  • Finely chopped parsley, to serve

  • Gravy, to serve

For the leg stuffing

  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped

  • 2 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves

  • a couple of good knobs of butter

  • 500g minced turkey, pork or chicken

  • 100g fresh white breadcrumbs

Method

  1. Bone the turkey legs by removing them from the crown first, then running the point of a sharp knife along the bone of each leg and working it around the bone (drumstick and thigh) to release all the flesh, keeping it intact in one piece.

  2. Remove any visible tendons in the drumstick and lay the boned leg on a tray, then repeat with the other leg. If you have a friendly butcher, ask them to do this.

  3. Chop the leg bones into small pieces (removing any remaining bits of meat on them for the stuffing, if you like) and set aside to make gravy. Keep the turkey crown in the fridge until ready to cook.

  4. To make the stuffing, gently cook the onion and thyme in the butter for 10 minutes to soften, then remove from the heat and leave to cool. Mix with the mince and breadcrumbs, and season.

  5. Divide the mixture between the two legs, packing it down the centre, then roll up the leg meat around it as tightly as possible.

  6. Wrap each leg in several layers of cling film and twist the ends tightly to make a cylinder. Place the legs in a large saucepan of cold water, bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Leave to cool for an hour, then remove from the water and leave to set in the fridge for a few hours.

  7. Unwrap the legs from the cling film and wrap each one in a couple of layers of caul fat, if you have it, securing it by tying the leg with string every 3cm; if you don’t have caul fat, then just tie the legs in the same way with string. Keep in the fridge until you are ready to cook them.

  8. With a heavy chopping knife, cut away the backbone from the base of the turkey and chop it into small pieces. Set aside with the leg bones for the gravy. Keep the turkey crown in the fridge until ready to cook.

  9. When you are ready to roast the turkey, preheat the oven to 220C/200C fan/gas mark 7.

  10. Season the turkey crown and rub the breasts with some butter. Place in a roasting tray with the stuffed legs and roast for about 30 minutes, then turn the oven down to 200C/180C fan/gas mark 6 and cook for a further 30-45 minutes, basting every so often. Test if the meat is done by inserting a skewer into the centre of the stuffed leg and the thickest part of the breast; if the skewer feels hot, they’re cooked.

  11. To serve, remove the breasts from the carcass, slice them at an angle about a centimetre thick and arrange on a warmed serving dish. Slice the stuffed legs into 1cm slices and arrange on the dish.

  12. Toss the chestnuts in any residue fat in the roasting tin and spoon them over the meat, along with a sprinkle of chopped parsley and some gravy.

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