Cooking Christmas Day Dinner for those who are dear to me is an expression of my love.  So even though I am a spoilt cook, I insisted on hosting and cooking dinner this year even though the absence of our helper W meant that not only would I have to do everything in the kitchen on my own, we’d also have to clean up after.

I’d never roasted a turkey in my life. First of all, I have an aversion to defrosting meat. One of the few things I don’t enjoy about cooking is handling frozen meat. And the idea of having to deal with a large, frozen, rock -hard turkey didn’t appeal to me at all.  Second, my parents aren’t big on roast turkey. To them, it is tough, dry and not worth the trouble. To blame for this, are the supermarket chain and a certain 6-star hotel which produced the roast turkeys of our Christmases past. So Dad was skeptical when I said I was thinking of serving roast turkey this year.

The plan was just to do a simple roast turkey with no stuffing.  I don’t know anyone who likes the stuff anyway. Besides, in the words of Alton Brown, stuffing is evil.  And you can’t deny his logic, because it increases cooking time, thereby causing the meat to be overcooked and tough.

I got a 6kg turkey, which isn’t big by turkey standards I suppose.  Nonetheless, as I discovered soon enough, it still required some effort to lift, tilt, turn, and flip over.  And it was just a little tricky to handle.  Just as handling a slippery, slimy bowling ball would be tricky.  It took about 4 days to thaw out in the fridge, so it was ready for the marinade by Christmas Eve.

When I opened the wrapping, I found (to my gratitude) that it had actually been cleaned quite thoroughly.  The cavity was cleaned out nicely, although the neck and a little white plastic bag – which I assumed contained gizzards and the heart – had been placed back in it.  I wasn’t really keen on finding out what was actually in the bundle. Through the translucent plastic, I could tell it was a deep red  colour. There was also a bloody liquid leaking out of it and that was enough for me to decide to toss it into the bin.  It was already pretty late.  I was quite tired after a day of working in the kitchen, followed by washing and cleaning up the place, and then Christmas Eve dinner (which I’d helped cook as well) at my parents’.  So really, a bloody bundle-of-whatever was of no interest to me at the time. I know that some people use these innards to make turkey stock, but I wasn’t keen on trying. I don’t like innards, you see. I don’t mind Tur Huang Kiam Chye Tng (Pork Innard and Salted Vegetable Soup), but I don’t actually eat the innards.  And I ask for only pork belly meat when I order Kway Chap.  Heck, I’m not even a big fan of foie gras.  Well, okay, the first two bites may be capable of transporting me to heaven, but from the third mouthful onwards, it invariably gets difficult.  So I am always guilty of wasting good foie gras.  Yes, people like me should not even be allowed to order foie gras.  But  back to the turkey, I am curious if it’s the norm to make stock from these turkey innards for the gravy, or whether it is just customary to leave those parts in.

Anyway, I cleaned out all the fat I could, then patted it dry with paper towels, and rubbed salt and cracked black pepper all over it, under the skin and inside the cavity too.  Then I lined a glass tray with pieces of peeled smashed garlic and placed the turkey on it, breast side up.  I put some of the garlic under the skin and on top of it, distributing it evenly, and then also into the cavity.  I then wrapped the whole thing in cling wrap, and stuck it in the fridge.

The next afternoon, I took it out of the fridge to stand at room temperature for an hour, then removed all the pieces of garlic from under and over the skin, patted the whole thing dry with paper towels again, stuffed the cavity with the garlic, some flat-leaved parsley (Italian parsley), a few springs of thyme, an onion cut into strips, 2 stalks of celery sliced, and an orange peel cut into strips.

In addition to garlic, this was what went into the cavity of the turkey
I then tied the legs together, transferred it onto a wire rack fitted over a roasting pan, put about 2-3 cups of water into the pan, and placed the whole thing into the oven which had been preheated at 230 degrees celsius. 

I topped up the water in the pan to maintain at least 1cm depth throughout the roasting, and the turkey was done in roughly 2 hours (internal temperature must reach about 80 degrees when meat thermometer is stuck into the fleshiest part of the thigh).  It is important when roasting meat to allow the meat to stand for awhile after you’ve taken it out of the oven. If you start cutting or carving before this, prepare for heartbreak as you witness the juices running out, instead of being retained in the meat so it remains moist and juicy.

I also made a gravy from the pan juices (I got about 2 cups full), chicken stock (cos I didn’t want the hassle of making turkey stock), butter and plain flour.  But as the turkey was so moist and juicy, it didn’t really need any gravy.  In any case, I think the pan juices on its own would have been good enough (fat skimmed off, please!).  I am pleased to say the skin was crispy as well, although it was a pity it was done almost 3 hours before dinner, so it was not as crackly by the time it was served, compared to within an hour after it was out of the oven.  In summary, this was a very successful Roast Turkey for a first.  It even made both my kids declare animatedly that they love turkey.  And that says quite a lot.

The thing I’d have to remember next time is to cover the top of the breast with some foil maybe after an hour of roasting.  I was going to do it if the skin started to brown too quickly and burn, but it didn’t.  However, the meat near the outer part of the turkey near the apex of the breast was dryer than the rest of the meat.  Even then, my friend M thought that part was moist enough.

Christmas Dinner is always enjoyable.  There is always food that we enjoy, since I only cook what I like. This year, in addition to the turkey, we also had a rack of lamb, a Pasta Pesto, roasted potatoes, and some antipasti comprising roasted veggies and sauteed mushrooms. Dessert was a Sugee Cake from my MIL and Tiramisu made by my friend M. In addition to the food, the wine is always flowing, which makes everyone happy.

Most importantly, I get to enjoy all of it surrounded by people I love.  Life is good.

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