For me, Christmas dinner is never complete without the turkey. But my in-laws are not very fond of eating turkey, so the main course for my family Christmas dinner the last few years was a huge pork belly stuffed with all the Christmas turkey ingredients, roasted like a turkey without the big bird.
But I love the taste of turkey, and since I already have all the stuffing ingredients, I might as well roast two main dishes served at the same meal.
It is important to get the biggest turkey leg you can find so that it’s easier to work with. You will need to remove the bone without tearing the skin so that you can put the stuffing into the cavity vacated by the bone.
Also important is to remove all the ligaments along each of the leg muscles because these do not soften when cooked, unlike chicken. I find the easiest way to work on these ligaments is to turn the whole leg inside out after the bone has been removed. Then I can scrape off these tough tendons off with a knife. Hopefully my video will be able to show how this process is done.
After all the meat has been cleaned, season with salt and pepper and marinate about 30 minutes.
Whereas many people put raw stuffing into the turkey, I like to sauté my stuffing first because I find raw stuffing tend to shrink after roasting and fall apart when I slice across the roast. Sautéing the ingredients first will cause them to shrink before stuffing, and then swell during the roasting as they absorb the juices from the meat.
To keep the stuffing inside the meat cavity, prick a ring of about 12 toothpicks along the rim of the open end. Then loop a metre-long kitchen string tightly from one toothpick to another across the open end of the stuffed meat. What you get at the end is a criss-crossed star shape that can hold the stuffing in the turkey leg. Pack in as much stuffing as you can into the narrow end of the leg. And then seal up this opening with string or toothpick.
I normally place my roast on a rack with a pan underneath to catch the drippings. I also fill the pan with water to create steam in the oven and I will keep topping up the water to maintain about 1 cup of drippings in the pan. This dripping is not wasted as it is turned into a delicious gravy for the roast turkey.
If you are using a convection oven, you don’t really need to turn the roast over much because the heat is quite evenly distributed inside the oven. But if you are using conduction oven, then you’d need to turn the roast over and baste every 15 minutes to ensure even roasting.
When it’s done, let it rest for about 30 minutes during which time you can make gravy with the pan drippings and juices. Turkey tends to be quite lean, so if you get less than 2 tablespoons of drippings, you’d need to top up with some olive oil or butter to make the gravy.
This serves about four, so it’s quite a small portion. But it’s perfect if you are hankering for the taste of turkey and not having to deal with a whole turkey or its leftovers. That’s the topic for next week when we make pies with leftover turkey.
- 1kg whole turkey leg
- 100ml olive oil
- ½ cup onions, diced
- ½ cup celery, diced
- ½ bulb garlic, minced
- ½ cup walnuts, roughly chopped
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- ½ cup fresh shiitake mushrooms, diced
- 3 slices white bread, diced
- 5g parsley
- 5g sage
- 5g rosemary
- 5g thyme
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- salt to taste
- 2 tablespoons turkey drippings
- 2 tablespoons flour
- Turkey stock
- Remove bone and ligaments from turkey leg. Season all over with salt and pepper. Make turkey stock with bones and ligaments, and vegetable trimmings and herb stalks.
- Sauté diced onions, celery, garlic in olive oil until wilted. Remove from heat.
- Add walnuts, cranberries, mushrooms, bread, and the herbs. Toss until well mixed and the oil has absorbed into the bread. Season with salt and pepper.
- Fill turkey leg cavity with bread stuffing. Tie up with kitchen string. Continue to add stuffing if necessary.
- Place stuffed turkey leg on a rack in a roasting pan. Drizzle all over with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Pour water into roasting pan and add any remaining stuffing into pan.
- Roast on centre rack in preheated 200°C oven for 15 minutes, then continue to roast at 150°C for another hour, basting and turning every 15 minutes for even roasting. Remove from oven to rest at least 30 minutes.
- While meat is resting, make gravy with pan juices. Skim off all the roasting grease and reserve 2 tablespoons to heat in a saucepan. When fat has stopped sizzling, add 2 tablespoons flour and bring heat down to low. Slowly brown the flour, stirring constantly with a whisk to keep from burning. When flour has become brown, add pan juices a little at a time to form a smooth gravy, adding turkey stock to thin it out as necessary. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper and serve with turkey and stuffing.