With Christmas cooking it is important to bear in mind that most people like a reasonably traditional menu. It is not generally a good idea to jazz up every dish – by all means introduce a few new ideas, but keep the basics reassuringly familiar. Concentrate on cooking the vegetables well and work to a simple written out time plan so that nothing is forgotten. This way you will enjoy everything too. With careful planning the work on Christmas Day can be kept to a minimum, so that you can enjoy opening presents and spending time with family and friends. Enlist help the day before for peeling vegetables and preparing the trimmings – children love to be involved with helping to lay the table, make festive place cards etc. Don’t forget that Bucks Fizz makes Christmas Day more enjoyable for the cook! The following tips will help you enter the stress-free world of AGA entertaining.
Which size bird should I buy?
Turkey: Allow 450g (1lb) per person, weighed when plucked and drawn.
Allow 225g (8oz) per person, for boned and breast-only roasts.
Goose: Allow 900g (2lb) per person, weighed when plucked and drawn.
Allow 450g (1lb) per person, for boned and breast-only roasts.
This allows for second helpings and a manageable quantity of leftovers that can be safely used up within two to three days. If you are short of refrigerator space, a car boot in December may be cold enough for the safe storage of an uncooked bird once you have taken delivery of it from your butcher. Alternatively, consider using an unheated room or an animal-proof shed or garage.
Defrosting & Storing Frozen Birds
It is essential that you allow a frozen bird to defrost for the correct length of time:
Thaw the turkey in the coolest room – below 16°C (60°F). Remove packaging first, check regularly, once defrosted (no ice crystals remaining in the cavity and the legs are quite flexible), store covered, low down in the refrigerator at a temperature of no more than 5°C (40°F).
Remove the bag of giblets from inside a fresh bird as soon as you take delivery of it, or in the case of a frozen bird, as soon as they become loose during defrosting. Use them to make your own giblet stock ready for making incomparable gravy, it really is worth it and it’s so easy in the AGA simmering oven.
A tip to make the carving more elegant is to remove the wishbone before cooking. This will vastly facilitate carving the breast giving you lovely even slices. Either ask your butcher to do this for you, or do it yourself using a very sharp knife – the 10cm AGA Cook’s Knife or 13cm Utility Knife is perfect. Cut carefully to avoid piercing the skin. Loosen the skin at the neck end and ease your fingers up between the breast and the skin. Cut the wishbone at the base end near the wing joints first, cut up along the bone to remove from the flesh and loosen at the top, twisting to remove. You might like to consider asking your butcher to remove the leg tendons before roasting. Beware cross contamination – after handling raw poultry wash all utensils, surfaces and your hands to prevent bacteria being transferred.
Rinse the inside of the bird with cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Season the insides of both cavities with salt and pepper and a generous amount of butter. In the interests of food safety with a turkey it is recommended to stuff the neck or breast end only. In the body cavity place a quartered peeled onion and lemon together with a stick of celery, a few batons of carrot with some sprigs of fresh parsley and thyme which will pervade the bird with aromatic flavour. Allow about 225g (8 oz) prepared stuffing for each 2.25 kg (5 lb) of dressed bird. Either use a homemade stuffing, or doctor two packets of a good quality Sage and Onion stuffing mix: make up with boiling water as directed, adding a good knob of butter and plenty of seasoning. When quite cold, mix well with 900g (2 lb) of sausage meat (taken from good quality sausages). Stuffing must be cold before being used and it is recommended to stuff the bird just before cooking. If liked, prepare the stuffing ahead of time, and then refrigerate or freeze it, but stuff the bird with stuffing at room temperature just before you are ready to roast it. Additional stuffing can be cooked in a separate dish, and given several bastings of turkey roasting juices as it cooks. It is not recommended to truss a bird, this allows free circulation of heat to all parts. Use bathroom scales covered with cling film to weigh the stuffed bird.
A Turkey Crown has the legs, wing tips and back bone removed from the bird, leaving the double breasts still attached to the ribs and sternum. This is increasingly a popular choice these days, making for easy carving whilst retaining a traditional appearance on the Christmas dining or buffet table. If dark meat is liked, consider asking your butcher to make you a crown, and cook the legs separately, perhaps boned and then stuffed.