Preparing ahead will help you to stay on track with your Christmas cooking. It might be worth writing out a plan of timings so that nothing is forgotten.
Turkey: Allow 450g (1lb) per person, weighed when plucked and drawn or 225g (8oz) per person, for boned and breast-only roasts.
Goose: Allow 900g (2lb) per person, weighed when plucked and drawn or 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.
It is essential that you allow a frozen bird to defrost for the correct length of time. Thaw your bird in the coolest room of your house (preferably below 16oC. First remove the packaging and check on your turkey or goose regularly. Once defrosted (there are 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 5oC.
Remove the bag of giblets from inside a fresh bird as soon as you take delivery of it. In the case of a frozen bird, remove as soon as they become loose during defrosting. You can use the giblets to make your own stock for gravy, it really is worth it and it's so easy in the AGA simmering oven.
To make the carving more elegant, remove the wishbone before cooking. This will give you more even slices when carving the breast. Either ask your butcher to do this, or do it yourself using a sharp knife. Beware cross contamination - after handling all raw poultry wash all utensils, surfaces and your hands.
To remove the wishbone yourself:
1. Cut carefully to avoid piercing the skin.
2. Loosen the skin at the neck end and ease your fingers up between the breast and the skin.
3. Cut the wishbone at the base end near the wing joints first.
4. Cut up along the bone to remove from the flesh and loosen at the top, twisting to remove.
Prepare the stuffing ahead of time, and then refrigerate or freeze it. 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.
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. Allow about 225g (8 oz) prepared stuffing for each 2.25 kg (5 lb) of dressed bird.
4. Either use a homemade stuffing, or doctor two packets of a good quality sage and onion stuffing mix:
a. make up with boiling water as directed, adding a good knob of butter and plenty of seasoning.
b. When quite cold, mix well with 900g (2 lb) of sausage meat (taken from good quality sausages).
5. Stuffing must be cold before being used and it is recommended to stuff the bird just before cooking.
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.
To make the day less stressful, prepare your vegetables and trimmings the day before.
Peel your vegetables and potatoes ahead of time and store ready to be cooked the next day. You can always enlist little helpers for this!
Make the bread sauce and cranberry sauce beforehand (they freeze well if you prefer) and reheat, covered, in their serving dish in the simmering oven for about an hour or two before the Christmas meal.