In my previous blog, The Ghosts of Christmasses Past, I mentioned ‘every foreigner’s nightmare Corfiot Christmas Dinner – egg and lemon soup made with boiled turkey stock, followed by charred turkey from the grill.’ Now Christmas is over, I am posting a recipe, in case you’d like to try it sometime. Made with care, it is excellent. You do need a big pot, though!
Corfiot Christmas Turkey
Because until recently few village kitchens had domestic ovens – and also because their home-raised turkeys were rather tough and stringy – housewives would boil the fowl. The resulting stock would be eaten as a soup thickened with rice, egg and lemon, followed by the turkey, split in two and grilled over hot embers until browned.
I have adapted the idea for a normal oven, and added a sophisticated stuffing (Ninetta Lascari’s recipe). It is an excellent treatment for a free-range turkey which you suspect may not be particularly tender.
The recipe also overcomes the vexed issue of timing the turkey roast on Christmas morning – you can prepare the whole thing the day before, just leaving the soup to be finished, and a brief blast in the oven for the bird. Serve the soup first, followed by the stuffed turkey, oven-roasted whole in this case. You could make up some gravy from some of the turkey stock if you like. Serve with a green salad.
Making the stuffing
Neck, wings and giblets from the turkey, including the liver Olive oil Red wine
2 thick slices bacon
3 slices white village bread soaked in a little milk
6 tablespoons grated hard cheese
250 gr minced beef
2 pounded cloves garlic
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
Pinch of allspice
Salt and black pepper
Simmer the neck and wings in a little water until the meat parts from the bones; bone and cut into small pieces. Cut the giblets in pieces and fry in a little oil. Then pour on half a glass of red wine and simmer for a few minutes until tender, raising the heat at the end to reduce the wine to a glaze. Chop in very small pieces, reserving any juices.
Place the mince in a bowl and add the bacon (cut up small), the bread, garlic, one egg, cheese, herbs, spices and seasonings. Use the other egg if it does not bind well. Knead well then mix in the giblets.
You can prepare this mixture up to a day in advance.
Alternatively, you can make a stuffing of your choice (NOT from a packet, and NO sage as it will dominate the taste of the stock), or make a light stuffing with breadcrumbs, parsley and lemon – find a detailed recipe on the Internet.
Boiling the turkey
A turkey of 5-6 kilos
4 sliced carrots
1 stick sliced celery (or a few stalks of pot celery/selino)
2 unpeeled onions
15 lightly crushed peppercorns
1 tablespoon salt
2 bay leaves
Bunch of parsley stalks
Stuff the turkey and secure the opening very well. Place it on its side in a very large, deep pan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and skim until only white foam rises. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer, half-covered, for two hours, until, when you tug on the leg, it starts to part from the body. You can turn it over half way through the process it the water does not fully cover the bird. In this case, test both legs.
Remove the turkey from the stock, reserving the stock for the soup.
You can prepare to this stage in a day in advance.
Making the Turkey Avgolemono Soup
3 litres strained turkey broth
200 gr carolina rice
Juice of 2 lemons
Salt and black pepper
Grated cheese, preferably Greek Kefalotiri Bring the broth to the boil, add the rice and cook until very soft, 15 to 18 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Have the eggs very well beaten in a bowl. Take a ladleful of turkey broth from the pan and add it very slowly to the eggs. Then very slowly add the lemon juice. Beat all the time. Then slowly pour this mixture back into the soup, stirring constantly in one direction. Check seasoning. Leave for ten minutes off the heat so that the eggs thicken the soup, and serve with grated cheese on the table for guests to help themselves if they wish.
Roasting the turkey
Salt and black pepper
Oregano to taste
Peel the potatoes (the number depends on how many you have to feed), cut into halves or lengthwise quarters depending on size and parboil them for about ten minutes. Remove and drain well. You can do this in advance.
Preheat the oven to about 400 degrees.
Pour a good film of olive oil into a large, deep roasting pan and place the boiled stuffed turkey in the middle, lying on its side. Rub more oil into the exposed skin. Surround with the potatoes if used, and season to taste with salt, pepper and oregano. Put in the preheated hot oven and roast for 30-40 minutes, turning twice (once onto its other side, and finally breast-up), or until all the skin is crisped and golden and the potatoes are also nicely browned. Serve immediately on a warmed platter and divide up at the table – it should fall apart and will be lovely and moist under the crisp skin.
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