I’m sure the turkeys would disagree, but it’s a shame most of us don’t eat turkey all year round.
There are lots of reasons why I love turkey. One is simply that it’s eaten on Thanksgiving and Christmas – both days where you can stuff yourself silly and not be judged – but it’s got lots of other things going for it too.
Not only can it be leaner than chicken, the dark meat in particular has even more flavour. The only caveat is that it has to be good turkey. They are intelligent, active animals that live a lot longer than most poultry, which makes it even more important that they are able to act naturally while they grow. Not only does it mean they live a happy life, it improves the flavour of the meat too. Lazy turkeys have less flavour and grow fat, whereas happy active ones grow more slowly and therefore taste a lot better.
Having to literally go “cold turkey” after Christmas fills me with joy. Sneaking poultry into endless curries, soups and risottos is lots of fun, and I never tire of leftover turkey sandwiches at Christmas, especially when they look like Jamie’s.
Before we get to lovely leftovers, you’ve got to cook it right. There’s no point investing in a huge, beautiful turkey only to burn it in the oven. Jamie’s modestly-named Best turkey in the world is an absolutely incredible recipe because it uses this lovely butter, flavoured with cranberries, rosemary and clementine – all seasonal flavours and perfect for cutting through the white meat. If you want to keep the winter fruit theme going this Thanksgiving, why not go for these awesome sage and orange roast potatoes too?
Jamie recommends buying a turkey that weighs between 6.5kg and 8kg for maximum flavour, which means unless you’re feeding a whole football team you’ll probably have leftovers. If, unlike me, you find that turkey sandwiches don’t quite cut it, there are loads of amazing ways to use up turkey, because it’s a brilliant carrier of flavour.
Jamie’s turkey con chilli is pretty special with the big load of paprika Jamie chucks in, and his turkey and sweet leek pie is an amazing winter meal. In fact, if you don’t want a whole roast turkey, this would be an amazing Thanksgiving meal. For something a bit more leftfield, try this Asian-inspired turkey salad recipe – the little pops of flavour from the pomegranate makes it really special.
Personally, however, I’ll always reach for the bread bin. Get some homemade brown rolls, be generous with the butter (what? It’s Thanksgiving!) and load them with fresh crunchy lettuce, mayonnaise, cranberry sauce and some crispy bacon, then top it with a mix of brown and white leftover meat. I’d roast a whole turkey just for that sandwich right there, and when the meat is left exposed like this the good stuff really is on another level.
Buying the right turkey
If you’re out buying turkeys there are lots of ways to guarantee you’re getting a quality bird. All over the world there are quality assurance marks; in the UK anything that is free range or organic guarantees you some quality, while in Canada it’s Certified Humane. But what do those certifications mean? It means the farmer hasn’t used any growth hormones and that they have been brought up in an environment that lets them act naturally.
So, this thanksgiving, buy good-quality turkey and reap the rewards for a better dinner, better leftovers and the knowledge that you have eaten ethically.