Cider Can Turkey with Nutty Couscous
Photography by Sarka Babicka
A little over a month ago, Sarka and I collaborated once more, this time to create holiday posts. Sarka and her partner Pavel drove down to our home in the West Country, and for a little over a week, we got down to business testing recipes (moi) and photographing dishes (Sarka). The recipes were meant to go up on the blog much sooner than this but alas with everything else that’s been going on, I did not manage it till now. Better late than never! Over the next few days and in the run up to Christmas I will be posting a handful of these holiday recipes. I hope you enjoy them.
Cider Butt Turkey with Nutty Couscous
It’s always best to bring the turkey to room temperature for at least an hour before cooking as this allows it to cook evenly. A trick I learned from Harold McGee is to ice the breast during the last 30 minutes, as this slows down the cooking time so it doesn’t get too tough and dry while the rest of the bird continues to cook. As for the couscous, I prefer to steam it whenever I have the time as it lends an ethereal texture. If you’re going to steam the couscous, then make sure you’re not using the instant kind found in national supermarkets, as the prolonged cooking time renders it to mush. You can purchase non-instant couscous for steaming at most Middle Eastern grocers. If, however, time is not in your favour, then rehydrate the instant couscous as you would according to the instructions on the packet and then continue with the recipe as stated. I do not own a couscoussiere, which is the traditional vessel used for steaming couscous, and have used a strainer lined with muslin cloth for the longest time without disappointing results.
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 2 hours and 30 minutes
For the Turkey:
1 small turkey (about 3.5kg/7.5 lb), giblets removed and neck reserved
60g/2 1/4 oz butter, softened
1 tbsp salt
Pinch of allspice
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp sumac
1 can of cider
For the Couscous:
450g/1 lb couscous
125g/4 1/2 oz butter, softened
1 cinnamon stick
2 leeks, finely chopped
3 tbsp pine nuts
3 tbsp almonds
3 tbsp whole pistachios
4 tbsp barberries
150g/ 5 1/2 oz dried apricots, roughly chopped
2 tbsp finely chopped mint
1 preserved lemon wedge, finely chopped
Pinch of allspice
2 tbsp argan oil (optional)
- Preheat oven to 220C/425F/7G. Rinse the turkey and pat dry. Combine 55g/2 oz of the butter with 1 teaspoon of the sea salt and the allspice, turmeric and sumac in a small mixing bowl. Rub the cavity of the turkey with about 1 tablespoon of this seasoned butter and melt the remainder for basting.
- Use a can opener to open the cider around the rim rather than just opening the assigned puncture, this is to create more area for the liquid to steam out of and tenderize the meat. Place the opened can in the centre of the roasting tray and then lift the bird and sit it over the can with the legs in front of it forming a tripod. Generously baste the bird all over with the melted butter and bake at 220C/425F/7G for the first 15 minutes then reduce heat to about 140C/285F/1G and bake for a further 2 hours, basting it twice more with any remaining butter. Once the turkey has cooked, remove it from the oven, dislodge the can (set it aside), transfer the turkey to a serving plate and leave it to rest. Keep the roasting tray and any drippings in order to make the gravy.
- Meanwhile, add the reserved neck, 1 cinnamon stick, and salt to a stock pot over medium heat and pour in 1.5l/52 fl oz/6 cups of water, cover with the lid and bring to a boil. In a mixing bowl, combine the couscous with 45g/1 1/2 oz butter, 3 tablespoons of hot water and a generous pinch of salt, making sure as many of the couscous grains are coated. Line a colander with a doubled muslin cloth, transfer the couscous to the colander and secure the colander over the pot of boiling water, then cover with a lid and leave the couscous to steam for about 1 hour. Seal the edges or the open rim between the pot and the lid with a tea towel if you find too much steam escaping. Fluff the couscous grain with a fork to ensure even steaming every 15-20 minutes. The couscous grains are ready when they are soft and distinct at which point remove the couscous from the heat and set it aside making sure it remains covered.
- During the last 10 minutes of the couscous’ cooking time, melt the remaining butter in a frying pan over medium heat, add the leeks and cook for 2 minutes or until soft and lightly brown on the edges. Add the nuts, barberries, apricots and toss to combine and cook for a further 2 minutes until aromatic. Transfer the cooked couscous to the pan, add the mint, preserved lemon, allspice, argan oil, season with salt to taste and toss to combine. Reserve the broth to make the gravy later.
50g/1 3/4 oz butter
2 garlic cloves
2 tbsp flour
75ml/2 1/4 fl oz cider or remaining cider from the can used for the Turkey
300ml/10 1/2 fl oz/1 1/4 cups reserved broth
Once the turkey has cooked, remove it from the oven, dislodge the can (set it aside), transfer the turkey to a serving plate and leave it to rest. Place the roasting tin over a medium heat on the stove burner, and then whisk in the butter, garlic, flour and cook through for 1-2 minutes before pouring in the cider as you whisk constantly. Pour over the reserved broth and whisk for a further 3-4 minutes or until it begins to bubble and has thickened into a sauce. Stain through a mesh sieve, saving the silky sauce into a serving bowl. Serve with the turkey and couscous.