Roast turkey with mustard mayonnaise, bacon and sage
I ask myself: Why has it come to this point? Why is it that once a year, people are expected to cook a turkey, hoping that this meat they avoid the rest of the time will not be dry when they go to serve the extended family.
It is considered, among my peers, that turkey would be one of the more challenging meats to cook. Such a large bird doesn’t have a lot of natural fat to protect it and very little marbling or intermuscular fat.
The challenge I come back to each year is to maintain an evenly moist finish. Like a chicken, the fillets always roast quicker than the legs. If you are roasting a whole bird, you should remove the legs when the fillets are ready and finish them separately.
In this recipe, I try something festive without the struggle of wrestling a whole bird, usually too large for the oven. I’ve taken a fillet, wrapped it in streaky bacon to make up for a lack of fat, and roasted it gently to maintain moisture and flavour.
As a further precaution against dry turkey, I smother this with a mayonnaise made with some of the pan juices. So, really, there is no excuse.
I also like that it is served a little cooler than a big old roast turkey. Having grown up with Christmas turkey, I like that it is traditional without being slavishly so. This recipe is designed for a hot Christmas Day, which is not unusual in this country. Sitting down to a hot roast turkey, stuffing and gravy on a 32-degree day does not always work for me.
This is the most foolproof way I have found of cooking a turkey for Christmas. I would quite happily use the same recipe to cook chicken fillets throughout the year.
- 12 slices of smoked streaky bacon
- 1 large turkey breast
- 6 sage leaves
- 1 tbsp baby capers
- black pepper
- 1 head of roast garlic
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 2 anchovy fillets, chopped
- 200ml grapeseed oil
- 3 tbsp pan juices
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- Place a piece of cling wrap on the bench and on it arrange the bacon slices horizontally, one under the other. Sit the turkey fillet perpendicular to the bacon and place the sage leaves over the fillet. Gently wrap the slices of bacon over the breast to completely cover the flesh. Bring the cling wrap up and over the fillet and roll tightly in the plastic wrap. Place in the fridge for two hours or overnight to “set”.
- Preheat your oven to 180ºC.
- When you wish to cook the fillet, remove the cling wrap and truss the fillet with a piece of butcher’s twine.
- Roast the turkey fillet for 40 minutes or check the internal temperature with a probe thermometer. It should come to 75ºC. When cooked, rest the turkey for at least half an hour.
- Meanwhile, to make the dressing, wrap a head of garlic in aluminium foil and roast it in the oven for half an hour. When cooked, remove the garlic from the foil to cool, then individually squeeze out the cooked garlic paste. Add the egg yolks, mustard, cooked garlic and anchovy fillets to a blender fitted with a whisk attachment. Whisk at a high speed and slowly drizzle the grapeseed oil to incorporate. Finish the dressing with the pan juices and lemon juice. Taste and add salt and black pepper if need be.
- When you wish to serve the turkey, remove the bacon and return it to the oven if it needs a little more time to crisp up. Slice the turkey into even half-centimetre-thick slices and arrange on a platter. Smother the fillets with the dressing and sprinkle with the capers followed by the chopped crispy bacon and some black pepper.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on December 23, 2017 as "Turkey bester".
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