The great gastronomic awakening of the British palate, which has thankfully continued to come to its senses for over a decade now, has made this country, and London in particular, perhaps the foremost food lover’s hub on the planet. Our sponge-like enthusiasm bursts out of the blocks with so much alacrity that even those of us who choose this industry as our livelihoods often struggle to keep up with the latest trends.
On occasions, though, this can result in us getting carried away with our vast knowledge, basting ourselves in our own brilliance of what’s new and edgy from the Gobi desert, or what type of shark fin makes the best soup (joking). One’s judgement can often be clouded.
Now, I’m all for variety. One must always be interesting above all else. Christmas is often a time when this rule can be compromised on a galactic scale. My personal experiences of Christmas Day meals have gone along the spectrum of being spent with close friends and loved ones, soaking in fine wine, to being beside a hospital bed, and once discovering a green (yes, green) roasting bird in the garage resulting in the abandonment of festivity all together.
My point is that I have no problem at all in changing the feathered status quo. In the past I, too, have opted for a sumptuous beef fore-rib or even a golden goose. However, I think it is time to intervene here in defence of the much-maligned turkey. There is an irony laced within the contemporary argument of jettisoning this bulbous bird in favour other fare.
“It’s bland”, or “it’s always overcooked” shriek the cries of naysayers. Use your imagination. Once I’ve been to lunch on Christmas Day where my host removed the legs and thighs of the bird altogether, de-boned and rolled into succulent ballotines. Imagine the variety of flavour enhancing ingredients which could be added into there? The giblets make an unbeatably rich offal gravy too.
Also, going back to my opening sentence, we tend to opt for higher welfare fowl these days. We care about quality – and more pertinently, the quality of life of the bird. I’m a firm believer in a happy animal being a tasty animal. Yes, the price goes up; however, a five and a half kilo turkey will still give you a lot more change out of a ton than a fore-rib of beef sizable enough to entertain.
My favourite benefit of choosing turkey remains (there’s a clue) from many things, one. The leftovers. There’s always plenty of meat left behind to gobble up, plus the carcass will provide delicious liquor for soups and sauces for days or even months to come if frozen. Black Friday 2017 finally gave me the foresight/ excuse to invest in a much-coveted sous vide device to advance my technical skill in the kitchen and hopefully not gather dust in the attic. I’ll admit, the gadget is great and there’s some serious scope for some holiday experimentation… Watch this space.
Of course, I look forward to mixing things up again for the special day in future. To sous vide, or not to sous vide is the question. Maybe even brine? Who knows. This year though, after a continued epoch of much voting and turmoil in the last twelve months and beyond – it’s the turkey that’s got my vote.
Image: Isaac Wedin