Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Turducken Paupiette with Sweet Potato Pie

Growing up, Thanksgiving was always one of my favourite holidays. A mid-week day off from school, Football (the good kind) on the TV and of course, lots and lots of food. Now I live in the UK, celebrating Turkey Day properly creates a bit of a struggle, not least of all because I'm expected to be at work rather than sitting at home giving thanks for being a total glutton. This past weekend I decided to make up for recent years of Thanksgiving negligence and put together a slightly belated feast to the tune of a Turducken, or at least a mini turducken. Throw in some of my mom's unbelievably delicious sweet potato pie and we've got ourselves a party. Gobble gobble.
A turducken, or 3-bird roast, is so aptly named because it is made up of a turkey, filled with a duck, filled with a chicken. The feeling shared by my girlfriend and I was that cooking three whole birds for just the two of us would be a bit much, logistically, financially and gastronomically, and so I thought I'd try a bit of a paupiette. That sounds fancy, but in my head what I was thinking was 'get meat, smash it flat and roll it up.' Simple.
I used a nice fat turkey breast fillet, chicken thighs which I de-boned, and a couple of duck legs. De-boning duck legs is not fun, nor is it easy, nor is it sensible. It's not recommended in any way, shape or form. Buy breasts. Much easier. I started by butterflying the turkey breast, then covering it with cling film and flattening it out with a rolling pin. Instant stress relief which, funnily enough, was much-needed after my disagreement with the duck legs.
You can't have a Thanksgiving Dinner without stuffing, and for my three birds I thought I'd make three different types of stuffing. As I layered the meats on top of each other the stuffing will help keep everything nice and moist whilst it's cooking. The obvious choice was cranberry for the turkey, I used apricot for the chicken and as it's coming up to Christmas, chopped dates for the duck.
I've always bought dried stuffing mix before. It's cheap as hell, simple to make and tastes pretty good too. Turns out, making your own is just as easy, more or less just as cheap and the taste...it just doesn't compare. Big fan of the real stuff.
I love a cranberry. Once we went to the Ocean Spray plantation as a bit of a day trip (we didn't really do theme parks, my family...we did cranberry plantations. It's cool.) Anyway, if you've never seen a cranberry bog, look it up - it's pretty freaking cool.
Put about 50g of each fruit in separate bowls along with about 60-70g of fresh breadcrumbs. Saute one large onion and split it between the bowls. Add boiling water and stir until you've got the consistency of a thick cake batter. A bit of salt and pepper and that's your stuffing done.
Time to layer. On my turkey I dolloped a healthy spoon of the cranberry stuffing. Don't be shy, but also remember that, in theory, you're supposed to roll this thing up. 
Arrange your duck pieces as neatly as possible and top with the date stuffing. Again, being quite generous but not so much that it's overflowing. 
Finally, layer your chicken thigh meat and your final stuffing type. This might seem like an awful lot of work (and quite frankly it is!) but the flavours are unbelievable. Best roast dinner ever.
As neatly as possible, and with the cling film at the ready, carefully roll your meats together so that you have a meat-swiss-roll-creation that's tightly bundled up into itself. Seal the ends and stick it in the fridge overnight to firm up. The wait is totally worth it, and you can't beat a turducken dream.
My mom's sweet potato pie is da bomb. It falls into that weird American-ish category of sweet that you eat with savoury. Sorta like bacon with maple syrup, I find absolutely nothing wrong with taking down heaped spoonfuls of this stuff alongside meat, vegetables and gravy. It all goes down the same way, and as it's going down it's a complete party. Get involved with this, you won't regret it.
Peel, chop and boil two large sweet potatoes for about 25 minutes until they're nice and mashable. Drain and then add a teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/2 cup of dark brown sugar, a teaspoon of vanilla extract and a solid tablespoon of butter. Add a healthy glug of milk to loosen it up a bit - Mom uses cream, but A) I like to put my own slant on recipes, even if they're perfect and B) I forgot to buy cream. I went off the board and also added a tablespoon of maple syrup, but that was entirely planned. Mash it all up like there's no tomorrow.
Now tell me that doesn't look incredible! Grease a pan and spoon in the potato mixture. Cover with tin foil and stick to one side - it's going to need about 30 minutes in the oven, so time to get cracking with the meat. Or meats. Meat cubed.
Unwrap your cling film parcel (it's like the weirdest, meatiest Christmas ever) and using some string truss up the meats so they stay together when cooking. I'd never trussed a roast before - turns out it's incredibly easy. There might be a little bit of seepage on either end, but life's too short for perfection. Season well, drizzle with olive oil, in a hot pan seal the roll on all sides and then stick in a hot oven, about 180C for about an hour and twenty. If you're unsure, use a meat thermometer to make sure it's cooked through. If it starts looking a bit dry at any point just pour some water over the top.
After your pie has had about 30 minutes, take it out and remove the tin foil. Place marshmallows on the top and stick it back in the oven for another few minutes, just to let it all become one gooey, oozing mess of goodness. I used a tray for this because it can get messy, and I know she doesn't like cleaning the oven....
When you're happy your meats are cooked, take the turducken roll out of the oven, cover with tin foil and let it rest for ten minutes. The meat takes on such an incredible golden colour, with the blackened parts forming this amazing charred bark with great flavours and a nice crunch. Fear not if it looks a bit dry - it's not. Inside the meat is tender, juicy and proper lush.
Carving this bad boy proved slightly tricky, taking perfect photos even more so. You can just about make out the layers of meat, as well as the juicy stuffing keeping everything inside moist and delicious. I'd love to say this massive piece of meat kept the two of us going for days and days. Truth is we barely got a couple of leftover sandwiches out of it. Oh well, it's Thanksgiving after all.


1 large turkey breast fillet
2 duck breasts
2 chicken thighs
50g dried cranberries
50g dried apricots
50g chopped dates
200g fresh breadcrumbs
1 large onion

Sweet Potato Pie

2 large sweet potatoes
50g butter
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
glug of milk (or cream)

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Lime Panna Cotta with Ginger Syrup

I absolutely love a panna cotta, but I'm not such a fan of a pavlova. Right off the bat this might seem like an odd distinction to make, but there's a reason behind my telling you this. My girlfriend, she loves a pavlova, and she'll make them every now and again. Unfortunately for me I tend to get these two puddings mixed up in my head, and I have a very selective short-term memory. Long story short; I've lost track of the amount of times I've been sat at the table excited for the creamy, wobbly goodness that is panna cotta, only to be greeted with a bowl of meringue and some fruit. I'm not sure if she'll read this, but if she does I think I can safely say I've solved that problem. Anyway, here are some lovely panna cottas...those are the good ones.
To crack on with the panna cotta, start by brushing three 150ml pudding moulds with some vegetable or sunflower oil. Not much is needed, just a lining so the pudding slides out nice and easy like. Mix 190ml of milk (full-fat...obviously) with the same of double cream and gently heat on the hob.
Take one lime, zest it and chop it into large-ish chunks. Add to the cream mixture along with 50g of caster sugar. Bring this tasty concoction to the boil, then take off the heat. Try not to forget the sugar, by the way. I did this and had to go back on myself quite a bit. Considering there are about 5 ingredients in this whole pudding, I'm not particularly proud of this.
Pour about a quarter of the cream mixture (and none of the lime) into a separate bowl, leaving the remainder to infuse with the fruit. Add 1 teaspoon of gelatine powder to the smaller mixture and mix well.
Once both mixtures have cooled down completely, mix them both together (it's basically all mixing...if you can't mix, you don't stand a chance with this recipe). Strain the liquid through a fine sieve and pour into the greased moulds. Bang them in the fridge to set - you're good to go in an hour or two.

This ginger syrup was excellent - it adds a nice little zing to the dish. I write that fully aware that if anyone ever described anything to me as having 'zing' I would automatically write them off as an idiot. Oh well, 25-odd posts in I think I made that bed a long time ago. Add 1 cup of sugar to 1 cup of water and bring to the boil over a medium heat. When the sugar has dissolved, add about 1/2 a cup of grated fresh ginger. Leave to simmer for about 15 minutes until the mixture has thickened slightly then remove from the heat, let it cool, strain the liquid and stick it in the fridge. 

Because I'm a bit of a showoff, I wanted to make some candied lime slices to stick on top of the panna cotta. Start by slicing a lime nice and thinly, then blanch the slices in boiling water for two minutes or so. Drain the limes, then just as I did with the syrup mix a cup of water with a cup of sugar and bring to the boil. Add the lime slices and simmer for about 15 minutes. You know they're ready when the edges become almost translucent. 
Drain off the water and leave the limes to cool and dry for as long as possible, at least an hour. Pour some caster sugar in a bowl and drop the slices in one at a time to coat with the sugar. Just like that.
And that's the job done. Turn the panna cottas out onto a plate, top with the ginger syrup and the candied lime and go to town. Beats some nasty old meringue any day (sorry Charlie).

Panna Cotta
180ml full fat milk
180ml double cream
50g caster sugar
sunflower oil
1 lime
1 teaspoon gelatine powder
Ginger syrup
1/2 cup fresh ginger
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
Candied limes
1 lime
1 cup sugar
1 cup water