I am not a fan of roast turkey. It is enormous, dry and bland, isn’t it? During a cooking demonstration at River Cottage a couple of weeks ago, we were encouraged to rethink the way we prepare meat. We were also shown how quick and simple traditional methods can be. When mention was made of brining chicken or turkey in gin, poultry somehow sounded really appealing.
By giving the bird a bath for a day or two in salty water flavoured with gin, aromatics and a few other key ingredients, it will remain moist. The salt opens up the cells and gets rid of pathogenic bacteria. The meat will also be bursting with a range of subtle flavours.
This method is the same whether you brine a chicken or a turkey. The free-range bird my butcher found for me was so huge it could (almost) have passed for a turkey anyway. The scrumptious chicken I brined and roasted last week was a practice run, and I am planning to go for a turkey next, eek!
Please note that the whole process takes a couple of days. Although there is very little active cooking or prepping involved, you will have to leave the bird to rest in the brine for 24 hours (small chicken) or 36 hours (large chicken or turkey).
Look how beautifully my chicken turned out!
It was delicious served with herbs, mash, tender stem broccoli and rainbow carrots.
There was so much chicken it fed the six of us that night and I used leftovers to make a curry the following night. We also had plenty of chicken breast with mayonnaise for three lunches in a row. That chicken kept on giving and it was truly delicious!
Gin Brined Turkey or Chicken for a ‘Free From’ Christmas
- 1 free-range chicken or turkey
For the brine:
- 200 ml gin
- sea salt 100 grams for every litre of liquid
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon Juniper berries
- 4 garlic cloves peeled and crushed with the back of a wooden spoon
- 1 onion peeled
- Fresh thyme small handful
- Rosemary 3 sprigs
- Handful parsley with stalks
- 4 bay leaves
- 2 lemons halved
- 1 lime halved
- 1 red chili pepper whole
When roasting the chicken or turkey
- 1 onion
- 1 lemon or lime
- 2 shots of gin
- olive oil
- You will need a large container to submerge the bird completely in the brine. I used my 28cm Le Creuset casserole dish, but you could use a large plastic bucket or a brining bag (a very large zip bag). Avoid aluminium pots.
- Start by placing the bird in your chosen container. Cover it with water mixed with the gin. Remove the bird and measure the water. As the ratio needs to be 10% of salt, if you have 5 litres of liquid, you will need 500g of salt (1kg for 10 litres of water etc.).
- Using your hands or a wooden spoon, stir in the salt until fully dissolved. Add in the chicken or turkey as well as all other ingredients, squeezing the lemon and lime halves before adding them to the pot.
- You will find that your bird wants to float, but it needs to stay under water level, so the best way to weigh it down is to put a plate over it before sealing your container or placing the lid.
- Leave in a cool place (ideally fridge or pantry) for 24 to 36 hours.
- Take the bird out of the brine, rinse it well under cold water, drain all water and pat it dry with a clean tea towel.
- Let it to rest on a large plate, uncovered, in the fridge for at least 3 hours. This stage is important if you are after crispy skin. Since it has been preserved in salt, you can leave it there overnight, uncovered with space around it so air can circulate.
- Take the bird out of the fridge at least one hour before cooking. Preheat the oven to 220°C (Gas mark 7). Just before cooking, stuff a halved lemon and a peeled onion inside the bird. Rub a little olive oil on the skin, add 2 shots of gin on the tray and roast for 40 minutes. Lower the oven to 170°C (Gas mark 3) and cook for a further 2 hours or until the juices run clear. Make sure you baste the bird regularly to keep it lovely and moist.
- Take the bird out of the oven and allow to rest, uncovered, for at least half an hour before carving and serving.
A ‘Free From’ Christmas
This recipe is part of a ‘free from’ challenge a talented bunch of food bloggers and I set ourselves. We decided to create a virtual allergy-friendly feast for Christmas. Every dish we will be sharing is free from the top 14 allergens and in the next couple of weeks, we will take it in turns to add to our ‘free from’ buffet.
The main reason I decided to jump into this little collaboration is to show how you can create simple, delicious dishes that also happen to be allergy-friendly. ‘Free From’ can be easy, convivial and festive.
Everyone can enjoy ‘free from’ food, no special ingredients are needed and it can be fun. I am so pleased to introduce a bunch of food bloggers who do not necessarily focus on ‘free from’ food and accepted to take part in this little challenge!
The Top 14 Allergens:
• cereals containing gluten: wheat, rye, barley, oats (if not gluten-free),
• celery and celeriac,
• tree nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, cashews, pecans, brazils, pistachios, macadamia nuts),
The Wonderful Team Behind our ‘Free From’ Christmas:
Vicki – ‘The Free From Fairy’
Nath – ‘The Intolerant Gourmand’
Emma – ‘Free From Farmhouse’
Grace – ‘Eats Amazing’
Nova – ‘Cherished by Me’
Ciara – ‘My Fussy Eater’
Reneé – ‘Mummy Tries’
Have you got any good recipes for a ‘free from’ Christmas?
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