Cider Can Turkey with Nutty Couscous
It’s always best to bring a turkey to room temperature for at least an hour before cooking it, as this allows it to cook evenly. In addition, follow Harold McGee’s advice and apply an icepack to the breast during the last 30 minutes of this defrosting period, as this will slow down the cooking time once the bird is in the oven, ensuring the breast doesn’t get too tough and dry while the rest of the bird cooks correctly. As for the couscous, for the best results buy non-instant couscous, which is available at most Middle Eastern grocers, and steam it. Do not try to steam the instant couscous available in national supermarkets, as the prolonged cooking time renders it to a mush. If, however, time is not in your favour, you can rehydrate the instant couscous according to the instructions on the packet and then continue with the recipe as stated. I do not own a couscoussière, which is the traditional vessel used for steaming couscous, but have used a muslin-lined metal strainer for the longest time without disappointing results.
- For the turkey:
- 1 small turkey (about 3.5kg/7.5 lb), giblets removed and neck reserved
- 60g/21/4oz butter, softened
- 1 tbsp salt
- pinch of allspice
- ½ tsp turmeric
- ½ tsp sumac
- 1 can of cider
- 1 cinnamon stick
- For the couscous:
- 450g/1lb/ 21/2 cups couscous
- 125g/41/2oz butter, softened
- 2 leeks, finely chopped
- 3 tbsp pine nuts
- 3 tbsp almonds
- 3 tbsp pistachios
- 4 tbsp barberries
- 150g/51/2oz dried apricots, roughly chopped
- 2 tbsp finely chopped mint
- 1 preserved lemon wedge, finely chopped
- pinch of allspice
- 2 tbsp argan oil (optional)
- For the cider gravy:
- 50g/13/4oz butter
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 2 tbsp plain flour
- 75ml/21/4fl oz cider or remaining cider from the can used for the turkey
- Preheat the oven to 220ºC/425ºF/Gas 7. Rinse the turkey and pat dry. Combine 55g/2oz of the butter with 1 teaspoon of the salt plus the allspice, turmeric and sumac in a small mixing bowl. Rub the cavity of the turkey with about 1 tablespoon of the seasoned butter and melt the remainder for basting.
- Use a can opener to open the cider can around the rim rather than just pulling the ring tab. 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 a 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 for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to about 140ºC/285ºF/Gas 1 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 and set it aside, retaining any remaining cider, then transfer the turkey to a serving plate and leave it to rest. Keep the roasting tray and any juices for making the gravy.
- Meanwhile, put the reserved neck, the cinnamon stick, 1.5l/52 fl oz/6 cups water and some salt in a stockpot over a medium heat, then cover with the lid and bring to the boil.
- Mix together the couscous with 45g/11/2oz of the butter, 3 tablespoons hot water and a generous pinch of salt in a mixing bowl, making sure that as much as possible of the couscous is coated with the buttery mixture.
- Line a metal colander with a doubled muslin cloth, transfer the couscous to the colander and secure the colander over the stockpot 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 up the couscous grains with a fork every 15–20 minutes to ensure even steaming. When the couscous grains are soft (do not let them become mushy), 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 a medium heat, then add the leeks and cook for 2 minutes or until soft and lightly brown on the edges. Add the nuts, barberries and apricots and toss to combine, then cook for a further 2 minutes until aromatic. Transfer the cooked couscous to the pan, add the mint, preserved lemon, allspice and argan oil, then season to taste with salt and toss to combine. Reserve the broth to make the gravy.
- Place the roasting tin over a medium heat on the hob, and then whisk in the butter, garlic and flour and cook through for 1–2 minutes before pouring in the cider as you whisk constantly. Pour in 300ml/101/2 fl oz/11/4 cups of the reserved broth and whisk for a further 3–4 minutes or until the mixture begins to bubble and has thickened into a sauce. Strain through a sieve into a serving jug. Serve with the turkey and couscous.