Safety gate on deck? Check. Breakables out of reach? Check. Floors scrubbed and vetted for hazards? Check. Box of matches in hands of toddler with cheeky grin? Oops I missed that one! How come toddlers have an unerring ability to find the one dangerous item you overlook?
Last weekend in Duncannon was a trial run in more ways than one. If our little yellow house could withstand the onslaught of 14 month identical twin boys it will surely cope with a 10 month old Dermot’s first Christmas. And if I could cook a 9 kg turkey on the Big Green Egg for our Italian friend Solange, her Argentinian husband Agustin, their twins Oli and Fredi and 11 of my family who are always willing to be guinea pigs for my culinary experiments, then I should be able to cope with the same number of guests from China and Australia on Christmas day. At least that’s the theory…
While I cooked up an early Christmas dinner in Duncannon, Shane and Shan prepared shellfish for friends in Beijing and Claire and Mike ate an anniversary meal at the fabulous Spice Temple Chinese restaurant in Sydney. So our multi-cultural family food odyssey continued on three continents, our very own version of fusion dining.
As for the turkey – well with the patient assistance of Liam from A Room Outside in Limerick who supplied our Egg, it was a great success. He even answered my texts on Sunday morning when I began to fret about the temperature level in the Egg (note to self: I really will have to stop running in and out to the deck to check every few minutes once the temperature drops from the balmy 17 degrees of the weekend to something approaching our normal Christmas lows. Or at least I will have to wrap up in a warm scarf.)
I’ve cooked turkey using my tried and tested Delia Smith recipe for more than 30 years. I needed to take a deep breath and make a leap of faith to cook it in a very different way on the Big Green Egg. I can honestly say that Liam’s technique resulted in a bird that was succulent, moist and tender with a beautiful even skin colour. It held its heat wrapped in foil for nearly two hours after it was cooked. My favourite stuffing recipe also cooked to perfection inside the cavity.
We served the turkey with the apple and rosemary stuffing, maple roasted parsnips, buttered leeks, carrots and peas. With lots of oven space in the kitchen, it was easy to time the roasting of the potatoes and parsnips.
A big thank you to Liam and also to Seamus in Wallace’s SuperValu Wellington Bridge who tracked down a fresh turkey and sold me the large 9 kg one, which was the only one he could find, at the price of the smaller one I had ordered. We are still on turkey leftovers in our house tonight.
Now that I know what to expect, I can look forward to Christmas Day. And my biggest wish is that the next time I serve this meal our little far flung family will be united in one place to enjoy it.
Big Green Egg Turkey
- 1 large turkey at room temperature (the large BGE can easily handle up to a 10 kg turkey)
- Salt and pepper to season
- A few carrots, onions and cloves garlic
- A few sprigs of thyme and bay leaves
- 500 g of your favourite turkey stuffing*
- 100 g softened butter
- Fill the Egg with sufficient lump wood for a 5 to 6 hour cook – BGE Lump Charcoal is best for this as it gives a lovely even heat – and set it up for indirect heat with the plate setter legs up at a temperature of 170ºC.
- Peel and roughly chop a few onions and carrots and bruise a few whole cloves of garlic. Place the vegetables and herbs in a deep roasting tin, fill it almost to the brim with water and place on the plate setter. Place the stainless steel cooking grid over the roasting tin.
- Wipe out the turkey cavity and stuff with your favourite stuffing. Butter the turkey legs and season the turkey well with salt and pepper. Cover the turkey legs with foil to slow down their cooking.
- Place the turkey directly on the grid, making sure the Egg’s own temperature gauge is not touching the meat as this would distort the temperature readings. Place a meat thermometer into the deepest part of the breast.
- Note: The temperature of the Egg may drop to about 150ºC at this stage and rise only gradually over the next few hours. Don’t worry about this. The turkey will still brown beautifully even at that temperature.
- Remove the foil from the legs after about 2 hours. Keep an eye on the level of water in the roasting tin and do not let it dry out. Top up as necessary with boiling water.
- Cook the turkey until it reaches an internal temperature of 75 to 78ºC – in the case of my 9 kg turkey this took about 4½ hours but it could take up to an hour longer.
- Let the turkey rest covered in foil for at least 30 minutes before carving. Any water left over in the tin can be strained to make gravy with the turkey resting juices.
My Favourite Apple and Rosemary Stuffing
- 500 g fine white breadcrumbs
- 1 large cooking apple or 2 small cooking apples, finely diced
- 1 heaped tbs finely chopped fresh rosemary
- 100 g butter melted
- 1 large egg beaten
- Onion salt (or Maldon sea salt)
- Ground black pepper
Mix the breadcrumbs, apple and rosemary with melted butter and beaten egg and season well with salt and pepper.