Simply food


Xmas 3 - Turkey 2

Traditional roast turkey

RECIPE: Traditional “holiday” roast turkey, with all the trimmings.

DIARY: Family and friends come for a feast and enjoy some fine whiskies.

Another “turkey” holiday will soon be upon us and we have just been down to Brown Brothers at the St. Lawrence Market to pick up our usual fresh turkey. There are plenty of other suppliers, but this venerable market butcher is so reliable I’m reluctant to try anywhere else.  Toronto’s oldest butcher shop has been here since 1895 and is still located in its original place in the market.  Pat Gasparro’s dad bought the business from the Brown family in the ’70s and he’s worked there pretty well ever since. I usually order a big bird as left-overs are part of my personal tradition. A big bird roasts slowly and thoroughly and comes out of the oven in good time for all the other dishes to cook. It will rest for more than an hour without any detriment, filling the kitchen with redolent smells. We work among the steam and heat of last-minute preparations with our taste buds tingling and already salivating at the feast to come.

Pat at Brown Bros

Pat at Brown Bros

Usually we have some friends and refugees without families to the feast, sometimes more, sometimes less.  At that other great turkey occasion, Thanksgiving, when the turkey in the photograph was cooked, we sat eight around our dining room table. It would have been 10, but we had to postpone the feast for a week, the cast changed and some of our original guests dropped out. Others came instead. It turned out to be a splendid celebration anyway. I had something very special to celebrate as that was the week I just heard my proposed television series Escapes with Nigel had been green-lighted by the Bell Local channel for six episodes. Captain Clive, our good sailing friend, was ferrying a yacht from Spain to the Canary Islands on the original date and due to the postponement was able to come after all. He brought a decent bottle of whisky for the group to try.  Commodore Dave, another single malt connoisseur, brought a fine 21-year-old, as well as Mrs. Commodore. Amanda brought a Speyside, but declined to try. She was an amazing help in the kitchen and made the dinner prep and clean up all that much easier for me. I kicked in a couple of virgins from the back of the liquor cabinet. After dinner four of the eight of us applied some diligence to sampling these single malts which now live, somewhat depleted, in the Scotch bucket.

So before any more brain cells are destroyed, here are my ingredients for a turkey feast.


  • Servings: 6-8
  • Print

by Nigel Napier-Andrews

  • Fresh organic 15-16 lb turkey, plucked and eviscerated by the butcher
  • ½ lb butter
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Keep the bird covered in the fridge until you are ready to cook it to avoid spoilage. Remove the packet of giblets and reserve for gravy. Preheat the oven to 325°F/165°C.
  2. Wash and dry the bird thoroughly inside and out. Prepare the stuffing mixtures (see next recipes).
  3. Stuff with one mixture in the body cavity and the other in the neck cavity. Reserve any excess for separate cooking.
  4. If necessary, after stuffing, sew up the body cavity using butcher’s twine and a big butcher’s needle, or use meat skewers to close the flesh. Secure the skin flap of the neck cavity under the bird with another skewer. Dislocate the wings so they fold under the bird to support it in the roasting pan. Tie the legs together.
  5. Soften half the butter and rub all over the flesh. Sprinkle with plenty of salt and pepper.
  6. Cover the breast with greased aluminum foil and place face down on the rack in the pan. Baste with the balance of the butter every 20 min. After 1 ½ hrs, turn the bird the right way up. For the last hour remove the aluminum foil to brown the breast.
  7. Timing formula is 15 min per lb over 16 lb and 12 min per lb under, so a 15 ½ lb bird should cook for 3 hours 45 mins. Backtime the hour for putting into the oven to one hour before you wish to sit down for the meal. Leave one hour for the bird to rest and firm up after it comes out of the oven.
  8. Remove the bird from the oven to a board or platter to rest for up to an hour before attempting to carve. At the appointed time, remove the two stuffing mixtures from the body and neck cavities and serve separately. Using a very sharp carving knife, carve off your choice of white breast, brown thigh and place on a platter, or serve directly onto your guests plates at the table.
Serve with your choice of vegetables. Suggestions: Brussels sprouts, beets and carrots are two traditional root veggies, ROAST POTATOES, mashed potatoes, CRANBERRY SAUCE and PAN GRAVY.
Wine suggestion
A good chardonnay (we enjoyed a fine French Chablis) or a light Beaujolais.


  • Servings: 6-8
  • Print
  • 1 loaf of day old sliced brown bread (makes 10 cups bread crumbs)
  • ½ lb melted butter
  • 8 leaves fresh sage
  • 4 finely chopped onions
  • 4 sticks chopped celery (about 3 cups)
  • 1 cup chopped parsley
  • good grind of black pepper
  1. Break the loaf (excluding the end crusts) into good size chunks and leave exposed in a bowl overnight to dry out. A day old loaf to start with is even better.
  2. Soften the chopped onions in the melted butter until transparent and tip into the bowl.
  3. Chop the sage, parsley and celery roughly and add to the bowl, then mix all the ingredients thoroughly. Top with a good grind of black pepper. Add to fowl.
  4. Put any excess in a deep pan, cover with foil and cook in the oven alongside the bird, for excellent left-overs.
  5. If cooking alone in a pan, cook for at least 1 hour at 325°F/165°C.


  • Servings: 6-8
  • Print

  • ½ loaf of day old sliced brown bread (makes 5 cups bread crumbs)
  • 2 cups of peeled, braised fresh chestnuts (or canned will substitute)
  • 1 lb fresh sausage meat
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1 small chopped onion
  • 1 tbsp chopped thyme
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • ½ tsp pepper
  1. Break the loaf (excluding the end crusts) into good size chunks and leave exposed in a bowl overnight to dry out. A day old loaf to start with is even better.
  2. Cut a slit in the skins of the chestnuts and drop into a pan of boiling water. Cook for 5 min, cool and peel. Chop into pieces and simmer in melted butter for about 15 min. Tip into the bread crumb bowl.
  3. Fry the sausage meat until browned. Remove to the bowl, leaving the fat behind. Soften the chopped onions in the remaining fat until transparent and tip into the bowl.
  4. Chop the thyme and parsley and add to the mixture. Toss thoroughly and add to the neck end of the fowl.
  5. Put any excess in a deep pan, cover with foil and cook along with the bird, for excellent left-overs.
  6. If cooking alone in a pan, cook for at least 1 hour at 325°F/165°C.


  • 3 cups fresh cranberries (1 packet)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup soft brown sugar
  • ¼ cup rum, brandy or sherry
  1. Bring water to a boil. Wash cranberries and add to the boiling water.
  2. Cook for 10 min or until skins pop. Turn down heat, add sugar and stir until it dissolves.
  3. Remove from heat, skim off white froth and cool. After cooling mix in liquor, store in a sterilized and tightly sealed glass container and refrigerate until needed.
Option: for a spicier version add 2 in. stick of cinnamon, 3 whole cloves and 3 allspice berries. Allow to marinate for at least a day. Remove spices before serving.


  • Servings: 6-8
  • Print

  • 4 cups turkey or chicken stock (see below)
  • Giblets — fresh neck and heart from the bird (but not the liver)
  • 2 whole onions, including the skins
  • Tops and tails of celery stalks used for stuffing
  • 2 tbsp fine flour
  • Pan drippings
  1. Bring the stock to a boil, add the giblets (not the liver), quartered whole onions with their skins and celery left-overs.
  2. Turn down and simmer until the turkey is out of the oven. Just before use, strain the stock and discard the solids.
  3. Put the roasting pan, filled with the drippings and crispy little bits and pieces from the turkey, onto a low burner on the stove. Sprinkle on the flour and stir in well, to make a roux. Add the clear, strained stock to the pan and stir until it bubbles. If necessary, add more flour to obtain the correct thickness. Strain again when ready to serve, into a gravy dish.


  • Servings: 6-8
  • Print

  • One left-over bird carcass (make this after the Thanksgiving feast and freeze), all remnants of stuffing removed
  • 8 or more cups water
  • 1 – 2 cups chopped celery
  • 1 – 2 cups chopped carrots
  • 2 bay leaves
  1. Cover the bird carcass with water in a large pot. Add any other dinner left-overs, such as skin, bones etc, but not stuffing. Bring to a boil.
  2. Turn down to simmer and add celery, carrots and bay leaves. Simmer for at least 1 hour 30 mins. Strain off the clear stock to a bowl to cool, skim off fat and reserve in a covered container until needed.
  3. Freeze for up to 3 months.

This article and these recipes were originally posted on December 12, 2013. All photos by Nigel Napier-Andrews.


1 reply »

  1. Just picked up another turkey for Monday’s feast from Pat at Brown Bros and it’s looking yummy as always.


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