This looks like a regular roasted turkey, but your guests will be surprised when you slice it: in place of the bones, there’s a flavourful stuffing.

There are several ways to remove all the bones from a bird in preparation for cooking it. The hardest method is tunnel-boning – removing all the bones without cutting through the skin. Next on the scale of difficulty is the technique described in this recipe: you slice through the skin along the length of the backbone, then peel away the meat from the entire carcass. With a chicken and smaller birds, it’s not difficult, but a turkey is large and unwieldy.

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The third deboning method is the easiest: have your butcher do it. If you can find a butcher willing to do this, I strongly suggest you take this route.


Leave sufficient time for this recipe. If the bird is frozen, thaw it far enough in advance so you can debone and salt it at least two days before cooking. As with all poultry recipes, be scrupulous when it comes to food safety: keep the turkey chilled, thoroughly wash your hands and everything else that comes into contact with the bird, and leave enough time to cook it (about five hours). It should be put into the oven as soon as you finish stuffing and trussing it. Chill the leftovers immediately after finishing the meal.

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The stuffing recipe is enough for a bird that’s about 8kg. If your turkey is smaller, pack the excess into a terrine mould and bake it alongside the turkey. The stuf­fing ingredients can be changed as you like: substitute pecans for the pistachios, and other types of dried fruit (figs, apricots, cherries) for the cranberries.

1 heritage-breed turkey, up to 8kg, thawed, if frozen
250 grams onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
About 30ml cooking oil
250 grams savoy cabbage, shredded
1.8kg minced pork
Fine sea salt, as needed
5 grams freshly ground black pepper
240 grams cooked, peeled chestnuts, chopped
100 grams pistachios, lightly toasted
125 grams dried cranberries
50 grams panko or another type of dried breadcrumb
60ml cream
3 large eggs
About 15 slices smoked fatty bacon, plus extra for the terrine mould

Debone the turkey. Cut off the tip and middle joint from the wing, and remove the tail. Pull the bag of innards out of the cavity. Use a very sharp knife to slice through the skin along the entire length of the back. Carefully peel and slice the skin away from the backbone, using a knife to carve out the turkey “oysters”. Continue to remove the skin and meat from the carcass, using a knife to cut the tendons where the thigh meets the carcass. Take care not to tear or cut any holes in the skin of the bird. For much of the bird, you can pull the meat away from the carcass; use a knife only when necessary, such as when detaching the meat from the wishbone and shoulder bones. Do not use a knife when you come to the point of the breastbone, where there’s just a thin layer of skin. At this part, hold the meat down firmly on the work surface and pull away the carcass. Put the carcass with the wing tips, middle joints and the innards.

By now, the only bones in the bird will be the drumette part of the wing, and the thigh and leg. Remove the drumette by cutting the tendons around the bone closest to where the carcass was. Scrape the meat from the bone with a paring knife, then, grasping the cleaned bone, pull it out from the flesh – it will detach easily.

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Slice the meat along the entire length of the thigh bone then cut the tendons where the thigh meets the drumstick. Remove the thigh bone. Cut the meat and tendons around the drumstick bone closest to where the thigh was. Without cutting into the skin, use a paring knife to scrape the meat from the length of the drumstick bone until you almost reach the tip. Pull the bone out and lay it on a cutting board. Use a cleaver to chop off the bone as close as possible to the tip. Pull off and cut away the drumstick and thigh tendons. Run your fingertips along the meaty side of the turkey to check for stray bones.

Liberally salt the meaty side of the turkey, using more for the thicker parts, including the thighs, drumsticks and along the breasts. Salt the “tenders” (which will have detached from the rest of the bird). After salting the meaty side of the drumstick, turn it so the skin side is out. Put the deboned turkey in a bowl, cover it with cling film and refrigerate immediately. Refrigerate the bones and innards.

At least one day before cooking the turkey, make the stock. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees Celsius. Put the bones and innards (removed from the bag) in a roasting pan and roast until medium brown. Put the bones and innards in a large pan, add about two litres of water and bring to the boil. Lower the heat, cover the pan with the lid and simmer for about two hours. Strain out the solid ingredients. Cool the stock to room temperature, then refrigerate.

About seven hours before it’s time for dinner, make the stuffing. Heat the cooking oil in a skillet, add the onion and garlic and cook over a low flame until soft and translucent. Heat a large pot of water until boiling, add the cabbage, then simmer for about a minute, or until the vegetable wilts. Drain, rinse with cold water, then drain again. Wrap the cabbage in a clean, dry dish towel and squeeze out the excess water. Repeat with a second dry dish towel, so the cabbage is as dry as possible.

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Put the minced pork in a large bowl and thoroughly mix in 40 grams of salt and five grams of pepper. Make a small patty of the meat, pan-fry until cooked, then taste. Add more salt and pepper, if needed. Thoroughly mix in the onion, garlic, savoy cabbage, chestnuts, pistachios and cranberries. Add the panko, cream and eggs and mix well.

Take the turkey from the fridge and lay it skin-side down on the work surface. Place the turkey tenders on the part of the breast where there is only skin. Stuff some of the pork mixture tightly into the drumstick cavity. Spread the stuffing in a thick, even layer over the meaty part of the turkey. Bring the breast sides together to overlap slightly at the middle of the turkey, then fold the excess skin (from the neck) up and over to cover the exposed meat. Truss the bird tightly in several places so the breasts stay together, then turn the bird over so the seam side is down. Truss the bird length­wise, then tie the drumsticks together at the tip, and again at the middle of the legs.

Place the turkey in a large, lightly oiled roasting pan. Place the pan on the stove top over a high flame and brown the bottom of the bird. Lay bacon slices slightly overlapping to almost completely cover the turkey. Put the excess stuffing in a rectangular pan and lay bacon over the meat.

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Insert the probe of a meat thermometer (an electric one is best) into the centre of the stuffing in the turkey. Place the roasting pan in an oven preheated to 110 degrees. Cook the turkey for about five hours, or until the internal temperature of the bird reaches 74 degrees. (The separate pan of stuffing will take about 30 minutes to one hour, depending on how much there is.)

When the internal temperature of the turkey reaches 74 degrees, take it from the oven. Turn the oven temperature to 250 degrees. Remove the bacon from the turkey (the bacon can be chopped then cooked with Brussels sprouts or any other cruciferous vegetable to serve as a side dish). Slide the pan back in the oven and cook until the turkey skin is nicely bronzed. Transfer the turkey to a cutting board and set it aside. Heat the pan drippings until simmering, adding some of the turkey stock as needed to dilute the flavour. Pour the sauce into a bowl.

Remove the trussing strings from the turkey. Cut the turkey in half lengthwise, then slice the bird.

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