Roast a Bird

A good Christmas dinner is all about choosing the best ingredients and cooking them well. Follow these simple guidelines for a succulent, perfectly cooked bird for your meals this holiday season.

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Storing the Bird

Once you've ordered your bird, collect it three to five days before the planned meal. Ask your butcher to take off the legs and neck if necessary, then keep it unwrapped in a very cool cabinet or in the fridge. When you want to roast the bird, remove it from the fridge, wash it, pat it dry and leave it for at least two hours to come to room temperature before cooking it.

Preparing a Turkey or Chicken

Place the bird in a roasting pan and rub the skin with salt and pepper, or mix a little softened butter, crushed garlic, lemon zest, chopped fresh rosemary, thyme and black pepper. Lift the skin away from the flesh, smear the butter under the skin and over the breast, and then re-cover the flesh with the skin. Preheat the oven and calculate the cooking time according to the weight of the bird.

Preparing a Goose

Place the bird on a wire tray over a roasting pan, remove any excess fat from inside the cavity of the goose and season it inside and out with salt and pepper. Alternatively, put a couple of fresh sprigs of thyme and rosemary and a whole bulb of garlic into the cavity, along with half a cup of water. Prick the fat gland under the wings of the goose and around the back by the "parson's nose." If the legs are still attached, rub them with a little butter or cooking oil and cover them with aluminum foil to prevent them from burning. Preheat the oven and calculate the cooking time according to the weight of the bird.

Cooking the Bird

Cook the stuffing separately so hot air can circulate in the main cavity of the bird. This helps to reduce the cooking time and produces more succulent meat. It also means that the breast meat doesn't overcook.

The bird is cooked if the juices run clear when a sharp knife is inserted into the flesh. Cover
it loosely with aluminum foil and clean dishcloths, and leave it in a warm place away from drafts for 30-60 minutes to allow the juices to soak back into the meat and make it more succulent.

Excerpted from A Greener Christmas

© Dorling Kindersley Limited 2008

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