The Crooked Billet

Turkey for One

Serves 1

Turkey for One

The big bird didn’t arrive in Britain until the 16th century – introduced from the Americas. In Samuel Pepys’ day they’d feast on swans, herons, cranes & peacocks, all notoriously tough but for a special occasion considered dead posh. Particularly the peacock – with its spectacular tail feathers stuffed back into the overcooked backside.

It must have been relief when the fleshier & more tender turkey arrived on our shores. Christmas day, I’m looking forward to carving the turkey for my family. What if you only need turkey for 1 or 2? Here follows a clever trick if only a couple of portions are required.

First buy the turkey. Look out for the amazing locally reared Copas dry aged free-range birds. Ask your butcher for 1 small turkey breast approx 600g, or a rectangular pave of breast from a larger bird.

Remove the skin. Make a rectangular raft of ultra thin sliced streaky bacon, looking like an A4 sheet of bacon slices laid side by side. This rectangle being the same length as your piece of turkey.

Season the turkey, sprinkle with a teaspoon of fresh thyme leaves & place on the bacon. Wrap the breast with the bacon, then wrap tightly with cling film. Give the parcel a second tight cling film wrapping, chill 24 hours. Refrigeration will help set the turkey in a cylindrical shape.

To cook. Cut the turkey cylinder into fillet steak sized medallions Remove the cling film. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Place an ovenproof heavy-bottomed frying pan on a moderate hob. Season the top & bottom of the turkey tournedos. Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil & when hot, seal each end of the turkey for 3 minutes.

Put the pan in the preheated oven for 17-20 minutes. Cook until the bacon is crispy & the turkey cooked & golden. Let the fillet rest for 5 minutes before serving. In the photo, the accompaniments are buttered cabbage, lardons, chestnuts, carrots & a good gravy.