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Boiled Turkey with Stuffing & Celery Sauce

The reaction to the idea of boiled turkey among people we know in both Britain and America ranges from skeptical to horrified. Just as nobody cooks British food, few Americans even consider boiling things like lamb or turkey, and would not believe that bollito misto is an ancient Italian marvel either. According to Jane Grigson, however, boiled turkey was “a favorite dish of the Victorians, and quite rightly so, because it is delicious – mild without insipidity.” As usual she is right. This version is the Editor’s own but draws from Soyer and dela Falaise.

  • Christmas ReadingA 12 – 15 lb turkey

For the stock:

  • 2 unpeeled onions cut in half
  • 2 untrimmed celery ribs
  • about a dozen whole black peppercorns
  • 3 – 4 bay leaves
  • about ¼ lb salt pork, as lean as possible (it will be fatty)
  • 10 – 12 sprigs of parsley
  • 1 Tablespoon dried thyme
  • a splash of Worcestershire


For the stuffing:

  • Oysters_on_ice.jpg½ lb breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup chopped fresh herbs – whatever you like
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon zest
  • ¼ cup suet
  • 2 Tablespoons soft unsalted butter
  • a beaten egg
  • about 2½ cups oysters (inexpensive, previously shucked oysters from plastic cans are fine here)


Celery sauce:

  • 4 – 5 celery ribs, trimmed and finely chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • about 4 cups of the cooked turkey stock
  • 3 egg yolks
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • about 2 teaspoons lemon juice

  1. Make the stuffing first by mixing together until blended all of its ingredients except the oysters, then carefully fold them into the mixture.
  2. Stuff the turkey and sew or pin together the cavity.
  3. Put the turkey in a large pot with all the stock ingredients, add water to very nearly cover the top of the breast, bring to a boil and then reduce to a gentle boil.
  4. Cover and cook for about 2 hours, checking for and skimming off any service scum. After about an hour and a half, however, steal about a cup and a half of the stock from the pot and let it cool.
  5. To make the sauce, gently cook the celery in the butter until tender and let it cool: You can do this in advance while the turkey bubbles away.
  6. Whisk together the egg yolks and cream, add it to the cooled celery with the stolen, cooled stock and stir well.
  7. Turn the heat to low and warm the mixture: Do not boil it or the eggs will curdle.
  8. Once the mixture has become warm, gradually stir in another 2 ½ cups of the stock from the pot (more or less depending on how many diners you serve), add the lemon juice, taste for salt and pepper, and serve with the turkey.


- This dish is as easy as it sounds and is foolproof as well as delicious. It is a good choice for the nervous cook who does not spend much time in the kitchen but has been drafted for Christmas or other holiday duty and needs to serve a crowd. Also good for dinner parties, both because the timing is forgiving and because you can astound your friends with a dish that sounds (to them) so unpromising but tastes so good.

- The stuffing is delicious but unnecessary, although we never would omit it. Do not be concerned if the consistency seems too sandy when you mix it: The butter and suet melt and the moisture from the pot combine with them to bind the mixture. It will not leak out into the stock, dissipate or float away, either.

- It is worth a moment to make fresh breadcrumbs in a food processor for this recipe. In a pinch, however, boxed breadcrumbs will do.

- The salt port is Soyer’s contribution. He is the only author bfia has found who includes it (and in much greater quantity than recommended here). Other writers use a different mix of vegetables to flavor the stock. Carrots, leeks or white turnips often are included and celery often omitted.