Tired of the same old Thanksgiving stuffing recipe? Here’s one from Nawal Nasrallah, author of Delights from the Garden of Eden: A Cookbook and a History of the Iraqi Cuisine. Last year on Good Food, Nawal detailed the history of the date.
This dish for stuffed roast turkey is actually a traditional recipe that Iraqi Christians typically enjoy on Christmas. The recipe works for both turkey and chicken. She says that some cooks take the extra step and carefully stuff the aromatic mixture underneath the entire turkey skin as well. “This stuffing technique is quite steeped in tradition,” she explains. “I was able to trace it back to a medieval Baghdadi recipe. After the feathers were removed and before opening up the bird, it was blown hard through the neck to separate the skin. Nowadays it is done as follows: Hold the bird with one hand and with the fingers of the other, starting with the neck part, separate skin from flesh, going down slowly all the way to the thighs, taking care not to pierce the skin with your nails. This will create a pocket to hold the stuffing.”
Nasrallah concludes, “It is really worth the extra effort.” You can see how beautifully crisped the skin is in the picture above.
(Recipe suggested for a small turkey or a large plump chicken)
Mixture for rubbing the bird:
½ cup vinegar
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon crushed coriander seeds
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
For the stuffing:
2 tablespoons oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, grated
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ cup each of frozen peas, diced carrots, and chopped mushrooms
1 cup diced potatoes browned in 1 tablespoon oil
½ cup currants or raisins
½ cup toasted slivered almonds
2 teaspoons spice-mix we call baharat (use link for recipe), or garam masala
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cardamom
½ teaspoon of each cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, and chili pepper (or more chili)
2 cups uncooked rice
½ cup yogurt, for coating the bird
Preheat oven 425°F
1. To prepare the bird: Wash it and rub it with vinegar and salt inside and out and let it stand for 30 minutes. Drain and dry. Then rub it with lemon juice. Mix the spices and rub them onto the bird inside and out, and then place it, bottom down, in a colander fitted on a bowl, at room temperature, until ready for stuffing.
2. In a large skillet, sauté onion in the oil until transparent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and turmeric in the last minute. Add peas, carrots, and mushrooms. Pour in about ¾ cup hot water and simmer on medium heat about 10 minutes, or until liquid evaporates. Mix in browned potatoes, currants or raisins, almonds, garam masala (baharat), salt, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, and chili pepper.
3. Cook plain white rice until just done, the grains should still be firm and separated. Gently fold it with the vegetable mixture.
4. To stuff the bird: Pat cavities dry with white paper towels and fill the regular cavity very well with the stuffing (the rice is already cooked and would not expand). Sew the cavity closed. Then fill the pocket you have created with as much filling as it can hold, pushing the filling down to the thighs, the breast area, the wings, and the back. Sew the neck opening closed to prevent filling from coming out. Discard any filling that came into contact with the uncooked bird while filling it. Place the prepared bird on a greased broiler pan and coat it with yogurt. Bake in the preheated oven for the first 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°F, and continue baking (allow 30 minutes for each pound). While bird is roasting, baste it occasionally with the dripping juices until it is nicely browned. Let it rest for about 15 minutes before carving. Remove threads and serve on a platter surrounded with any remaining stuffing.
A very easy way to do it, using the stuffing for the cavity only as follows:
Bake the bird first until it is almost done, and take it out of the oven and allow it to cool slightly. Then lift it up to drain the cavity, and fill it very well with the stuffing, no need to close it, just cover it with a sheet of aluminum foil. Return it to oven and resume baking until it is thoroughly cooked and nicely browned, basting as needed. Serve it surrounded with the remaining stuffing.