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Recipe: Roast turkey or chicken with leek and tarragon sauce

PUBLISHED: 16:54 15 December 2016 | UPDATED: 16:54 15 December 2016




Christmas lunch is the most eagerly anticipated meal of the year and whether you’re catering for the whole family or it’s a more intimate affair

Whilst turkey is perfect for feeding an extended family at Christmas, a top quality chicken is an excellent prospect if there are only 4-6 of you. Whichever bird you choose, I think the recipe below is the best way of cooking it. Initial poaching makes the meat super juicy, tightens the skin and seasons the bird throughout; whilst steady cooking in a hot oven gives you the crispy blistered skin we all crave. Make double the quantity of sauce to accompany the bigger bird and omit the lardons if you’re serving a gammon too. You should have quite a bit of sauce left over, but it makes the most incredible pie filling for Boxing Day when mixed with the remaining meat from the carcass.


• 1.75 kg chicken (4-6 people) / 4.5 kg turkey (8-10 people)

• 1 tsp black peppercorns

• 2 leeks, whites sliced, greens left whole

• 6 garlic cloves, 2 crushed, 4 squashed

• 1 tbsp duck fat

• 1 small bunch tarragon

• 1 tbsp butter

• 150 g lardons

• 200 ml dry white wine

• 250 ml double cream

• 1-2 tsp Dijon mustard


1. Remove any trussing string from the bird and allow it to come up to room temperature for 1 hour (chicken) or 2 hours (turkey). Preheat the oven to 220C (200 fan) / gas 7.

2. Bring 5 litres of well-salted water to the boil in a large saucepan and add the peppercorns, half the leek greens and two of the squashed garlic cloves. Lower the bird into the water breast side down and simmer very gently for 10 minutes (chicken) or 20 minutes (turkey).

3. Drain the bird and dry it really well with kitchen paper. Transfer it to a roasting tin, smear the outside with duck fat and pop two squashed garlic cloves, half the tarragon and the rest of the leek greens inside the cavity, ensuring there is still room for hot air to circulate.

4. Roast the bird for 1 hour (chicken) or 2 hours (turkey). Pierce the thickest part of the thigh with a skewer – if the juices run clear with no traces of blood, it’s ready. If not, return to the oven for another 15 minutes before testing again. If you prefer to use a meat thermometer, it should read 74C. Cover the roasting tin with a loose tent of foil and leave in a draught-free place to rest for 20 minutes (chicken) or 40 minutes (turkey) while you make the sauce.

5. Heat the butter in a sauté pan and fry the lardons for 2 minutes. Add the sliced leeks and fry for 5 minutes, then add the garlic and fry for 2 minutes. Pour in the wine and let it cook at a fast bubble for 5 minutes. Stir in the cream and let it bubble slowly while you add the rest of the ingredients: stir in the pan juices from the resting bird, then chop and add the rest of the tarragon. Stir in mustard to taste and add salt and pepper if necessary.

6. Transfer the chicken to a warm serving platter and serve the sauce on the side.

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