Archive for the ‘Carnivore!’ Category

Winter is here. It’s time for some serious comfort food.

Years ago, when I received a shipment of venison from my father-in-law, an avid hunter that lives in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, I knew that although I could certainly use beef for this dish, it would be absolutely stellar with venison. I’ve made it several times since then, with beef or venison, with delicious results!

 

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Olive oil
3 red onions, peeled and chopped
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
3 tablespoons butter, plus extra
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 celery stalks, trimmed and chopped
10 oz. baby bella mushrooms, chopped
3 lbs. venison (or beef), cut into 3/4″ cubes
A few sprigs of fresh rosemary, leaves picked and chopped
Salt and pepper
24 oz. of your favorite lager or stout
3 tablespoons flour
12 oz. freshly grated cheddar cheese
1 1/2 pounds store-bought puff pastry (all butter is best)
1 large egg, beaten

 

Pre-heat the oven to 375.

In a large oven-proof pan, heat a few tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the onions and fry gently for about 10 minutes. Turn the heat up and add the garlic, butter, carrots, celery and mushrooms. Stir well, then add the venison, rosemary, and a teaspoon each of salt and pepper.

Sauté on high for about 4 minutes, then add the beer, making sure you take a swig for luck! Stir in the flour and add just enough water to cover. Bring it to a simmer, cover the pan with a lid or foil, and cook it in the pre-heated oven for about 1 1/2 hours.

Remove it from the oven after 1 1/2 hours and stir it a bit to combine all the flavors. Put it back in the oven (covered) and cook another hour, until the meat is cooked and the stew is rich, dark and thick. If it’s still liquidy, place the pan on the stove top and reduce it until the sauce thickens. (You don’t want a soupy stew or you’ll get soggy puff pastry later.) Remove the pan from the heat and stir in half the cheese. Taste it to see if it needs seasoning, but remember there’s more salt coming when you add the rest of the cheese. Set it aside to cool.

Depending on whether your puff pastry comes in sheets or a block, you’ll need to use a rolling-pin to get it into sheets about 1/8″ thick. Butter a good-sized pie dish or an oven-proof terrine, like the one in the photo above. Line the dish with the sheets of pastry, letting the pastry hang over the sides. Pour in the stew, even it out with a spatula, and add the rest of the grated cheese on top.

Use another 1/8″ thick sheet of pastry (or a couple if they’re not wide enough) to cover the top of the pie dish. Lightly crisscross the top with a knife, then fold over the overhanging pieces of pastry over the lid, making it look nice and rustic. Don’t cut or throw any of the extra pastry away! Find a way to use as much as you can, since everyone will want some.

Brush the top with the beaten egg and then bake the pie on the bottom of the oven for about 45 minutes, until the pastry has cooked, and it’s beautifully puffed and golden. Serve with a side of peas (and beer!)

 

 

 

 

I rarely order beef at a restaurant, because I can usually make a better steak at home. For one thing, I use humanely raised grass-fed beef, something few restaurants offer. And I can cook it for less than a third of the price of a steakhouse. Granted, most steakhouses dry-age their beef, a time-consuming process of taking slabs of beef and keeping them in a fridge for weeks until a certain amount of moisture is sucked out of the meat, intensifying the flavor. I can do that at home in my fridge, but it takes a lot of time and effort.

There is one steak that I couldn’t match for the longest time, and that was the Capital Grille’s bone-in Kona crusted dry-aged NY strip. I would have dreams about that steak! It was time to find a way to make something that would satisfy my craving for that amazing steak at home.

Looking at a variety of coffee rub recipes on-line, I started the slow and steady process of combining ingredients in just the right proportions, tasting as I went. What I came up with really accentuated the flavor of the beef I was cooking, better than I had imagined!

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3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
1 tablespoon ground coffee (use your favorite)
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon granulated onion
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder

 

Combine the ingredients, mixing well, and keep them in a tightly sealed container at room temperature.

When using, sprinkle the seasoning liberally on both sides of the steak before cooking. Searing a steak on all sides in a cast iron skillet and then finishing it in the oven is a great way to cook a slab of beef, but let’s face it: nothing beats the grill!

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Let’s face it: there are few foods as magical as bacon. Add bacon to just about any dish you’re preparing, and it elevates it to incredible new heights of flavor. The BLT is possibly the greatest food combination ever invented: just a few simple, fresh ingredients, when placed together, transforming into one of the greatest sandwiches on planet Earth.

 

BLT wraps: home-cured and smoked bacon, local farmstead romaine, home garden tomatoes.

 

If I’m buying bacon, I go on-line to Burger’s Smokehouse, a family run business in Missouri that has made great bacon for decades. The prices are good, and they include shipping. (www.smokehouse.com) I buy in quantity and freeze what I don’t need right away. My favorite is the thick-sliced country bacon “steaks.”

But nothings beats making your own.

Bacon comes from the pork belly, and they’re easy to find in any good butcher shop. But to get something a notch above, I’ll buy a heritage breed, like Berkshire pork, from Heritage Pork International. (www.heritagepork.com)  I follow the simple curing techniques outlined in “Charcuterie,” a great book written by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn.

To cure bacon, all you really need is salt and sugar, and what they in the curing biz call “pink salt,” which is not to be confused with salt that happens to be pink, like Himalayan salt you would find in a gourmet store. Pink salt is bright pink to let you know that it’s a special salt that should only be used in small quantities for curing. The reason is: nitrites. Nitrites delay the spoilage of the meat, and help keep the flavors of spices and smoke. They also keep the meat nice and pink instead of an unappetizing gray. That’s good. But nitrites can break down into nitrosamines, which have been known to cause cancer in lab animals. But let’s face it: you would need to eat a ton of cured meat to really worry about this. (I buy uncured deli meats and hot dogs at the supermarket, because processed meats are a different story. But since I know exactly what goes into my own bacon, I’m not worried about the level of nitrites.)

 

Just out of the smoker! Diamond-shaped slashes in the fat allow more of the rub to penetrate while curing.

 

To make the basic dry cure:

1/2 lb. kosher salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar or turbinado sugar
1 oz. pink curing salt

Mix the ingredients well.

An important note: all Kosher salts do not all weigh the same! The two largest brands, Morton’s and Diamond Crystal, for example, are very different (Morton’s is heavier), so always go by the weight and not by a cup measurement.

Once the dry cure is mixed, I keep it stored in my pantry, ready to use when I need it.

When it’s time to be makin’ the bacon, I combine the dry cure with other ingredients to make my bacon rub.

 

My improved bacon rub:

1 cup basic dry cure (above)
3 tablespoons Kosher salt (I use Diamond Crystal in my recipes, for consistency)
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 tablespoon granulated onion

Mix these ingredients well. Rub it generously all over the pork belly. I like to slash the fat side of the pork belly with a knife, to make sure the rub permeates the meat.

I have a large plastic container with a lid that fits one slab of pork belly perfectly. I place the belly inside it, put the lid on, and place the container in the fridge. The pork belly stays there for at least a couple of weeks, maybe three. I flip the belly every few days. You’ll see that the salt will draw moisture out of the meat and form a brine. This brine will continue to cure your pork belly, so leave it in there. Just flip it, push the belly down into the liquid, then put the lid back on the container, and back in the fridge.

 

Pork belly in…bacon out!

 

In two or three weeks, once the pork belly has cured, rinse the belly with cold clean water, and pat it dry with paper towels. Now it’s time to cook. You can simply cook the pork belly at 200 degrees for about 2 hours…or smoke it. I place the pork belly in a digital smoker, which allows me to set an exact temperature. I smoke it at 250 degrees for at least 2 hours, using hickory chips.

 

 

Smoked bacon

And now it’s bacon!

That’s it. You have achieved bacon!

The reward is so worth the effort.
Smoking the pork belly won’t necessarily cook it all the way through, so you still have to slice it and fry it before eating. (Would you eat a raw package of bacon from the store? …Exactly!) That first slice you cut off your bacon and toss in a pan to lightly fry for a few moments will be the best bite you’ve ever had in your life!
And if you’re making one slab of bacon, why not make two or three? It freezes well. And…you will eat it. You know you will!
Frying in the pan!

Frying in the pan!

 

Slicing the bacon up for freezing.

This is a really delicious grilled steak full of wonderful Thai flavors. You do need to marinate it overnight, so keep that in mind. The overnight marinating is key to the intense and unbelievable flavor of the beef.

The original recipe called for skirt steak, but I didn’t have any in my freezer. I did have a fat ribeye, though, so once I thawed it, I sliced it lengthwise to get two large, thin steaks which would easily suck up the marinade I was going to make. And the ribeye was nicely marbled, so it stayed juicy and tender.

 

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1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons grated ginger
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons chopped dry roasted unsalted peanuts
2 scallions, minced
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon chile oil
2 lbs. beef ribeye (or skirt steak or beef flap)
1/4 cup chicken stock (homemade is best)

In a bowl, whisk together the sesame oil, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, cilantro, peanuts, scallions, sugar, lime juice and chile oil. Transfer half of it to a shallow dish.

Add the steak to the dish and turn the meat to coat it well. Cover and refrigerate the beef overnight. Refrigerate the other half of the marinade in a separate container.

The next day, light a grill. While it’s warming up, get out a sauce pan and pour the chicken stock in along with the reserved marinade. I like to heat it to combine it well, but not letting it reach a boil. Remove it from the heat and let it come to room temperature. This will be the dipping sauce for the beef.

Take the marinated steak out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature. Season it with salt and pepper, and grill it over high heat until it’s medium-rare, about 5 minutes.

If it’s too cold to light a grill, or if you just want to use the oven, heat a cast iron pan on the stovetop, add a few drops of avocado oil or pork fat, and sear the beef on both sides before placing it in a pre-heated 375-degree oven to finish cooking.

Devour the beef with the dipping sauce!

 

This is what I’m serving my guests at Christmas dinner. It’s a rich and delicious surf-and-turf, using wild Texas boar and locally caught Rhode Island scallops, that beats steak and lobster hands-down! Wild boar isn’t an ingredient you can find everywhere, but pork belly is, and it works just fine.

 

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For the pork belly…
3 lbs. fresh pork belly (I used wild boar belly)
salt and pepper
1–2 tablespoons leaf lard or olive oil
1 carrot, coarsely chopped
1 celery stalk, coarsely chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 fennel bulb, quartered
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
4 cups beef stock
1 cup hard cider or apple juice

Pre-heat the oven to 350.

Season the belly with salt and pepper. On medium-high heat, melt the leaf lard, then sear the meat on all sides in an oven-proof pot big enough to hold it in one layer. Add the carrot, celery, onion, fennel, thyme and peppercorns and continue cooking for another 5 minutes, until caramelized.

Add the beef stock and the cider. Cover the pot with a lid or seal with aluminum foil, and braise the belly in the oven for 3 hours, until tender.

Remove the pot from the oven, carefully remove the pork belly, and put it on a plate. Cover it with foil. If you’re cooking earlier in the day, you can place the belly in the fridge at this point.

Strain the leftover braising liquid from the pot and discard the vegetables and thyme. Skim off the excess fat. If starting this dish earlier in the day, you can put this liquid in the fridge and the fat will harden, making it easier to remove.

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For the glaze…
braising liquid, strained
1 tablespoon espresso
1 tablespoon honey

In a small saucepan, reduce the brazing liquid by half, then add the espresso and honey. Cook a few more minutes until the sauce thickens. When it coats the back of a spoon, it’s ready. Set aside.

For the scallops…
Fresh scallops
salt and pepper

When you’re ready to serve, heat a pan on high heat with a little more leaf lard. Cut the belly into equal pieces and sear on all sides for about a minute. Place the scallops in the same pan, season with salt and pepper, and sear them on both sides, being careful not to overcook them.

To serve, place the belly on a plate. Top with a scallop or two. Drizzle glaze over the top. Season with Fleur de Sel or sea salt and serve immediately.

I like to brine large hunks of meat that I’m going to roast, because brining not only gives it flavor, it adds moisture…so my pork loin, Thanksgiving turkey, or in this case, whole chicken, doesn’t dry out.

Brining usually means you take a lot of water and you add salt and other spices to it, then drop the bird into that liquid for several hours, so the meat can suck up the salty water, releasing it slowly as it cooks, but retaining much of the moisture and flavor.

Recently, I started reading about “dry-brining,” (aka curing)…and I thought that would be a fun thing to try. I created a spice rub that I rubbed all over a spatchcocked chicken, placed it on a sheet pan, and popped it in the fridge to dry age for several days before cooking.

Spatchcocked? Sounds like a dirty word, but it means that the backbone of the bird has been removed, allowing the bird to be flattened and cooked more evenly. As you know, very often the breast meat of a bird is overcooked if the dark meat is perfect. Spatchcocking a bird allows all the parts of the bird to cook more evenly.

All you need to spatchcock a chicken is a good pair of poultry scissors. Cut all the way down on either side of the backbone of the bird (saving the backbone for future stock, of course.) Now you can open the bird up, season it on both sides, and lay it flat on a sheet pan to cure.

 

Spatchcocked and rubbed. I put the bird skin-side down for a day and a half, then flipped it over for another day and a half.

 

My preferences leaned toward Asian flavors this time, so here’s my dry brine recipe:

3 tablespoons Kosher salt (I use Diamond Crystal…the brand matters. See why below.)
1 1/2 tablespoons (1 tablespoon + 1 1/2 teaspoons) granulated garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons (1 tablespoon + 1 1/2 teaspoons) granulated onion
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon Chinese Five Spice
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper

I combined all the ingredients in a bowl.

 

The reason why the brand of Kosher salt matters is the weight. But salt is salt, right? Well…different brands weigh different amounts. For example, Morton Kosher salt is more dense than Diamond Crystal. If you use equal amounts of each, you’ll get different results. That’s why most recipes tell you the weight of the salt, not the volume. In this case, 3 tablespoons of Diamond Crystal Kosher salt (according to my little kitchen scale) weighs 1.09 ounces.

Once I spatchcocked the bird, I rubbed it really well on both sides with the spice rub.

I lined a sheet pan with non-stick aluminum foil (to be used again later), and placed the bird, skin-side down, on it. I didn’t wrap the bird. I simply moved it to a refrigerator just like that, and let it stay there, dry-aging, for 1 1/2 days. I then flipped the bird (pardon my language) skin-side up and let it cure another 1 1/2 days, for a total of 3 days for a 4-pound bird.

 

Dry-aged after 3 days.

 

Once the bird dry-aged for 3 days, I removed it from the fridge, and let it sit for an hour, allowing it to reach room temperature. I pre-heated my oven to 400 degrees.

I set my oven up so that the bird would lie flat skin-side up (without the sheet pan) directly on the middle oven rack, and the sheet pan (with the non-stick aluminum foil still on it) on the rack underneath it, to catch the drippings. This allowed air to circulate completely around the bird as it cooked, and the pan caught any splatters. (The foil, still on the pan, made clean-up later much easier.)

Once the oven reached 400, I placed the bird on the middle rack, the sheet pan below it, closed the oven door, and turned the temperature down to 275.

 

Although it’s 161, that’s the breast meat temp. The thighs were higher. And the temperature will still rise while the bird is resting.

 

Chicken is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 165. Using an instant-read thermometer, I inserted it into the thigh, without touching the bone. I also inserted into the breast. Although the temperature was just a touch low, it rose a few degrees while resting under the foil.

My 4-pound chicken took about 90 minutes to cook.

 

Out of the oven to rest. I covered it with foil to rest about 15 minutes before carving.

 

 

Juicy and delicious!

 

Although we’re about as far away from picking fresh asparagus from my garden as we can be here in Southern New England, once in awhile I give in and buy some at the supermarket. As long as the stalks are nice, green, and thin–I don’t like the fat ones–I’ll buy some to prepare this simple but delicious recipe.
Prepping asparagus is easy, and you don’t need a knife to cut off the woody bottoms of the stalks. Simply bend the stalks at the bottom and they will naturally snap off at the right point.
My daughter loves this dish, and as any parent will tell you, if your kid is craving a dish that has vegetables in it, count yourself lucky–and make it!!
4 mild Italian sausages, sliced into pieces 1/2″ thick
1 lb. penne pasta
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 cup chopped fresh trumpet mushrooms (white button mushrooms work, too)
2 cups fresh asparagus, sliced into 1-inch pieces
1 clove garlic, passed through a garlic press
1 cup homemade chicken broth
6 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
Have the pasta water boiling, and add the pasta, cooking until just a bit more undercooked than al dente.
Heat a large pan, and drizzle in some olive oil. Sauté the sausage pieces until browned and cooked through, but not over cooked. Remove the sausages from the pan and place them in a separate bowl. Remove all but 2 tablespoons of the fat left behind in the pan.
Place the pan back on stove and sauté the onion until translucent. Add the garlic, and sauté for 10 seconds. Add the sage, and saute for 10 seconds, stirring. Add the chopped mushrooms and saute for a few minutes, then add the chicken broth, and simmer until almost all the liquid has evaporated. Pour the contents of the pan into the bowl with the sausages.
Return the pan to the stove, add a little more olive oil, and on medium heat, sauté the asparagus pieces. Cook them until they are al dente, not too soft. Once the asparagus has reached this stage, return all the contents of the sausage/mushroom bowl to the pan to heat through. Drain the pasta, and add it to the pan as well, combining all the ingredients. If it looks too dry, add a little pasta water to the pan. Season with salt and pepper.
Make sure you serve this hot, with grated Parmigiano Reggiano on top, and drizzle lightly over the top with extra virgin olive oil.

 

I’m a fan of Berkshire pork, also known as kurobuta pork. It’s a heritage breed with wonderful, tasty “good” fat, which gives the meat fantastic flavor any way you cook it. I get it on line, and keep a stash of cuts (pork belly, pork chops, ribs, etc.) in my freezer.

But I was craving a pork loin the other day, and not having one of those in my arsenal, I searched for one in my local store. I found one that was humanely raised and organic, with a nice layer of fat on top ideal for low-and-slow cooking…certainly worth a try.

There are as many pork rubs out there as there are barbecue fanatics, and nobody has “the best” rub. The best rub is the one you make with the ingredients that you like. So, go with your favorite flavors, and you won’t go wrong.

This time around, I used this combination…

 

 

2 tablespoons Kosher salt (I use Diamond Crystal. See note below.)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 tablespoon granulated onion
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika

 

Combine these in a bowl and set it aside.

 

Not all Kosher salt weighs the same, so equal measurements of different brands will give you different levels of saltiness and different results. The two biggest brands are Morton’s and Diamond Crystal, but Diamond Crystal is less dense…it weighs less than Morton’s. Keep that in mind as you salt your food. That’s why you’ll see Kosher salt measured by weight, not by volume, in many recipes.

I had a 4-lb. pork loin this time. I removed it from its wrapper and placed it in a tray for seasoning. I gently scored the fat cap with a sharp knife so the fat melt while cooking, and so that I could really rub my spice blend into every bit of the meat.

I inserted a meat probe in the deepest part of the loin, so that it would notify me when my pork loin reaches its optimum temperature.

 

The pork loin, probed and ready.

 

I let the meat sit at room temperature for at least an hour, bringing the internal temperature of the meat from 33 to 68 degrees.

I use an electric smoker, so I plugged it in and set the temperature for 250 degrees. I added hickory chips through a side chute, so it smokes the meat while it cooks.

 

In the smoker…

 

It used to be that the recommended minimum cooking temperature for pork was 160 degrees. But today’s pork is different than our mama’s pork, and the current recommended temperature is 145 degrees. Personally, I don’t want to eat pink pork, but I also don’t want to dry it out…so I split the difference: I cook the pork until the thermometer reads 145, then I remove it from the smoker, cover it in foil, and let it rest for 20-30 minutes. In that time, the temperature of the meat still rises a few degrees, and that’s when I’m OK to serve it.

 

I’m notified when the pork reaches the desired temperature.

 

I leave the probe in the pork so I can monitor the temperature while it’s resting. Jumped 1 degree by the time I brought it into the kitchen!

 

Resting, wrapped in foil. My small pork loin went up a total of 4 degrees, to 149. But larger cuts of meat will experience an even bigger temperature jump.

 

Delicious and perfectly smoked!

 

The relatively flat pork loin actually tightened up and became rounder during the smoking/cooking process.

 

 

 

 

I always get asked if I deep-fry my turkey for Thanksgiving. I think it’s way too messy and time-consuming for nothing better than an “OK-tasting” bird. I lived in the South for a few years, and my friends fried a turkey on several occasions. I wasn’t impressed.

First, you need to find a safe spot in the yard to blast the propane-fueled fryer so you don’t burn your house down. Then you need to stand outside and freeze your butt off while it fries, while your friends and family are all indoors having cocktails. Then you need to get rid of gallons of used oil, and clean up a huge mess at the end of it all. And through all this, you need to make sure the oil is at the right temperature so you don’t get a scorched turkey on the outside and a raw turkey on the inside.

No, thanks.

I get great results by cooking my turkey in my Weber grill. I’ve cooked it this way every Thanksgiving for about 25 years. The standard Weber allows me to cook up to a 15 lb. bird–big enough for my purposes–and it comes out crispy, smokey and delicious. If you’re afraid to try this for the first time at Thanksgiving when it really matters, buy a turkey right now, grill it, and bring a bunch of turkey sandwiches to work to share with your friends….then wait for their reaction.

Or be bold! Go for the gusto the first time around. I did it that way and I never looked back.

 

The charcoal chimney with hot coals awaits.

The charcoal chimney with hot coals awaits.

 

Although I’ve stopped using charcoal briquettes for basic grilling a long time ago, and now strictly use natural hardwood charcoal, this recipe works best with Kingsford briquettes. They burn slowly and evenly. I never use lighter fluid…I always start my fire with a few pieces of crumbled newspaper under a charcoal chimney.

 

The tools you need:
A Weber grill, with the dome top
Kingsford charcoal briquettes (don’t t use Match Lite or other pre-soaked briquettes)
A charcoal chimney, easily found at Home Depot or Lowe’s
A heavy-duty disposable aluminum pan

 

Ingredients:
Whole turkey, up to 15 lbs., thawed and brined (see my previous blog about brining a turkey)
Olive oil (to rub on the turkey)
2 yellow onions, chopped
4 stalks of celery, chopped
½ lb. (2 sticks) of unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 tablespoon granulated onion
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon pepper

 

Spreading the coals away from the center of the grill.

Spreading the coals away from the center of the grill.

 

If you want stuffing, it’s always wise to make it separately and cook it separately.

Light 8 to 10 lbs. of charcoal in the grill…depending on the size of the turkey and how cold it is outside.

If you brined the turkey first, you’ve already removed the giblets. If you’re not brining, go ahead remove the giblets from the thawed bird now. Place the turkey in the aluminum pan.

In a small bowl, mix the granulated garlic, granulated onion, salt, and pepper. (Definitely add any other seasonings you might like.)

Coarsely chop the onions and celery. Place them in a another bowl. Mix them with the melted butter and 1/3 of the garlic/onion/salt/pepper mixture. Place a small handful of this onion and celery “stuffing” mixture in the neck cavity of the turkey. Place the rest in the body cavity (where the stuffing would usually go.) You can fasten the bird with turkey skewers if you like. This “stuffing” is strictly to flavor the turkey…you don’t eat it!

 

The rubbed, stuffed and seasoned bird.

The rubbed, stuffed and seasoned bird.

 

Rub the outside of the entire turkey with the olive oil and sprinkle the rest of the garlic/onion/salt/pepper mixture on the outside of the bird. Make sure you get the bird on the bottom as well.

When the coals in the grill have ashed over, spread them to the outside edges of the Weber grill equally. Put the cooking grill rack in place. Place the aluminum pan with the turkey in the center of the grill, keeping it away from the direct heat of the coals. If you’re using a meat thermometer, insert the probe into the thickest part of the breast, being careful not to hit the bone. Place the lid on the grill. (You may need to bend your aluminum pan a bit.) Open the vents on the bottom of the Weber as well as the vents on the lid. It’s important to get air circulating!

 

My meat thermometer calls me from as far as 100 feet away! Time for a cocktail!

My old-school meat thermometer calls me from as far as 100 feet away! (Newer thermometers are wireless and talk to your smart phone.) Time to join family and friends for a cocktail!

 

No basting is necessary.

Now here’s the tough part: DO NOT OPEN THE GRILL TO CHECK ON THE TURKEY! (If you must look, shine a flashlight into the vent holes on the lid to take a peek at the pop-up timer, if there is one.) The whole point is to keep the heat inside the kettle. You’ll know your turkey is done when no more smoke or heat rises from the grill, and the turkey inside stops making sizzling noises. The internal meat temperature should be around 165 degrees.

And believe it or not, a 15-lb. turkey will be cooked in about 2 hours!

If you’re using a meat thermometer (recommended), remove the turkey when it hits about 160 degrees, wrap it in foil, leaving the thermometer still in the bird, and let it rest at least 20 minutes. The temperature will go up a bit to 165 or even a little higher, before it starts going down.

 

Beautifully grilled, and perfectly cooked in less than 2 hours!

Beautifully grilled, perfectly cooked!

 

The side dishes for Thanksgiving are as important as the main course.  In the next couple of blogs, I’ll share my recipes for Oysters Rock-a-Fellow and butternut squash with cranberries.

Thanksgiving is only a few weeks away. Time to talk turkey! No matter what method you prefer to cook your bird, brining it beforehand will make it so much tastier and juicier. You really need to try it…and it’s easy to do.

It’s basic high school science: the brine has a greater concentration of salt and water than the molecules of the protein (in this case, a turkey) that is soaking in it. By simple diffusion, the protein molecules suck up the salty water and keep it. When you cook the meat, some of the water evaporates, but the meat still has far more moisture in it than it would have without the brine soaking, and the result is a moister, more delicious bird.

Some people use giant syringes to inject their turkeys with crazy solutions, but I think that the old way is still the best when it comes to brining. Get a big pot, fill it with the brine, and soak the bird in it. Done.

Here’s my tried-and-true turkey brining recipe. Once the brining is done, you can cook the turkey whatever way you like best. I use a method where I grill it inside a Weber grill with charcoal. It comes out smokey and absolutely amazing. I’ll have that info in my next blog.

You must brine a thawed bird, so use your favorite method to thaw your turkey so that it’s ready on Thanksgiving morning. Brining can take 4 to 6 hours, so start early!

For this recipe, you’ll need a large pot to boil the brine ingredients, and then a larger pot to hold the turkey submerged in the brine. I use a turkey no bigger than 15 lbs. for two main reasons: there are only 3 people in our family, and the Weber grill I use can’t handle anything bigger.

 

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1 gallon of water
2 onions
3 carrots
3 stalks celery
1 cup kosher salt
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons whole allspice
4 bay leaves
1 gallon of ice water
14–15 lb turkey, thawed

Pour the first gallon of water in a large pot. Quarter the onions, carrots and celery (no need to peel them) and add them to the water. Add the salt, black peppercorns, brown sugar, allspice, and bay leaves.

Let the pot come to a boil for a few minutes. Remove it from the heat and let the brine cool down to room temperature.

Remove the giblets from the thawed turkey and place the bird in a container just big enough to hold it and 2 gallons of liquid.

Pour the now-cooled brine over the turkey, then pour in the gallon of ice water.

 

Make sure the turkey doesn’t float up by placing a plate on top. Put the turkey container in the fridge (or a cold garage or basement) for 4 to 6 hours, flipping the turkey over in the container halfway through.

Drain the turkey, rinsing off any spices that stuck to it, then pat it dry with paper towels. Now it’s ready to cook, using your favorite recipe.

If I’m brining a turkey for Thanksgiving, I do the brining in the morning and the turkey is ready to cook by early afternoon. And grilling it on a Weber grill only takes a couple of hours. It’s fast, requires no basting, and is absolutely delicious! That’s next time…