Let’s face it: there’s no such thing as healthy eggnog. This recipe is delicious but is also a heart attack in a glass. I post it every year because my friends just love it.

My buddy, Rick Sammarco, a wicked talented bartender, credits his father, Al, for this eggnog. The original recipe calls for a lot more of everything. I’ve cut it down to a “more reasonable” size.

A word about salmonella: If you’re concerned about it, you need to decide what works for you. Some recipes tell you to make your eggnog weeks in advance to “sterilize” the drink with all the booze you’ve added to it. I’m not sure that really works. As for me, I use raw eggs in my Caesar salad dressing and in other recipes, so I’m willing to risk it here.

If you’re lucky, some stores–(though very few of them, and none near me)–sell pasteurized eggs. They say the taste is a bit funky, but that it does remove the salmonella.

 

eggnog

 

1.5 quarts vanilla ice cream (I use Breyer’s)
1 pint half & half
15 whole eggs (raw)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
At least 3/8 cup of each:
spiced rum (I use Captain Morgan)
whiskey (I use Crown Royal)
brandy (I use E&J)

 

Let the ice cream soften 1 day in the fridge. Mix the ice cream, eggs, vanilla, half-and-half in a blender.

Add the spices and liquor. Blend until it’s frothy.

Taste, and add more cinnamon and nutmeg if you like.

After it’s fully blended, let it sit in the fridge, covered, for at least 12-24 hours for the flavors to blend. Even longer is better.

 

 

NEW YORK STYLE CHEESECAKE

Posted: December 12, 2020 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

Cheesecake is one of my guiltiest pleasures, but that also means it has be the best I’ve ever had if I’m going to allow that many calories into my belly!

This recipe is not only delicious, but it results in a perfectly cooked cheesecake with no cracking!

One of the keys to a great cheesecake right is placing it in a water bath while baking. But if the springform pan allows water in (and they all do), it creates problems. The solution is to foil-wrap the springform pan really well.

But first, the crust…

1-1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs, from 12 whole crackers
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt

 

Preheat the oven to 375° and set an oven rack in the lower middle position.

Here’s the crucial part: Wrap a 9- or 10-inch springform pan with one large piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil, covering the underside and extending all the way to the top so there are no seams on the bottom or sides of the pan. Just to make sure, repeat this process with another sheet of foil for insurance. This keeps the water bath out of your cheesecake, so do a thorough job of it!

Then spray the inside of the pan with nonstick cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, sugar, and salt. Stir until it’s well combined. Press the crumbs into an even layer on the the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake the crust for 10 minutes, until set. Remove the pan from the oven and set it aside.

 

32 oz. (four 8-oz. blocks) cream cheese, at room temperature
2 cups sugar 
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon packed lemon zest, from 1 lemon
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, from 1 lemon 
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream

 

Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F. Boil some water.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese, sugar, and flour together on medium speed until just smooth, about 1 minute. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl to be sure the mixture is evenly combined.

Add the vanilla, lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt. Beat on low speed until it’s all just combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing on low speed until incorporated, scraping the bowl as necessary. Mix in the sour cream. Make sure the batter is uniform but don’t over-mix it.

By now, the oven should be cooled to 325°.

Set the cheesecake pan in a large roasting pan. Pour the batter on top of the crust. Pour the boiling water into the large roasting pan to come about 1 inch up the side of the cake pan.

 

 

Bake until the cake is just set, 1 hour and 30 minutes to 1 hour and 45 minutes (the cake should wobble just a bit when the pan is nudged). Remember: the cake will continue to cook outside of the oven before it cools!

Carefully remove the roasting pan from the oven and set it on a wire rack. Cool the cheesecake in the water bath until the water is just warm, about 45 minutes.

 

 

Remove the springform pan from the water bath and discard the foil. If necessary, run a thin-bladed knife around the edge of the cake to make sure it’s not sticking to the sides (which can cause cracks as it cools), then cover it with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge to cool for at least 8 hours or overnight.

 

 

After 8 hours, remove the sides of the springform pan. I like to serve the cheesecake right from the base of the pan. I’ve found that trying to remove the pan base only messes up the crust.

The secret to slicing beautiful pieces of cheesecake is to slice with a sharp knife, rinsing it in warm water and wiping it dry between every slice. 

 

 

Nothing goes better with cheesecake than a simple berry sauce. I avoid the common strawberry and go for these organic berries instead…

 

1 small container fresh raspberries
1 small container fresh blueberries
1 small container fresh blackberries
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup sugar

 

Combine all of the berries in a large bowl and stir gently to combine. Spoon about 2/3 of the mixed berries into a medium saucepan. Transfer the remaining berries to a small bowl and refrigerate until ready to serve. 

Add the lemon juice and sugar to the berries in the sauce pan. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat and cook until the fruit is syrupy, about 5 minutes.

 

 

Move the hot berry mixture to a blender and purée it until it’s smooth. Set a fine mesh strainer over a bowl. Pour the sauce into the strainer and use the back of a large spoon soup to force the sauce through the strainer and into the bowl. Discard the seeds that remain in the strainer. Refrigerate the berry sauce until it’s cold. 

Before serving, simply add the reserved berries to the sauce and stir them to combine.

 

 

Parker House rolls are one of my all-time favorite treats. They’re so light and delicious because milk and melted butter are used to make the dough. I’d make and eat them every weekend if it wasn’t for the fact that I’d gain a ton of weight in the process! So…I save them for special occasions.

 

 

There really is a Parker House. It’s a hotel in Boston where the rolls originated in the 1870’s. Legend has it that a disgruntled hotel baker threw a batch of unfinished rolls in the oven, and when they came out, they had a folded pocketbook shape that made them light on the inside, and crisp and buttery on the outside. A legend was born.

 

There are hundreds of Parkerhouse Roll recipes out there, but this is the one I swear by. It’s a great excuse to get out my old Kitchenaid standing mixer.

 

1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus softened butter for brushing
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/4 cup lukewarm water (100 to 110 degrees)
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup whole milk, warmed
2 large eggs, at room temperature
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt

 

Brush a large bowl with butter.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, combine the yeast with the water and a pinch of sugar. Let it stand until it gets foamy, about 10 minutes. This gets the yeast happy.

 

Add the milk, melted butter, eggs and remaining sugar and mix until it’s all combined.

Now switch to the dough hook and add the flour and salt. Knead at low speed until a smooth ball forms, about 2 minutes.

Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured board and knead it gently into a ball. Then place the ball in the buttered bowl, covering it with plastic wrap, and placing the bowl in a warm place. Let the dough double in volume. It’ll take about 1 1/2 hours.

 

Pre-heat the oven to 350.

Grease a 9-by-13 baking dish with more butter.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board again, punching out the air bubbles, and forming it into a ball again. Cut the ball in half, then each half into 8 pieces.

 

You can either leave the pieces in their wedge shape, placing them in the baking dish top side up. Or you can roll the wedges into balls, placing them into the baking dish, spacing them out evenly.

 

 

Cover the baking dish with plastic wrap and let the dough rise again for about 30 minutes. By then, your oven will be nice and warm.

 

 

Bake the rolls for 20 to 25minutes, until they’re a beautiful golden color.

 

Serve them warm or at room temperature. If you bake the rolls earlier in the day, you can cover them in plastic wrap, and the re-heat gently before serving.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes the best ideas come from out of nowhere.

I had 5 lbs. of beautiful St. Louis-style heritage Berkshire (also known as Kurobuta) pork ribs thawing in the fridge, and I knew I wanted to create a new sauce or glaze with them, but I was feeling less than inspired. Our food-loving friends, Don and Johanna, showed up at our door with a gift they bought in Maine, at a shop called LeRoux Kitchen. It was a bottle of maple balsamic vinegar. It smelled wonderful…and tasted even better! I knew I had what I was looking for.

I used a smoker to make these ribs, but if you don’t have one (or just don’t want to bother with one), the ribs are just as awesome when baked in the oven.

You can easily make your own maple balsamic vinegar by combining a 1/2 cup of balsamic (not the super-expensive kind, but the $9-a-bottle kind) with 1 tablespoon of maple syrup. Add more or less maple to taste.

Yup…my smoker…she’s been used a few times!

I use an electric digital smoker made by Masterbuilt. I like the fact that I can set the temperature and time, and not have to constantly watch it. It has a side chute where I can add smoking chips when I want, and the results are consistent. I suppose some grilling fanatics might say I’m cheating, but a digital smoker allows me to live a life, hang out with my family, do some yard work. I don’t have time to babysit.

I chose to smoke my ribs for about 4 hours in the smoker, lightly seasoning them first with Lawry’s Seasoned Salt, adding hickory chips to the smoker only once to give them a “light smoke.”

Although I always use a water bath in my smoker, the ribs still come out visibly dry, so I like to brush them with a glaze, wrap them in foil and finish the cooking process in the oven. The glaze flavors the meat and also adds a little steam that tenderizes it.

Brushing with glaze, then wrapping in foil.

5 lbs. pork ribs (I get St. Louis-style Berkshire pork)
Lawry’s Seasoned Salt

1 cup water
1/2 cup maple balsamic vinegar (OR 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar + 1 tablespoon maple syrup)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon granulated onion
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper sauce (I like Franks’ Red Hot)

Prepare the ribs by removing the inedible skin on the back of the rack. The easiest way to do this is to cut a little “tab” of skin, then pull it with your fingers. Holding the skin with a dry paper towel will help your grip. I cut the racks in half to fit my smoker.

Season the ribs lightly with Lawry’s Seasoned Salt on both sides and place them into a 225-degree smoker (or oven, if you don’t have a smoker) for 3 hours, smoking lightly with hickory wood. (Skip the hickory if you’re using the oven.)

In a saucepan over high heat, combine the water, maple balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, onion, garlic, and cayenne pepper sauce. Stir well, and let it come to a boil. Let it reduce by half, leaving it still watery. Set it aside.

After 3 hours, remove the ribs from the smoker (or oven), placing them on a sheet of aluminum foil. (I use Reynold’s Non-Stick Foil, since the glaze will be sticky.) Brush both sides of the ribs with half of the glaze, and place the ribs meat-side-up on the foil before sealing the it around the ribs. Place the aluminum foil packets on a baking sheet, then into a pre-heated 250-degree oven (or back in the smoker.).

Remove the ribs from the oven or smoker after 1 hour. Open the foil packets so that the ribs are now exposed. Brush the top of the ribs one more time, then put the foil back over the top and cook for 1 hour more.

I live one town over from Fall River, Massachusetts, and just down the road from New Bedford, Massachusetts, two thriving proud Portuguese communities. My daughter is in middle school, and she had to take mandatory Portuguese language classes. We’ve got dozens of authentic Portuguese restaurants in the area, and even a well-stocked supermarket with its own bacalhau (salt cod) room: Portugalia Marketplace, in Fall River.

So when I first posted my recipe of Portuguese kale soup, I was told by many Portuguese friends that my soup wasn’t authentic so I couldn’t call it that. Fair enough. After all, my soup has far less carbs (no potatoes or pasta), fewer spices, and it uses homemade stock instead of water. It may not be Portuguese, but it’s full of flavor.

My version of the classic Portuguese kale soup.

My version of the classic Portuguese kale soup.

4 cups home-made chicken or beef stock
4 cups water
1 cup lentils, rinsed in cold water
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, through a press
1 lb. chourico, peeled and chopped into small cubes (I use Mello’s, out of Fall River, Mass.)
1 large bunch organic kale
salt and pepper

Add the stock and water to a large pot. Heat until boiling. Add the lentils.

In a saucepan with a little olive oil or bacon fat, sauté the onions, carrots, celery, and garlic for a few minutes. Add the chopped chourico and sauté a few minutes more. Add the contents of the sauté pan in the pot.

Wash and de-stem the kale, tearing the leaves into smaller pieces. Add the leaves to the pot and stir. The stems go in your compost pile. (You can also use them in a juicer.) Kale is always on the “dirty dozen” list of vegetables with large amounts of pesticides, so I always buy organic.

Cook the soup until the lentils are al dente. Taste and season for salt and pepper before serving.

Butter and cheese. Can anything be better?

It’s great when asparagus is in season, but we served it up yesterday with Thanksgiving dinner as well.

This is a great side dish with any main course like a big slab of meat, and has special meaning to me because my cousin first introduced me to asparagus with this recipe when I was just a kid. She passed away many years ago, but I think of her every time I make this simple but delicious dish.

You can use almost any grated “parmesan” cheese, but nothing beats real Parmigiano Reggiano that you freshly grate yourself.

 

image

1 lb. fresh asparagus spears
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

 

 

The easy way to trim an asparagus spear is to grab the thicker end between two fingers and bend it. It will snap at the point where the tough part ends and the softer, edible part begins. I toss the bottoms into my compost pile.

I heat the butter and oil together in a pan and then add the asparagus spears, cooking over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until al dente. (You don’t want them mushy.)

While the asparagus is still in the pan, I sprinkle the Parmigiano Reggiano on top, letting it melt a bit. I season with sea salt (I prefer Fleur de Sel) and freshly cracked black pepper.

 

 

 

Unless you’re Italian, you’re probably not going to have any pasta as part of your Thanksgiving meal. So after you’re done with all the turkey, and all the leftovers, this old-school Italian comfort food might be exactly what you’re looking for!

As a teenager growing up on Long Island, I worked long hours at a local Italian restaurant called Pizza City East in Plainview. (The original Pizza City was in Ozone Park, Queens.) Though the pay sucked, I made some important friendships that have lasted to this day. I also learned many Italian cooking basics: how to open clams for red and white clam sauce, the secrets of great pizza dough, the art of a perfect espresso, and how to make massive quantities of baked ziti.

When I got older and I shared an apartment with my buddy, Don, we would regularly invite a large crowd of people over for a party, and a huge tray of baked ziti was an inexpensive and hugely popular way to feed a crowd that was doing some serious drinking.

The basic ingredients of baked ziti are the same as lasagna, the main difference being the wetness factor. If you make lasagna too wet, the thing will fall apart when you try to slice it. But baked ziti is meant to be sloppy, and it actually shines in its incredible gooiness!

My baked ziti consists of a meat sauce and 4 cheeses (ricotta, mozzarella, provolone, and Parmigiano Reggiano) using pasta that is boiled much firmer than al dente. Technically, I like to use penne, not ziti. It’s firmer, and really works well with this recipe. And there are plenty of great pasta choices out there for gluten-free diets. Our favorite brand of GF pasta is Garofalo.

I used to add a béchamel sauce to this recipe, but I’ve found that plain milk does the job just as well. Béchamel is better used in lasagna, where you want a bit of a thickening agent to keep it firm.

Gooey and delicious!

Meat Sauce…
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small carrot, finely chopped
1 lb. grass-fed ground beef or pastured pork, or a combination of both
1 tablespoon dried parsley
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 28-oz. can whole tomatoes
extra virgin olive oil for sautéing

Heat a tablespoon or 2 of olive oil in a large pan and sauté the onions until translucent. I finely chop the carrots by peeling them all the way down until there’s nothing but a pile of peeled pieces, then chopping them up so small, they almost melt into the sauce. Add the carrots and cook for 2 minutes. Add the beef (or pork) and cook the meat until it browns. Add the parsley, oregano, basil, salt, garlic and pepper and mix well.

Empty the can of tomatoes into a blender and blend it until smooth. Add this to the pan and mix well.

Cook the meat sauce for about 10 minutes, then remove it from the heat and set it aside.

Beautiful baked ziti!

4 slices provolone cheese (about 4 oz.), chopped
ricotta cheese (about 8 oz.)
mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 8 oz.)
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1 cup whole milk
12 oz. small pasta, like ziti or penne

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a bowl, combine the provolone, ricotta, mozzarella (save a little bit to sprinkle on top at the end), Parmigiano Reggiano, and milk. Add this mixture to the meat sauce and mix well.

For baked ziti, I use a deeper pan than I would for lasagna, about 4″ deep.

Boil the pasta in a pot of salty boiling water until very firm…firmer than al dente. Drain the pasta and pour it into the pan. Add the cheese and sauce mix and mix it all really well.

Smooth the top of the ziti mix flat with the back of a large spoon, then sprinkle the remaining mozzarella evenly over the top. Sprinkle a little oregano on top, and place the pan in the oven to bake for 30 minutes, or until the mozzarella on top is a beautiful golden brown.

The best mac and cheese ever: baked ziti!

Of course, when you’re cooking, there’s always someone hanging around to grab a taste of the baked ziti before it goes in the oven…

My dog, Fellow, stood by me in the kitchen while I created this dish. I decided to name it after him. It makes a great Thanksgiving appetizer.

The original Oysters Rockefeller recipe is a closely guarded secret, created in 1899 at the famous New Orleans restaurant Antoine’s. Jules Alciatore, the son of founder Antoine Alciatore, developed the dish when they had a shortage of escargot, substituting locally available oysters. Antoine’s is still the only place in the world where you can be served the original Oysters Rockefeller recipe.

If you Google “Oysters Rockefeller,” you’ll find hundreds of recipes that claim to be the real thing, or close to it. But here’s the catch: most of them use spinach in the dish, and the folks at Antoine’s insist there was never any spinach used in the original recipe. So, before attempting my own version, I decided I would leave spinach out of my recipe…and I think it’s better because of that.

My version, my Oysters Rock-a-Fellow, is a cheesier, gooier version. I use large, meatie oysters like Wellfleets from Cape Cod or local Rhode Island oysters. And, as you’ll see below, you can make the cheese portion of this dish the day before, saving yourself a lot of time on the day you want to serve it.

So, if you’re doing this the day of…start here. If you’re doing it the day before, start with the cheese mix below, then come back to the oysters the next day.

24 oysters, washed to remove grit
2 cans beer (any extra beer you have is fine)

Scrub the oysters under cold water to get them clean.

In a large pot, pour in the beer along with enough cold water to fill the pot about halfway. Turn the heat on high and bring the pot to a boil. Adding beer to the water imparts a little flavor to the oysters, and the hot water will further clean the outside of the shells.

The moment you reach a boil, turn the heat to medium and drop in 6 oysters, letting them bathe in the liquid for only 30 seconds. Scoop them out with a slotted spoon and place them in a bowl to cool. If the oysters open, they’ve been in there too long! You want them to stay closed. Do the same with the rest of the oysters, 6 at a time. Once all the oysters have had their 30 seconds, move the oyster bowl to a cutting board. Discard the liquid in the pot.

Pour Kosher salt onto a large sheet pan lined with foil.

Once the oysters have cooled enough for you to handle, carefully remove the top shell off each one, discarding it, and lay the oysters on the bed of salt in the sheet pan, trying not to spill any of the precious oyster liquor inside. The salt holds the oysters in place.

Salt holds the oysters perfectly in place.

Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees.

1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/4 cup low-fat milk
salt and pepper
3 cups (tightly packed) fresh arugula, finely chopped, about a 5 oz. container
6 oz. mild cheddar cheese (the white one), grated
6 oz. mozzarella, grated
Fine bread crumbs (Using GF breadcrumbs will keep this dish gluten-free)

In a sauce pan, melt the butter and then add the onion and garlic. Cook until the onion is translucent.

Add the milk, season with salt and pepper, and then add the arugula a little at a time, letting it wilt before adding more. Use all the arugula.

Once all the arugula is in the saucepan, sprinkle the cheese in a bit at a time, letting it melt, until you’ve used all the cheese: the cheddar and then the mozzarella.

Pour the gooey cheese mix into a lasagna pan, smooth it out with a spatula, and place it in the fridge to cool.

You can do this all the day before, because the cheese mix hardens and becomes easy to cut into cubes with a sharp knife.

Then simply place a cube of the cheese mix on each oyster…

…sprinkle a little bread crumb on top…

…and bake in the 425-degree oven for about 8–10 minutes until it’s golden and bubbly.

Whoever said that cheese and seafood don’t go together, never tried this!

I buy Udi’s gluten free frozen bread for my breadcrumbs. I take the loaf, toast the slices, then put them through the food processor. The taste is far better than buying pre-made GF breadcrumbs. Use regular breadcrumbs if you don’t need to worry about gluten.

If you’re really strict about gluten, you can use GF beer in the pot of water or simply eliminate the beer altogether.

With Thanksgiving around the corner, I’m sharing my favorite holiday dishes I post every year around this time.

My Mom loved that nasty, gooey cranberry log that oozes out of the can. It would hit the bowl with a splurt and would wiggle for about an hour. I’m more than happy to avoid that and make this delicious side dish, which has become mandatory at our Thanksgiving table every year…

 

 

 

1 medium-sized butternut squash, washed and peeled with the seeds removed
Olive oil
Salt
1 cup fresh cranberries
¼ cup sunflower seeds
¼ cup pumpkin seeds or pepitas
¼ cup sesame seeds
¼ cup maple syrup, more if you like it really sweet

 

image

 

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Once you’ve washed, peeled and seeded the butternut squash, cut it into ½” cubes. Sprinkle a little olive oil and salt on them and toss them to coat. Then spread the squash cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake them for about 30 minutes or until they’re golden on the edges.

Remove the squash from the oven and pour the cranberries into the hot tray. Mix gently. Pour the squash/cranberry mix into a smaller, deeper baking pan.

Increase the oven temperature to 425.

In a separate bowl, combine the sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds. Sprinkle the seeds evenly over the squash/cranberry mixture. Drizzle the maple syrup over everything and place the baking pan in the oven. Cook for another 20 minutes, until the seeds have roasted.

Drizzle a bit of maple syrup over the top just before bringing the pan to the table.

 

With Thanksgiving just a couple of weeks away, I’d like to share my recipe for what I consider to be the perfect turkey.

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 30 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 155 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.