Thanksgiving

Salt-and-Pepper-Turkey-made-in-an-Electric-Outdoor-Roaster-a-quick-and-easy-processI have always been a big proponent of deep-frying a turkey. It has been, until now, the juiciest turkey I have ever made. However, the biggest turn-off of the whole deep-frying process is the $50 of oil you need to buy and then have to dispose of...it's kind-of-a-pain and always feels like a big waste.

However, there is nothing better than not tying up the oven on Thanksgiving Day with a turkey that needs four hours to cook. Therefore, deep-frying the turkey continued for a few years until I just couldn't get myself to buy those large vats of oil anymore. So the turkey made it's way back to my indoor oven and last year I did make one of the most delicious turkey's ever.

But, over the past year I kept seeing this Char-Broil The Big Easy Electric TRU Infrared Smoker and Roaster everywhere I went. Mostly at large warehouse stores like Lowe's. Seeing it so many times wore me down and I finally decided to buy one. It was a sign, right? I wanted to get the turkey cooking back outside where it belongs. This way the oven is reserved for all the beloved side dishes. Good idea? Yes. I thought so too.

This past weekend I finally fired it up to give it a test run. It requires a 30-minute seasoning cycle before using, which was not a big deal to complete.

I wanted to make a "no-frills" recipe. No exotic rubs and/or seasonings. No brining (which I always do). And no expensive free-range, local, special-fed, gobbles in seven languages turkey. I wanted to see what this machine could do on its own with a simple, frozen Butterball, rubbed in peanut oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. That's it. The results were kind of astonishing.

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ImageA couple of years ago I raised a pair of heirloom turkey chicks – a Bourbon Red and a Spanish Black. The Spanish Black Tom was roasted, the Red still struts and preens in my chicken yard. I’ve taken to calling him MOLE.

Along the way we gave shelter to a Narragansett turkey hen from Ilse and Meeno’s Sky Farm. (The hen, hatching from an egg that was shipped overnight from Amherst, MA, and slipped under a brooding Silkie.) The hen began laying eggs last year – none fertile.

This year in March, old Mole garbled and squawked all night long, and come summer, there were fertile turkey eggs in our coop. (I know this as I cracked open an egg with a partly formed chick inside-ugh.) Aside from laying eggs, the turkey hen had no mothering instincts. She was not interested in nesting.

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classicstuffingThis recipe is a combination of technique and ingredients from Cook’s Illustrated and Joy of Cooking, which I suppose now makes it my own. There are tons of recipes with exotic flavors and ingredients, but if you’re looking for that classic Thanksgiving stuffing, this is the recipe to use. Drying the bread before making the stuffing is an important step for texture and flavor.

If you plan ahead, you can just leave the bread cubes out on the counter for a few days to become stale. I usually just spread them out on baking sheets and dry in a 300-degree oven for 30 to 60 minutes. Let the bread cool before using in the stuffing. You can substitute three 14-ounce bags of plain dried bread cubes for the homemade dried bread cubes, but you'll need to increase the amount of broth to 7-8 cups.

This recipe can easily be halved and baked in a 13 by 9-inch baking dish for a smaller crowd.

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trader-vics.jpgIf by some chance you are looking for something really easy to do with your turkey leftovers, this is it.  It's a variation of the chicken chow mein you used to be able to get at the Trader Vic's at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, which is now more or less out of business.  Trader Vic's flameout was sad, because except for the mysteriously inept service, there were still wild and exciting things to eat there, starting with the classic Pupu Platter and including a curry served in a dish with room for about nine tiny little garnishes.  But oh well. So it goes.  Restaurants tend to break your heart.  The chicken chow mein was divine, especially if you ate it with a double order of toasted almonds and lots of chow mein noodles, and it's even better with turkey.

This recipe takes less than 15 minutes to make beginning to end.

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funny-thanksgiving-clipart-4.jpg10. Brine the bird. It’s easy to do and can metamorphose your turkey from tasteless and dry to juicy and scrumptious.  For an 18-20 pound bird, line very large (about 16-quart) bowl with two 30-gallon plastic bags, one inside the other. Rinse turkey inside and out. Place turkey in plastic-lined bowl. Combine 7 quarts water, 2 cups coarse salt, 1 cup packed brown sugar, 1 cup mild molasses, 1 bunch thyme, and 1/2 bunch sage in large bowl or pot. Stir until salt and sugar dissolve. Mix in ice cubes. Pour brine over turkey in plastic bags. Gather tops of bags together, eliminating air space above brine; seal bags. Refrigerate turkey in brine 18 to 20 hours. But WAIT! Whatever you do, don’t brine a Kosher bird for he has already been brined and will become too salty if you do it again.

9. If your husband, father, brother, uncle or neighbor wants to fry the turkey, let him. Nothing makes a man happier than to wrestle a turkey into submission via hot oil. I couldn’t care less if the bird was fried or roasted as long as the turkey tastes good and stays moist. If it keeps them out of the kitchen for a while, they should absolutely be encouraged to fry, fry, fry.

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