thanksgiving

Around this time every year, my Perfect Smoked Turkey starts making the rounds, and for good reason – it’s relatively simple (with a little practice), and comes out great every time. But sometimes, with so many other things on your plate during Thanksgiving, the idea of tackling a new smoked turkey recipe can be daunting; lots of folks have told me that they would like to try the recipe, but never manage to get to it. So for everyone else, here is how I oven-roast my turkeys.

There’s really not much to this recipe, and that’s the point. This recipe uses a couple handy techniques first discovered by kitchen wizard J. Kenji L√≥pez-Alt over at Serious Eats: start with a dry brine, then roast the turkey over a hot baking stone.

For the dry brine, you simply rub the turkey all over with kosher salt, pepper, baking soda, and cream of tartar and leave it in the fridge overnight. Baking soda and cream of tartar (which paired together in a 1:2 ratio create baking powder) help to raise the skin’s pH, which more efficiently breaks down its proteins to create a crispier skin.

Placing your baking sheet directly on a hot baking stone will give the lower, dark meat a head start in roasting, so that both parts reach their optimal temperature at the same time: 150F for breasts, 165F for legs and thighs.

When it comes to stuffing the bird, I prefer to use just a few aromatics to fill the oven with delicious aromas without inhibiting air circulation…

…and that’s about it. This simple recipe will give you a chance to focus on other dishes on the big day, like Cranberry Sauce, Basic Mashed Potatoes, Devilish Eggs, or New Brunswick-style Potato Stuffing.

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Around this time last year, I contributed a series of recipes to Yahoo! Food, and it was a lot of fun. As part of some company restructures, however, the website shut down in February. One of my favorite recipes from my short time there was this New Brunswick-Style Potato Stuffing, so I’m sharing it with you folks this week, just in time to nudge it into your Thanksgiving meal planning. Here’s what I wrote about it last year:

Folks who follow the Paleo diet sometimes get the short stick. For example: croissants. While solutions like “meatzas” (a pizza with a meat crust) might work in some contexts, there just isn’t a good way to create a flaky, lightly-textured pastry using nut flours, or heaven forbid, meat. Similarly, a traditional Thanksgiving stuffing (or “dressing” – more on that in a bit) is difficult to replicate. Typical Paleo reinterpretations feature (yep, you guessed it) meat, and sometimes nuts and dried fruit. All those things sound just fine, thank you very much, but not very reminiscent of stuffing.

Stuffing, as we commonly think of it, is a strange mix between crispy and fluffy, and is often overwhelmingly savory; this taste sensation expertly complements tart cranberry sauce, creamy mashed potatoes, rich gravy, and (hopefully) juicy turkey. So when conceiving a grain-free, Paleo-friendly stuffing, my mind kept returning to fried potatoes – crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside. I almost ran to my local library to do some research, but then I remembered about Google, and discovered that there already exists a potato-based stuffing, just in a seldom-visited cranny of the world (New Brunswick, Canada).

New Brunswick-style potato stuffing is characterized by two concepts: potatoes, and the use of savory (also known as “summer savory”). Savory is a defining seasoning in Atlantic Canada, and is used in most poultry seasonings in the same way that we Yanks use sage. We’re going to use a combination of both savory and sage, to make everyone happy. New Brunswick-style stuffing also typically uses bread slices in addition to the potatoes, but we’ll go ahead and ignore that fact since this is a Paleo recipe.

To get the perfect potato texture, we’re going to par-boil the potatoes to remove some of their starch and to soften them up; that way we can just blast the potatoes over a relatively high heat to crisp them up without worrying about whether they’re done on the inside. We’ll be frying them in duck fat, because it’s delicious, but lard, coconut oil, or any other high-heat oil will work just fine. In a separate pan, we’ll prepare the rest of the dish, then combine the two just before serving (otherwise, the potatoes would get mushy).

One last note: there actually is a distinction between stuffing and dressing, although the distinction is mostly ignored. Stuffing is, by definition, a dressing that is placed inside of a turkey, while dressing is not. Personally, I grew up calling it “stuffing”, regardless of its location in relation to a bird, so we’ll stick with that for this recipe.

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I know what you’re thinking – two recipes in one week? That’s right folks, in anticipation of one of the biggest cooking days of the year next week, I’m providing you with 200% of my typical weekly recipe spread. Tuesday’s recipe for Devilish Eggs makes for a perfect appetizer, while this simple cranberry sauce is fitting for any Thanksgiving plate: Paleo, Primal, gluten-free, or even gluten-laden.

I’m going to be on the road for most of next week (one last family vacation before our second child arrives next month), so I want to give you a few news updates before your holiday shopping reaches full swing.

First, the Kindle version of my debut cookbook, The Ancestral Table will be on sale November 24th (this coming Tuesday) for $2.99, 66% off its normal price! This is part of a large-scale, one-day Paleo eBook sale; follow this link to sign up and be notified the moment the discount is available. Also, I’ll post the full list of eBooks on sale at the bottom of this recipe – it’s an excellent selection!

Next, the folks behind TX Bar Organics are offering 35% off all orders over $100, with free shipping on orders over $175 using the code “HOLIDAYS” (all caps). This is an excellent opportunity to fill your freezer with high-quality organic grass-fed beef.

Finally, I’ve recently started writing for Yahoo Food, which has been a lot of fun. Check out this recipe for New Brunswick-Style Potato Stuffing. This stuffing rounds out the perfect holiday meal, when paired with the cranberry sauce recipe below plus some other favorites: Devilish Eggs, Smoked Turkey, Roasted Brussels Sprouts, and Mashed Sweet Potatoes.

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Parties are the worst, right? All those new people to meet, the inevitable bad music that appears on the stereo, and figuring out what food to bring. Luckily, this week’s recipe will solve two party-related issues: bringing food and breaking the ice (there’s really no fix for bad music). You see, not only are these classically-prepared deviled eggs delicious, but they are a fun party trick, too.

While the name deviled eggs might lead you to think of something wicked, there is no association between this dish and Beelzebub. The term deviled first appeared in England in the 18th century, in reference to dishes that were highly seasoned (usually with mustard and black pepper). So while many folks will use the terms “stuffed eggs”, “dressed eggs”, or “angel eggs” to remove any perceived evil from this popular appetizer, there is none to be found. But this fact got me thinking – what if I could add a bit of mischief to these eggs?

So here’s the trick: place a random amount of Tabasco between the white and yolk of the deviled egg, then let the other party attendees guess how many drops of Tabasco are hidden within each egg they choose.

By the way, the concept of eating eggs before a meal is not new. In Ancient Rome, eggs were part of gustatio (the world’s first word for appetizer), and were so commonplace that a popular saying soon appeared: “ab ova usque ad mala”, which translates to “from eggs to apples”, or from the beginning to the end (apples were served as post-meal treats).

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I know what you’re thinking. “But Russ, it just turned October, and you’re already posting about Thanksgiving turkey!” While that’s true, there’s a simple explanation: if you want to celebrate Thanksgiving this year with a wholesome, happy, and pastured turkey, you’re going to need to contact a local farmer and pre-order it soon. As in, right away. So this recipe serves as both a reminder to pre-order a turkey soon, and a guide on what to do with the bird when you get it. I’ve been smoking chickens and turkeys for a while, but I’ve been lousy at sharing my results. So this is my definitive guide on how to get a great smoked turkey, using either a gas or charcoal grill. I love smoking turkeys because the flavor is awesome, but also because it frees up valuable oven space on what tends to be a hectic day.

The common turkey we eat today is a domesticated descendant of the wild turkeys originally found in North America. When Europeans first saw turkeys, they incorrectly thought they were a form of guineafowl, which was sometimes called “turkey fowl” because back in the day they were imported into Europe through Turkey. The name “turkey” stuck with this bird afterwards. Interestingly, many European countries (including France, Italy, Ukraine, Poland, and Russia) call the bird a derivative of “India” or “Indies” because of a similar confusion with guineafowl (which was also imported from India), or possibly because the New World was often thought to be part of Asia during the European Renaissance.

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Note: I’ve tweaked this recipe over the years, and HERE is my definitive method/recipe.

For Thanksgiving this year I tried my hand at roasting a turkey on the grill. The resulting bird was crispy on the outside and juicy and tender on the inside, and only took a few minutes longer than roasting it in the oven. Also, adding woods chips imparts an authentic smokey flavor that really made the turkey stand out on the Thanksgiving table. Lastly, it frees up the oven for other endeavors!

Also, when grilling a turkey (or roasting it in the oven, for that matter), you want to use a v-rack (often called a roasting rack). We just started using one recently and it’s amazing how evenly it cooks the bird, since it allows air to circulate around the entire turkey. Depending on how your grill plates run, though, the v-rack may fall through the plates; to prevent this, put the v-rack on a grill pan.

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