Turkey

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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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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Our local market had some really nice-looking eggplants the other day, so I decided to pick up a couple and whip something up. When coming up with an idea for the dish, I decided to refer to some of the eggplant experts: the countries that live along the Mediterranean coast. Italy seemed too easy, so I went with Turkey instead, who have several classic eggplant dishes. Karniyarik is a stuffed eggplant dish from Turkey, similar to another popular Turkish dish, Imam Bayildi, which is similar but made without ground meat.

Eggplants got their name from their egg-like shape, although they are referred to as aubergines nearly everywhere outside of the United States. Eggplants were probably first cultivated in India about 2,000 years ago, before making their way to the Middle East and Europe. It was one of the first foods brought to the Americas by Spanish and Portuguese explorers in the 16th century.

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Like most of the Paleo world, I caught wind of Joshua at Slim Palate a few months back when he revealed that not only is he a teenager, but he lost over 100 lbs during his journey to find health and fitness. Incredible story aside, I immediately respected his photography and sense of style (I can’t imagine what my sense of “style” was at age 17!); he’s got an elegant eye that shows up in his pictures.

After a bit of chatting, I offered to do a recipe swap, where we recreate one of each other’s recipes, with allowance for tweaks. I chose to do one of his earlier recipes, Chipotle Dijon Turkey Meatballs, while he made a stunning rendition of my Rogan Josh recipe. My take on his original recipe is pretty faithful, but I added a creamy sauce on the side, modeled after the cream sauce typically found in traditional-style fish tacos.

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My friends at Lava Lake Lamb recently started carrying grass-fed beef, and I jumped at the chance to give some of it a try. One particular challenge came in finding a unique, yet somewhat traditional, way of preparing sirloin steak; it’s a very simple cut, which fares the best with a simple preparation (garlic, salt, and pepper are usually perfect). Luckily, after some digging I discovered quite a few different ways that people grill this steak in Turkey, so I developed a recipe based on some of those traditional Turkish methods.

It’s hard to find specific history related to grilled beef steaks in Turkey – in fact, many regions only ate meat during special celebrations until very recently. My guess is that this particular preparation is relatively new to the country, probably only 50 years old. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter – this steak was delicious, regardless of how long people have been cooking it!

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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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