You want me to cook a Thanksgiving turkey?! Part 2

Game on.

So, after last night, I’ve updated the blog with my progress. At this point, the turkey has been brining for about 20 hours or so. The grill has been cleaned out and is ready to light. And I picked up a Big Green Egg V-Rack.

Tonight, we’re going to cover:

1. Review of setting up the Big Green Egg for indirect heat (mostly because I’ll actually be lighting it this time and there are more photos to add).
2. Cooking the crash test turkey. And some more pictures.
3. Initial impressions once we have a chance to taste some turkey tonight. Also some notes about how things went and what I’ll do differently on Thursday.

Given the flurry of activity on the blog, I’ve had to promise to save some white meat for a buddy of mine. Another friend has asked if I’ll smoke her a turkey between now and Thursday. Also, my coworkers are going to give some feedback tomorrow. One of my coworkers even asked me to bring white bread and mayo.

Brining a turkey

So in sticking with the official Big Green Egg recipe, here’s the evidence from brining.

1. Pour the water into a large bowl.

2. Add the brown sugar, orange rind, rosemary, salt, two-thirds of the quartered onions, and 1 halved garlic head.

3. Mix until the sugar and salt dissolve.

4. Remove the giblets from inside the turkey and reserve for another use.

5. Rinse the turkey well.

6. Place the turkey in a 2½ gallon resealable plastic bag or any container that is large enough to hold the turkey and the liquid.

7. Pour the brine over the turkey, making sure it’s completely covered. Refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours.

8. Since Thanksgiving is coming up in a couple of days, go ahead and start thawing the next bird.

Smoked Turkey on the Big Green Egg

If you want the full experience of this, you probably actually want to start here.

If you’re just looking for the recipe, continue on.

This is almost word for word a repost of the official Big Green Egg Smoked Turkey recipe. I’ve made some minor edits. But this is basically identical to their recipe.

Ingredients
16 cups (1 gallon) water
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
Rind of 1 navel orange
3 sprigs rosemary
1 cup kosher salt
3 yellow onions, quartered
2 heads garlic, halved
1 (12-pound) turkey
2 lemons, quartered
10 sprigs thyme
10 sprigs sage
1 cup chopped potatoes
¼ cup olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Garlic powder

Preheat the EGG to 350ºF / 177ºC without the Plate Setter.

Pour the water into a large bowl. Add the brown sugar, orange rind, rosemary, salt, two-thirds of the quartered onions, and 1 halved garlic head. Mix until the sugar and salt dissolve. Remove the giblets from inside the turkey and reserve for another use. Rinse the turkey well. Place the turkey in a 2½ gallon resealable plastic bag or any container that is large enough to hold the turkey and the liquid. Pour the brine over the turkey, making sure it’s completely covered. Refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours.

Remove the turkey from the brine, rinse well to remove the brining liquid, and pat dry with paper towels. Discard the brining liquid and solids. Stuff the turkey with the lemon quarters, the remaining halved garlic head and onion, thyme, sage, and potatoes. Brush the turkey with olive oil and season with pepper and garlic powder.

Place the Plate Setter, legs up, in the EGG. Place the turkey on the V-Rack and put the V-Rack in the Drip Pan. Place the Drip Pan on the Plate Setter and close the lid of the EGG. Cook for 2½ hours. If the turkey starts to brown too quickly, carefully tent the turkey with aluminum foil. Continue cooking until the instant read thermometer registers 165ºF / 74ºC.

Remove the turkey from the EGG and let rest for 15 to 20 minutes. Carve and serve immediately. Serves 8

Setup the BGE for indirect cooking

So now that the Egg is cleaned out, I’m ready to start getting ready for TurkeyPalooza 2012.

Being that my back patio is covered and there is 0% chance of rain. I can do this the night before too. If you recall, we started with a clean and empty Big Green Egg.

1. Insert the electric starter (if that’s what you’re using). Pour natural lump charcoal over the top. There are a bazillion different brands out there. I use the “official” stuff lately. Don’t be afraid to reach in there and move individual chunks of charcoal around. For indirect cooking, you want to build a stable, controlled fire.

2. (optional) Add a couple small chunks of wood for smoke. For the turkey, I’m going with Apple. For God’s sake, do not use mesquite for poultry or pork.

3. Add more natural lump charcoal. The idea is to get a full load of coal. At least to cover the holes in the fire bowl. And, for long cooks, you can go as high as near the top of the fire ring if you have to.


For the actual cook:

4. Plug in the electric starter. Open the bottom and top vents all the way for maximum air flow. For a high temp cook, I’ll leave this in for 6 or 7 minutes. for a low temperature cook, I may only leave it in for 3 or 4 minutes.

5. Close the lid. Let the grill pre-heat. Do not leave the grill unattended. You’ll want to start adjusting the vents when you get within 25 – 50 degrees of your intended temperature. For the Turkey, I’m looking for a “dome temp” of 350F, which means the cooking surface should be a slightly cooler 325F. Pro Tip: Be willing to spend time getting your fire right. Your brisket, chicken and pork (and hopefully my turkey) are worth getting this right. If I’m doing a cut of meat that people consider to have a high degree of difficulty (read: brisket), it is not uncommon for me to spend 45 minutes to an hour before I consider my fire to be “right.” One of my friends convinced me this was OK the day before my first brisket and I am glad that he did.

6. Once you’ve preheated and your fire is stable, add the ceramic platesetter. For turkey (for basically anything except pizza), I’m using it inverted with the feet facing up. This will leave room for me to insert a roasting pan to catch drippings. Close the lid and allow the temperature to normalize again. You may need to adjust your vents to permit more air flow.

7. Add the meat. In the case of the turkey, add the turkey, breast side up in a V Rack. I also have a probe thermometer in the turkey breast so that I get an audible alarm when the breast meat reaches 165F.

8. Stick with the grill for another 20 to 30 minutes to be sure the temperature holds steady. And then walk away. Sometimes I check the dome temperature every couple of hours. Sometimes I watch football. Sometimes I just sleep. Whatever you do, keep the lid closed.

Cleaning out the Big Green Egg

So I mention my Egg a lot on the blog. And I take lots of pictures of it in action. But I don’t spend a whole lot of time doing BGE tech support. I, too, once did not own a Big Green Egg. So I didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. It’s very minimalist, but there’s more to it than a piece of polished green ceramic. The interior components make all the magic happen.

Lately, I had noticed I was having trouble with high temperatures lately, so I knew that there was some ash somewhere inside clogging up something and impacting air flow. Since you always have a full load of coals (fuel), controlling your air flow makes oxygen the limiting reactant for the fire. That’s why learning to adjust the vents properly is so key to success on the Big Green Egg. Ash is just part of cooking in a charcoal cooker and it gets in the holes of the charcoal grate and between the fire bowl and the ceramic walls of the Egg. Cleaning requires that you take parts out of the Egg, so this gives an opportunity to a) take care of business and b) show you how the Egg works.

First, I removed the cooking grid, the ceramic fire ring, the vented ceramic fire bowl and used the ash tool to scrape any leftover ash out from what would have been between the inner workings of the Egg and the ceramic walls. The ash tool is the only tool that is the right shape and length to do this. If you own an Egg, you should plan to get one of these. It’s the perfect size and shape to get into most of the hard to reach spots and scrape out leftover ashes. I also have a little cheapy dust pan with a brush so that I can get ashes to the trash.

With all the parts removed, here’s the Egg with all the interior components removed.


Next, I start to re-assemble.

1. Add the fire bowl. Note that it’s whiter than the walls of the Egg. That’s because this is where the burning, lava hot charcoal lives. High temperatures clean the ceramic. If you use your Egg for mostly grilling the entire inside will stay whiter looking. I do some high temp cooks and some low temp cooks. Mine is ugly and I love it.

2. Add the fire ring. This sits on top of the fire bowl and gives you some extra height.

3. Add the charcoal grate. This keeps the charcoal off of the bottom of the Egg and lets air flow freely through the fire bowl and cooking chamber.

4. Setting up the Egg for indirect cooking.

You want me to cook a Thanksgiving turkey?! Part 1

I’m going to try something new this week. Think of this like a live foodblog event. And round 1 begins tonight.

Last week, my wife realized we could simplify Thanksgiving dinner with the extended family if, instead of using the oven for the turkey, I could cook a bird on the Big Green Egg. So, we talked about who all is coming for dinner and then went back and forth on whether we should do a couple of turkey breasts or a whole turkey. Since we’re feeding 10+, we decided to go with a smallish whole turkey, about 13 lbs. But since I’ve never cooked a turkey at all, we picked up a 10 lb bird too. For practice. The 10 lb turkey has been thawing in the refrigerator for about 70 hours and the action is about to get started.

Tonight, I’m tackling a few things.

1. Clean out the grill. Take pictures.
2. Setup the Egg for indirect cooking.
3. Select a recipe.
4. Brine the turkey. Take some more pictures.

The practice cook will happen tomorrow night. And we’ll eat some and I’ll take a some samples to my office on Tuesday to get some coworker feedback.

Oh yeah.. Roll Tide!!

So you want me to cook a Thanksgiving turkey?! Part 2

Bacon wrapped filet mignon – Reverse Sear

So I’ve been quiet for a while. Not for lack of cooking. Not for lack of taking photos of food. Just, not posting in a timely manner. Thanks to eatdrinkandbemanly.com for reminding me of my social responsibility. I also have numerous pics of his fajita recipes, which are excellent.

A couple weeks ago, we picked up some pretty thick (1.5+” thick) bacon wrapped filets at the grocery store. Given that I hadn’t cooked a thick steak in a while, I decided to go with a “less is more” recipe. This technique isn’t fast, but it does produce an excellent brown crust on the meat that you aren’t generally going to get outside of some pretty pricy steakhouses.

Ingredients:

  • Filet mignon, the best cut you can comfortably spend, at least USDA Choice
  • Bacon, whatever floats your boat (ours came pre-assembled)
  • Salt
  • Black peppercorns
  • Two cast iron grill plates
  • Butter
Dry brine the steaks:
1. Remove the steaks from the fridge.
2. Blot dry with a paper towel.
3. Sprinkle salt liberally over the steaks.
4. Cover with another paper towel and let come to room temperature for an hour or so.
While you wait on the steaks to reach room temperature, go ahead and prepare the Big Green Egg:
1. Setup the Egg for direct heat.
2. Start fire and preheat grill to a dome temperature of about 300F.
Once the grill is ready, add the steaks:
1. Add the steaks in the reverse order you want to pull them off. For medium rare, you’re looking to leave the meat on at this temperature for about half an hour. My wife likes her steaks closer to medium well, so hers was on for about an hour.
2. Remove steaks. Note the relative lack of grill marks. Sprinkle with some more salt. Crack fresh peppercorns over the surface of the meat. Place on a warm plate and wrap in foil.
3. Open up the vents on the grill and let it get hot. Like 600F+.
Grease two grill plates:
1. We have these amazing little cast iron grill plates that I received from the “Hall of Fame” in laws. I don’t know where they found them, but if you don’t have one, a small cast iron skillet is your best bet.
2. Cut up a couple Tbsp of regular, salted butter.
3. Put the plates on the grill and let the butter get hot and melty-sizzly.
Sear:
1. Once the butter is melted and sizzling, put each filet down. Close the grill.
2. Wait 2 minutes and flip. Close grill again.
3. Wait two more minutes and remove from the grill.
4. Put them on a second, clean warm plate. Wrap in foil and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
Enjoy:
We ate these with a simple green salad and some organic brown rice pilaf from the rice cooker.

Pan Seared Sea Scallops with Parmesan Risotto and Wilted Spinach

I blame two things on this recipe.

  • Saltwater Grill in Panama City Beach, FL and their foodporn Pan Seared Diver Sea Scallops.
  • SkinnyTaste.com for posting this recipe that is remarkably similar to the entree at Saltwater Grill. Another win from Pinterest.

This was our first attempt at this recipe. The sear is darker on these scallops than both Saltwater Grill and SkinnyTaste.com, but the texture was right. I may try to sear in something other than cast iron next time. Scallops are on a One Day Sale at the local Whole Foods next Friday. So I may get another chance to do this sooner than later. The risotto was rich and creamy. Consider this a marriage building meal. It is not easy for one person to manage the risotto and the scallops at the same time. So this dinner was a team sport.

Seared Scallops over Wilted Spinach and Parmesan Risotto

Parmesan Risotto
Gina’s Weight Watcher Recipes
Servings: 3 • Size: 3/4 cup • Time: 30 minutes • Calories: 309 • Points: 6.5 pts

  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 2 tsp butter
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 4 cups fat free chicken stock
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan reggiano cheese
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley

Heat chicken stock in a small pot.

In a medium size heavy sauce pan, add butter on medium-low heat. Add shallots, sauté about 1 minute.

Add rice mixing well until well coated and transluscent, about 2 minutes.

Add wine, salt and pepper and mix well until it is absorbed into the rice.

Ladle 1 cup stock into rice and mix until all stock is absorbed, add another ladle, and continue adding and stirring until all broth is absorbed, about 20-25 minutes. Add parmesan cheese and parsley, mix well and serve.

Seared Scallops over Wilted Spinach
Gina’s Weight Watcher Recipes
Servings: 3 • Size: 5 oz • Time: 10 minutes • Calories: 172 • Points: 3.5 pts

  • 16 oz (about 12-14) sea scallops
  • salt and fresh pepper
  • 2 tsp butter
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 10 oz baby spinach, washed

Wash scallops and pat dry with a paper towel. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat a medium size pan on a high flame. When pan is hot, melt 1 tsp butter and place half of the scallops in the pan.

Sear without touching them for a few minutes until the bottom forms a nice caramel colored crust. Turn over and cook about another minute or 2, until the center is slightly translucent (you can check this by viewing them from the side) and the bottom is seared. Be careful not to overcook. Remove from the pan and set aside on a warm plate. Add addition tsp butter and cook remaining scallops.

Add olive oil to the pan and sauté shallots, add spinach, salt and pepper. Toss until spinach wilts.

Serve over spinach over risotto topped with scallops.

Perdomo Champagne Noir – Cigar review

Picked up a Perdomo Champagne Noir Robusto to smoke while I waited on the Boston Butt I smoked for the Alabama v. Arkansas game that we watched at home. Excellent stick. Picked it up at a local shop for $6.

This is my first cigar review, period. I’ve read plenty of them, so maybe I’ll work out a framework that works for me.

The Champagne Noir falls into the medium to full bodied spectrum of handmade cigars. It also falls into the lowest price point where I typically smoke. I tend to be able to find cigars I like at about $5, about $10 and special treats at $15 or more. I’ve smoked $40 cigars too. They were good, but I’m not sure that there’s enough of a difference between the $15-20 range and $40 for me to justify them on any more than an occasional basis. This isn’t my first Champagne Noir. It won’t be my last.

This was a Robusto cigar at a 5″ x 54 ring gauge. The cigar is made entirely from Nicaraguan tobacco. The wrapper is a Habano Maduro. The binder and filler are also from Nicaragua. The cigar was wrapped in cellophane. After removing the cigar from the cellophane, I immediately noticed the construction was very good. The cigar was tightly wrapped and consistently firm to the touch. The wrapper was veiny but not oily.

Prior to lighting the cigar, I noted smells of cocoa and some floral notes. I used my Xikar VX cutter to clip the cap. The pre light draw was smooth. And after toasting the foot of the cigar with my torch lighter, I was greeted with a slightly sweet first draw. Definitely heavy notes of cocoa on this cigar. This is one of those cigars that my wife is OK with me smoking around her. A couple weeks ago at the beach, she even decided she would taste it (and noted it tasted better than those nasty cigarettes I used to smoke several years ago).

The burn was also very even. If you look at the slideshow below, I did get one good ash column out of it before it broke off. The cigar didn’t burn unnecessarily hot, nor did it require maintenance re-lights. Start to finish the cigar took me just shy of an hour and a half watching the early SEC game.

Bottom line is that Perdomo has a great budget stick on their hands. This smokes better than a $6 cigar. I’ll keep smoking these. And I might even continue to let the wife take a draw from time to time. I tend to like cigars that are more full bodied than this. But this is just right for someone who likes light to medium bodied cigars looking to get into something with a little more oomph.