Posts Tagged ‘brine’

Pulled Pork

Some of my favorite Good Eats episodes have been those where Alton creates his own cooking contraptions, such as the cardboard smokers in the smoked salmon and bacon episodes. Since Alton can never do anything in plain fashion, he had to create another version of a smoker to make his pulled pork in episode 86. This time, the smoker is Alton’s version of a Big Green Egg; more on the smoker later.

Meat-wise, Alton says an untrimmed pork shoulder or Boston butt is ideal because it has enough fat to “baste” the meat as it cooks. It also has enough connective tissue to convert to gelatin, making for tender and flavorful pulled pork. The first step of this recipe is making a brine for the pork by weighing 12 ounces of pickling salt, 8 ounces of molasses, and 4 pounds (or 2 quarts) of water. Whisk the brine in a large container (Alton used a small plastic cooler) until the salt has dissolved.

Place your pork into the brine, fat side up, ensuring that it is fully submerged in the brine – I had to weigh mine down. Refrigerate the brining pork for 8-12 hours.

Meanwhile, you can build your smoker by following these steps:

  1. Place a large terra cotta planter (mine was 16 inches in diameter at the top) on some bricks, elevating it slightly.
  2. Place an electric hot plate in the bottom of your planter, allowing the cord to come out of the hole in the base of the planter. Connect the cord of the hot plate to an extension cord.

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    Hot plate placed in the bottom of a large terra cotta pot that has been elevated on some bricks.

  3. Fill a heavy cake pan with wood chunks, placing it on the hot plate.

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    Wood chunks in cake pan, placed on hot plate.

  4. Place a round grill grate in the pot, letting it nestle where it sits. My grill grate was 13-14″ in diameter.

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    Grill grate placed in the top of the planter.

  5. Place an inverted terra cotta dome on top of your planter. I could not find a dome that was large enough, so ended up using a 16″ terra cotta saucer.
  6. Finally, place a replacement grill thermometer in the hole of the dome. Or, if you have a nice husband like mine, he can drill a hole in the saucer for the thermometer and add a handle to the lid.

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    Completed smoker.

When your pork has completed its bath in the brine, it’s time to make the dry rub.

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Ingredients for dry rub: fennel seed, coriander seed, cumin seed, chili powder, onion powder, and paprika.

In a spice grinder combine 1 t fennel seed, 1 t coriander seed, 1 t cumin seed, 1 T chili powder, 1 T onion powder, and 1 T paprika.

Apply the rub to the meat after removing it from the brine, patting the spices into the meat’s surface with your hands.

You’re now ready to start the smoking process.

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Pork, ready to go into smoker.

Turn on your hot plate and place your pork on the grill grate in your smoker.

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Meat placed on grill grate.

I put some foil around the seam of my smoker, to keep as much smoke/heat inside as possible. Ideally, you will want to keep the temperature of your smoker between 210-220 degrees, smoking it for 8-12 hours.

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Smoker at work.

Alton says you want to change your wood chunks whenever the smoking ceases, and your meat should be done when you have used three batches of wood chunks.

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Pork after smoking for a few hours.

My meat ended up taking longer than 12 hours, but I also probably should have changed my wood earlier/more often. You will know your meat is done when it shreds easily with a fork. When your meat is done, remove it from the smoker, cover it with foil, and let it rest for an hour.

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Pork, after smoking for 13 hours.

Shred the meat with two forks, and serve it on rolls with coleslaw. For extra flavor, you can make Alton’s sauce by combining sweet pickle juice, mustard, and hot sauce to your taste.

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Shredded pork mixed with some of Alton’s sauce.

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Pulled pork sandwich with coleslaw, sauce, and a slice of cheddar.

We thought this pork was really tasty, and it was absolutely loaded with smokey flavor. The pork was tender, juicy, and had a nice sweetness to it. I did like it best with some of Alton’s sauce, as I liked that additional tang/heat. Overall, Alton’s terra cotta smoker worked great, and I plan to use it to smoke many more things. If you don’t have a smoker (we don’t), Alton’s version is an inexpensive option, and his pulled pork is an excellent recipe.

I have never been the biggest fan of pork chops. I remember sitting at the kitchen table when I was little, staring down a seemingly gray hunk of pork my mom had cooked for dinner, and dreaming of dessert; looking across the round oak table, my brother’s face mirrored my own. To this day, my mom says she has never understood why neither of her kids liked pork chops. My mom has always been a great cook, so I doubt she cooked pork chops poorly. Still, my impression of pork chops was summed up perfectly by Lorelai Gilmore when she said that eating pork chops is like sucking on a Pottery Barn catalog. I mean, really… tell me that you have never had that exact experience. So, last night for dinner, I set out to see if I could finally find a pork chop I liked.

Stuffed Grilled Pork Chops

After watching this episode of Good Eats, I determined that I needed to head to the local butcher shop to get my pork chops. See, according to Alton Brown, all pork chops are not created equal. While all pork chops come from the back of the pig, shoulder and sirloin chops are particularly tough and require wet cooking methods. Center-cut pork chops are the best, and Alton’s favorite center-cut chops are rib cut chops because they are composed of one muscle, making them the best choice for stuffed pork chops. My butcher shop cut two chops for me, making them about two inches thick, which is perfect for Alton’s recipe. For these chops, Alton insists that you make a brine, as pork is inherently dry, and a brine will serve to impart both flavor and moisture. To make the brine, combine in a lidded container 1 C Kosher salt, 1 C dark brown sugar, 1 T black peppercorns, and 1 T dry mustard. Add 2 C of hot cider vinegar and shake the container to dissolve everything.

Set the brine aside for 5-10 minutes to let the flavors fully develop. Next, add a pound of ice to the brine, and shake the container again until the ice is almost melted.

Now you are ready to place your chops into the brine, ensuring that they are completely covered. Though I only had two pork chops, I needed the full amount of brine to cover my chops, so if you are cooking four large chops, you may need to double the brine. Refrigerate the chops for two hours in the brine.

Toward the end of your brining period, you can make your pork chop stuffing. For four pork chops, combine 1 1/2 C crumbled cornbread, 1/4 C halved dried cherries, 2 T golden raisins, 1/4 C chopped walnuts, 2 t sliced fresh sage, 1/2 t pepper, 1/2 t Kosher salt, and 1/4 C buttermilk.

Set the stuffing aside while you prep your brined chops. The online recipe tells you to rinse your brined chops, but Alton did not do this in the episode. I did pat my chops with paper towels to remove excess moisture.

Next it is time to cut stuffing pockets in your pork chops. To do this, Alton placed his pork chops in a bagel slicer, but I just held mine with one hand and cut with the other. Either way, place your chops fat-side up and insert a long, thin knife (preferably a boning knife) straight down until you hit bone. Angle the blade up toward the surface, creating a cavity in one direction. Turn the knife around and cut in the other direction. You can check to see that your cavity is large enough by feeling with your finger. There is a video of Alton cutting his pockets, which you can access from the recipe link above.

In the episode, Alton used a large plastic syringe, with the tip cut off, to fill his pork chop pockets with stuffing. I used a plastic bag that I cut the corner out of, creating a makeshift piping bag. Still, I found that I had to use my fingers to push the filling down into the pocket. I filled my pork chops with as much filling as I could, and I used all of it.

To grill your pork chops, you will want to preheat your grill to high heat for at least 10 minutes. Brush your chops with oil and place them on the middle burner for 2 minutes.

Rotate the chops 90 degrees and leave them for 2 more minutes; this will create nice criss-cross grill marks.

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Pork chops, turned 90 degrees and left for 2 more minutes.

Flip your chops, leaving them for 2 minutes.

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Pork chops, flipped after 4 minutes of cooking. Left to cook 2 more minutes.

Finally, rotate the chops 90 degrees for a final 2 minutes.

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Pork chops, rotated 90 degrees to cook for 2 final minutes.

You want to cook your chops to an internal temperature of 140 degrees. If your chops are not done, place them over indirect heat and cook them until they reach 140. My chops took quite a lot (20-30 minutes) of additional grilling to reach 140.

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Pork chop after cooking to internal temperature of 140.

So, how did Alton’s stuffed pork chops taste? These were the best pork chops I had ever had. The pork was tender and moist, and just slightly pink in the middle, and you could taste the seasoning from the brine. The filling was a delicious accompaniment, with tartness from the cherries, sweetness from the raisins, occasional bursts of sage, and crunch from the walnuts.

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Pocket of filling inside pork chop.

This is a must-do recipe, especially if you are a pork fan. I guess I need to call my mom to tell her I finally met a pork chop I liked.

P.S. A bonus tip from Alton:  If you ever need to know how much propane you have in your tank, you can check the level by pouring ~a cup of boiling water down the side of your propane tank. You can tell where the propane level is by feeling where the metal switches from hot to cold.

Scrap Iron Chef’s Bacon

I was super excited for the 59th episode of Good Eats. Who wouldn’t be excited at the prospects of making homemade bacon? This episode was a play on the TLC show Junkyard Wars, which I recall seeing several times. I don’t know that this episode would make much sense if you had not seen the original show, but I’m not here to judge production value… I just judge the food!

For Alton’s bacon, you will need a slab of pork belly, preferably from the back end of the pig (it has more fat). How much pork belly will you need? Alton appeared to prep about 10 pounds of pork belly in the episode, while the online recipe calls for five pounds. I, on the other hand, wound up with a 13.5 pound slab of belly. Basically, you can prep as little or as much bacon as you would like; you will just need to adjust the amount of brine you make accordingly. My pork belly was frozen, so I had to allow a couple extra days for it to thaw in the refrigerator. Even if your pork is not frozen, you will need to brine your pork belly for three days before smoking it.

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Ingredients for bacon brine: Kosher salt, sugar, molasses, black pepper, & apple cider. Not pictured: water.

To make enough brine for 10 pounds of pork belly, combine 2 C Kosher salt, 2 C sugar, 8 oz blackstrap molasses, 2 T ground black pepper, 2 quarts apple cider, and 2 quarts water in a large pot.

Bring the brine to a simmer and allow it to cool to room temperature. Once the brine is cool enough to use, portion your pork belly into chunks that can be stored in ziplock bags; I cut my pork belly into six sections.

Divide the brine evenly among the bags and refrigerate the pork for three days, turning the bags once per day to ensure even brining.

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Pork belly and brine in bags for three days.

When smoking day has arrived, remove your pork belly chunks from their brine and dry them on a rack over a sheet pan. A fan can help to expedite this process. Dry the pork for ~30 minutes per side. The purpose of drying the pork is to form a pellicle, or a protein layer, to which the smoke particles can adhere.

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Pork belly drying on racks to form pellicle before smoking.

If you are like me and do not own a smoker, you can build an Alton Brown smoker, much like the one I made for the smoked salmon episode. The difference between the bacon smoker and the salmon smoker is that you want to cold smoke the bacon, while the salmon was smoked with hot smoke. To make a cold smoker a la Alton, you will need a large cardboard box to hold your meat/racks, and a smaller cardboard box to hold your electric burner and wood chips.

You will also need a piece of flexible ductwork to connect the two boxes. Duct tape works great for sealing everything up, and you will want to seal the boxes very tightly.

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My smoker. Two cardboard boxes connected with ductwork.

The smoke will be produced in the smaller box before traveling through the ductwork to the meat box; this keeps the smoke cool. If you have a small fan to push the smoke through the ductwork, that helps too. I used a small personal fan that I taped to the inside of the meat box. Alton recommended inserting a probe thermometer in the meat box to be sure the temperature remains below 80 degrees; my temperature never rose above 63 degrees. You will want to smoke your bacon for about six hours, changing the wood chips about every hour.

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My bacon after drying. Ready to smoke!

Be prepared for some awesome aromas to waft around your home. When your bacon has finished smoking, chill it in the freezer for an hour before slicing. In the episode, Alton did not mention whether his pork belly had the skin on, as my pork belly did. I opted to cut the skin off before slicing the bacon. We have a meat slicer, which made slicing pretty easy, and I honestly cannot imagine slicing it all by hand. Regardless of how you slice your bacon, slice it fat side up.

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My sliced bacon. Freezing the bacon for an hour makes slicing easier.

Alton’s bacon can be stored in the freezer for up to a year. How does Alton recommend that you cook bacon? He recommends that you bake bacon on a rack placed over a sheet pan. Start your bacon in a cold oven that is set to 400 degrees, and check the bacon every three minutes until cooked to your liking. Oh, and save the drippings!

We first tried Alton’s bacon on BLT sandwiches with a slice of cheddar and Alton’s party mayo, and they were delicious sandwiches! The bacon is really quite delicious, though it does not have quite as much smoke flavor as I would have expected. We have a freezer full of delicious bacon that we can eat for months to come. Making bacon is certainly a fun weekend project that is worth a try.

Bacon Vinaigrette with Grilled Radicchio

If you are looking for something to use those delicious bacon drippings for, look no further than Alton’s grilled radicchio. For this recipe you’ll need radicchio lettuce, Kosher salt, black pepper, bacon drippings, brown sugar, coarse mustard, cider vinegar, and olive oil.

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Ingredients for Alton’s grilled radicchio: radicchio lettuce, bacon drippings, Kosher salt, pepper, brown sugar, coarse mustard, cider vinegar, and olive oil.

Cut your radicchio into wedges, leaving some of the core in each wedge. Toss the radicchio wedges in bacon drippings to evenly coat, and sprinkle them with Kosher salt and pepper.

Grill the wedges until they are just starting to brown at the edges. Place the warm wedges on a plate and cover with foil.

Set the radicchio aside and allow the steam to cook the wedges while you make the dressing. For the vinaigrette, combine 1 T brown sugar, 1 T coarse mustard, and 1/4 C cider vinegar in a bowl. Whisk in 1/4 C olive oil and 2 T bacon drippings.

Drizzle the grilled radicchio with the bacon vinaigrette.

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Radicchio wedges served with vinaigrette.

We ate this as a side dish and both thought it was delicious. In fact, we liked it so much that we already plan to have it again. This is an excellent, and different, vegetable side dish that is perfect alongside grilled entrees.

When Alton Brown was filming Good Eats, he and his crew produced eight special episodes, in addition to the regular seasonal episodes. Seeing as Ted and I will be having our Thanksgiving dinner with his parents this year, we decided we would have my parents over to our house for an early Thanksgiving dinner, which we had yesterday. It just so happens that the first of the Good Eats special episodes has a Thanksgiving theme, so, of course, I used the recipes from this special episode to fill our (first – lucky us!) Thanksgiving table this year.

Ted and I have only hosted Thanksgiving once at our house. In 2010, we hosted both sets of our parents, along with Ted’s aunt and uncle. It was particularly cold and snowy that year, and Ted was in charge of cooking the turkey. My dad contributed our family’s favorite stuffing with blue cornbread and chorizo sausage, and everyone else brought a side dish or two to share. Ted chose to follow Alton’s turkey recipe from this episode of Good Eats. He’ll tell you it turned out dry, but the rest of us thought it was very good. The highlight of the day was when Ted and my dad were carving the turkey. As we did not have a carving board, they were carving the bird on a pull-out cutting board under the kitchen counter. The bird was quite hefty, causing the cutting board to slant toward the kitchen floor, and all of the turkey’s juices began running off the edge of the board. We all saw a huge mess about to form, but Hitcher, the hound, stepped in to save the day, positioning himself perfectly so the juices would run straight into his open, waiting mouth. Ellie, my now mother-in-law, was laughing so hard that I thought she was going to fall over.

Good Eats Roast Turkey

I was nervous yesterday, as I was cooking my first turkey. While I have always contributed something to Thanksgiving dinner, I have never before had the responsibility of cooking the almighty bird. I carefully watched Alton’s preparation of the recipe. For this recipe, he recommends a 14-16 pound turkey, but we purchased a 13 pound turkey since we would only have four people eating. To begin, you want to thaw your turkey for two-three days prior to Thanksgiving. I started thawing my turkey Monday evening. To thaw, Alton recommends putting your turkey (in a pan) inside a Styrofoam cooler with ice packs. Since we have two hounds, my turkey thawed safely in the guest bathroom shower.To monitor the temperature, he suggests sticking a probe thermometer through the top of the cooler, with an alarm set to go off at 38 degrees. We did not have a probe thermometer, but after watching the episode, I realized it would really be a necessity to properly prepare a turkey the Alton way. I purchased this thermometer at Amazon, which happens to be the same one Alton uses in the episode.

Turkey thawing in cooler.

Turkey thawing in cooler.

As an alternative, if you need to thaw your turkey very quickly, you can put your turkey in a five-gallon bucket of cool water, changing the water every three to four hours; it should take ~six to eight hours. Note:  Always thaw your turkey in its original wrapping. Did you know that turkeys are only technically considered frozen if they are below zero degrees? A refrigerated turkey is one between one and 24 degrees, while a fresh turkey is at, or above, 26 degrees. My probe thermometer went above 40 degrees, but the turkey still felt quite frozen, so I left it in the cooler until late Wednesday night. Sometime while your turkey is thawing, you want to make your brine. You can make the brine up to two days ahead, and you will want to make it early since it needs to chill. For the brine, combine vegetable stock, Kosher salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, allspice berries, and candied ginger in a pot. I ended up adding my ginger later, as I did not have any in the house.

Brine ingredients:  vegetable broth, brown sugar, allspice berries, Kosher salt, and peppercorns. Not pictured:  candied ginger.

Brine ingredients: vegetable broth, brown sugar, allspice berries, Kosher salt, and peppercorns. Not pictured: candied ginger.

Brine on the stove, minus the candied ginger.

Brine on the stove, minus the candied ginger.

Bring this mixture to a boil, and then allow it to cool to room temperature with a lid on the pot. Once cool, you want to thoroughly chill the brine in the refrigerator.

Candied ginger. I added this after my brine had cooled, as I did not have any.

Candied ginger. I added this after my brine had cooled, as I did not have any.

Cooled brine with candied ginger added.

Cooled brine with candied ginger added.

Thanksgiving morning, or late the night before (this is what I did), combine your brine with a gallon of heavily iced water in a five-gallon bucket.

Brine plus ice water in a bucket.

Brine plus ice water in a bucket.

Remove the turkey’s guts, give him a rinse, and place him into the brine, breast down. You want to put the breast down since it tends to dry out the fastest. Alton tells you to leave your turkey in the brine for six to eight hours, though the online recipe says you can leave the bird in the brine for up to 16 hours. Since Alton tells you in the episode that you can begin the brining process late in the evening prior to your cooking day, I went with that. Regardless of how long you choose to brine your turkey, you want to flip it over once in the middle of the brining period. What about stuffing? Alton calls stuffing “evil” in this episode. Why? Not only is it potentially unsafe to cook stuffing in the bird because of possible foodborne illness, but it also causes your turkey to take longer to cook, which can result in a dry bird. Now, I grew up with parents who always stuffed the bird, and none of us have ever gotten sick because of it, so I am not overly frightened of stuffing. But, since the goal of my blog project is to cook all of the Good Eats recipes as closely to how Alton does them on the show, there was no stuffing in my bird yesterday. Instead, once I was ready to cook my turkey, I removed it from the brine, rinsed it off, and patted it dry, placing it on a rack over a sheet pan.

My 13 pounder.

My 13 pounder.

I microwaved a sliced onion and a sliced red apple in some water for a minute on high. When you remove the apple and onion from the microwave, throw a cinnamon stick into the liquid to steep for a couple of minutes also.

Sliced apple and onion, microwaved with some water, and steeped with a cinnamon stick.

Sliced apple and onion, microwaved with some water, and steeped with a cinnamon stick.

While this is steeping, put some fresh rosemary and sage into the cavity of the bird; I did two big sprigs of rosemary and one bunch of sage.

Sage and rosemary to go in turkey's cavity.

Sage and rosemary to go in turkey’s cavity.

Rosemary and sage in the bird.

Rosemary and sage in the bird.

You want to tuck the turkey’s wings up under its body to prevent them from burning. If your bird has its legs tied, leave this on. My turkey did not have its legs tied, but I tucked them inside its skin, which held them in place nicely. After a few minutes of steeping, add the apple, onion, and cinnamon stick to the cavity of the bird. It is easiest to use tongs to do this. I crammed as much of these aromatics into the bird as I could fit.

Apple, onion, and cinnamon stick placed in the bird.

Apple, onion, and cinnamon stick placed in the bird.

Leave the turkey popper thermometer in the bird, but ignore it. Here is where one of the biggest tricks of Alton’s recipe comes in, and this is not mentioned in the online recipe. You want to take a large piece of foil and fold it into a large triangle.

Turkey triangle.

Turkey triangle.

Oil this “turkey triangle” and mold it so it covers the breast of the bird, and then set it aside for later.

Oiled turkey triangle.

Oiled turkey triangle.

Molding the turkey triangle to the breast.

Molding the turkey triangle to the breast.

What is the purpose of the turkey triangle? Dark meat is perfectly cooked at 180 degrees, while white meat is ready at 161 degrees. Since there is this discrepancy in temperature, you will use the triangle to protect the breast meat, while allowing the dark meat to cook more quickly. This will result in a bird that has perfectly cooked white AND dark meat. Now, coat the outside of your turkey with oil and insert your probe thermometer into the thickest part of the breast, ensuring that you do not hit any bones, as that can result in a false temperature reading.

Turkey, filled with aromatics and oiled up.

Turkey, filled with aromatics and oiled up.

Probe inserted into deepest part of breast.

Probe inserted into deepest part of breast.

Set your alarm to go off when your turkey’s temperature hits 161 degrees.

Starting temperature of my turkey (42), and end goal temperature (161).

Starting temperature of my turkey (42), and end goal temperature (161).

Now, the turkey is ready for the oven. Place it in a 500 degree oven for 30 minutes. When the 30 minutes are up, place the previously molded turkey triangle onto the bird, protecting the breast. I did not get a picture when I did this. Decrease the oven temperature to 350 degrees and wait for your alarm to sound. How easy is that? Alton recommends that you place the turkey in the oven legs first, but my turkey would only fit sideways. According to Alton, a 14 pound bird will take about two hours to cook, but my 13 pound bird took two hours and 45 minutes. Cooking time will depend on the starting temperature of your bird (mine was at 42 degrees), the size of your turkey, and your oven. When your bird is done cooking, remove it from the oven and let it rest for 15 minutes.

Turkey, photo bombed by the hound.

Turkey, photo bombed by the hound.

Turkey, fresh from the oven.

Turkey, fresh from the oven.

If you have a classic round charcoal grill, you can use the lid of your grill to cover your turkey while it rests. If not, foil will suffice.

Turkey resting under foil.

Turkey resting under foil.

When ready to carve, use an electric knife. To best carve your turkey, carve between the legs and the body first, going down until you hit the joint. Press on the leg with your hand until it pops, and then use the knife to cut the rest of the way through. Next, to carve the breast, cut horizontally toward the center of the bird at the wing line, and then make slices perpendicularly down to the initial cut. This will result in perfect slices of white meat. My turkey could not have turned out any better. It was golden brown on the outside, while incredibly juicy and moist on the inside. The white meat, in particular, shocked everyone with how moist it was.

Moist, flavorful, perfectly cooked white AND dark meat.

Moist, flavorful, perfectly cooked white AND dark meat.

The turkey was loaded with flavor, without being salty. We all agreed that it was great, including the Coonhounds, who howled while the turkey was carved and were all too willing to clean up the turkey juice trail that led from the kitchen to the garage; when you live with hounds, and an always-hungry cat, you must hide your Turkey in the garage while you eat your Thanksgiving dinner. Though this was my first turkey, I cannot imagine that I will ever prepare a turkey another way, but I do have to say that my dad has cooked some amazing turkeys with his basted, grilled method too. Oh, and if you have leftover turkey, Alton says it freezes very well – just be sure to wrap it in both foil and plastic before freezing. Seeing as Ted and I both just finished delectable leftover turkey sandwiches, I do not think our leftovers will need to be frozen! Long story short, if you do not yet have a turkey plan for Thanksgiving, try Alton’s turkey. It is wonderful.

Here is a synopsis of my turkey timeline to give you an idea of how this recipe plays out:

  • Sunday afternoon – purchased turkey.
  • Monday, 5:30 pm – began thawing turkey in cooler.
  • Wednesday morning – made and chilled brine.
  • Wednesday, 11:45 pm – put bird in brine.
  • Thursday, 4:00 pm – took bird out of brine.
  • Thursday, 4:30 pm – put bird in oven.
  • Thursday, 7:15 pm – bird done when temperature reached 161 degrees.
  • Thursday, 7:30 pm – carved bird.

 

Tart Cranberry Dipping Sauce

To go along with your perfect turkey, in the Thanksgiving special, Alton shows you how to make a cranberry dipping sauce. The recipe for this sauce can be found here, which for some reason shows up as under a different Good Eats episode. I happen to like the gelatinous cranberry sauce you can buy in a can, but it truly does not compare to a dish made with fresh cranberries. For Alton’s cranberry concoction, combine 12 ounces of frozen cranberries (the online recipe calls for a pound), orange juice, ginger ale, maple syrup, light brown sugar, the zest of an orange, and a pinch of Kosher salt in a saucepan. I could not find frozen cranberries, so I used fresh cranberries.

Sauce ingredients: cranberries, OJ, ginger ale, maple syrup, brown sugar, Kosher salt, and the zest of an orange.

Sauce ingredients: cranberries, OJ, ginger ale, maple syrup, brown sugar, Kosher salt, and the zest of an orange.

All of the ingredients in a saucepan.

All of the ingredients in a saucepan.

Bring this mixture to a boil, decrease the heat to medium, and cook it for 30 minutes. A skin will form on the surface of the sauce, so skim that off.

A skin formed after 30 minutes on the stove.

A skin formed after 30 minutes on the stove.

After skimming off the skin.

After skimming off the skin.

If you have an immersion blender, you can use that to blend the sauce. Our immersion blender is incapacitated, so I used a traditional blender to blend my sauce.

Into the blender.

Into the blender.

Completed cranberry sauce.

Completed cranberry sauce.

Tart cranberry dipping sauce.

Tart cranberry dipping sauce.

Serve this sauce in individual ramekins for each diner to dip their turkey in. This sauce really does pair nicely with turkey, as it is quite tart and contrasts nicely with the meat. It is loaded with cranberry and orange flavor, and is a brilliant cranberry red, which also adds a lot of color to the Thanksgiving table. Also, you can make this sauce ahead of time and reheat it while your turkey is resting. I would definitely make this again to pair with turkey. It does make quite a large volume of sauce, so I am already thinking of other ways to use it. Perhaps we will have to have this with some homemade pound cake and vanilla ice cream for dessert one night! If you are looking for a new way to incorporate cranberries into your Thanksgiving dinner, or an alternative to gravy, this is a fun (and easy!) one to try.

Sweet Corn Bread Pudding

The final recipe Alton prepares in “Romancing the Bird” is for his Sweet Corn Bread Pudding. I happen to love stuffing, especially my dad’s, at Thanksgiving, so I was happy to see that Alton made this bread pudding, as it is along the lines of stuffing. Again, this is a nice recipe for Thanksgiving, as you can make it early in the day and reheat it in the oven while your turkey is resting, which means you are not scrambling to make a bunch of things at the last second.

Ingredients for bread pudding:  pepper, Kosher salt, onion, creamed corn, butter, cream, eggs, baking powder, cornmeal, rosemary, thyme, and Parmesan.

Ingredients for bread pudding: pepper, Kosher salt, onion, creamed corn, butter, cream, eggs, baking powder, cornmeal, rosemary, thyme, and Parmesan.

To begin, heat an iron skillet and melt some butter.

Preheating iron skillet.

Preheating iron skillet.

Melting butter.

Melting butter.

Add a diced onion (the online recipe calls for half an onion, but Alton uses a whole onion in the show) and some chopped, fresh rosemary and thyme.

Onion sweating in butter.

Onion sweating in butter.

Onion, butter, rosemary, and thyme.

Onion, butter, rosemary, and thyme.

In the meantime, mix together, in a bowl, a can of creamed corn, heavy cream, two eggs, cornmeal, baking powder, Kosher salt, and some pepper.

Creamed corn, cream, eggs, cornmeal, baking powder,  Kosher salt, and pepper.

Creamed corn, cream, eggs, cornmeal, baking powder, Kosher salt, and pepper.

Once this is combined, fold in some shredded Parmesan cheese and cubed bread; the recipe calls for French bread and Alton uses Italian bread in the show.

Whisked mixture.

Whisked mixture.

Folding in Parmesan.

Folding in Parmesan.

Folding in bread cubes.

Folding in bread cubes.

11-21-14 023 Pour this over the onion, butter, and herbs in the iron skillet and put it in a 350 degree oven for 50 minutes.

Bread mixture added to skillet.

Bread mixture added to skillet.

Corn bread pudding straight from the oven.

Corn bread pudding straight from the oven.

I have kind of a negative perception of bread pudding in general, as I have had some very soggy, wet bread puddings. This recipe, however, produced a pudding with the texture of a moist cornbread, which reminded me of the texture of my dad’s stuffing when it is cooked inside the turkey. The flavor of the herbs, especially the rosemary, really came through, along with the onion. You could also taste the Parmesan cheese, yet the pudding was hardly cheesy. I thought this was great, especially as a stuffing stand-in. And, again, it was super easy! I could see making this to serve with chili too. We all liked this too, and I foresee making it again in the future, though I would opt for Dad’s stuffing, if given the choice.

All in all, our Thanksgiving dinner was quite successful and delicious. We all liked all of the dishes and they will likely appear on our table again, especially the turkey. You cannot go wrong with any of Alton’s Thanksgiving recipes.

A decent Thanksgiving dinner, if I say so myself.

A decent Thanksgiving dinner, if I say so myself.