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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving Day 2014

I'm thankful for a lot of stuff, but I mention those things as they happen.  Today was TURKEY DAY!  I often don't bother cooking a turkey, for several reasons:

1.  I assume a standing invitation to visit my sister for Thanksgiving day.  Sometimes I visit, but 2 hours driving each way is a lot for me (I hate driving at all) and I especially hate holiday traffic on crowded interstate highways like we have here. 

2.  I used to cook Thanksgiving Dinner for all my single friends, but over the years, they have gotten married, left the area, or gradually faded away.  It was a habit from when I had apartment roommates for whom a TV dinner was a challenge.

3.  The smallest whole turkey is about 10-11 lbs and that's too much for 1 person (even with 3 cats)

4.  A turkey breast is smaller, but white meat is not my favorite.

5.  I prefer the dark meat, but turkey thighs cost $5 a pound this year and chicken thighs (my most regular meat) is only $1.29  and turkey isn't much different from chicken.

But I decided to go for a turkey this year.  Partly, I wanted to hickory-smoke a whole turkey, just because I hadn't for years, and partly just to fully participate in a holiday for a change.  So I had the frozen turkey all thawed in the fridge for 4 days, brined it overnight; and injected it with a mixture of apple juice, cinnamon and spices. 

Most of the smoke gets in meat during the first couple hours so I did 2 hours and then let the briquets die down til it was 200F in the smoker and transferred the turkey to the pre-heated 250F oven.  It was slow...  But I wasn't on a schedule, so "whenever done, its done". 

I did it a bit fancy for just me after that.  Baked brussel sprouts with grated nutmeg, asparagus with grated cheese and melted butter, small potatoes, a nice tossed salad, gravy, and a can of "sweet potatoes in syrup".  Zinfandel wine.

Well, one bite of the canned sweet potatoes in syrup and that went straight to the compost bin.  YUCK!  The rest was good.  Well, the packaged gravy was salty.  I had it sitting around for years so decided to use it.  I make it better myself.  The brussels sprouts were good, the new potatoes (home-grown) were good, and I always love a tossed salad with italian dressing.

The turkey was PERFECT!  Probably the best I've done.  The smokiness was just right, the brine kept even the breast meat moist, and the injected flavors were just right.  I am convinced that 2-3 hours of smoking outdoors and finishing up in the oven at 250 is the way to go.  And I do that thing of cooking it breast side up half way and turning it breast down the remaining half.  It makes a difference.  "Breast side down" the last half of cooking keeps the breast moistened by thigh meat fats dripping down the sides.

To be fair, the 450F oven cooking for 30 minutes and then lowering the temp to 350 works pretty good too and I've usually done that for faster cooking (and more reliable timing), but the slow-cooking is best.

I don't set out a whole table display (its just me), so there isn't much to show, but the turkey had a beautiful mahogany skin, so I have a picture of that. 
I hope all of you who went the turkey path today had great dinners too.

2 comments:

Megan said...

Great effort Mark. Pleasing to see that you were prepared to take time and trouble just for yourself, and that you enjoyed a very successful outcome. Well done! Have you made menu plans for left-over turkey or will the cats be munching on offcuts for a week or so?

Megan
Sydney, Australia

Tina T-P said...

This is one beautiful turkey - good job! We wish you and your furkids a happy holiday season. Keep warm, but not so warm that your furnace drives you nutzoid :-) T.