Wednesday, November 17, 2010


If you're across the border and already preparing for this year's upcoming Thanksgiving feast, skip out on the traditional oven roasted bird.  Don't bother deep-frying: you'll either burn down or stink up the house.  Cross turducken off the list: it's been done to death in these days of post-This-Is-Why-You're-Fat.    Instead, go with the barbecue.

The Big Green Egg is for those serious about their 'cue.  It's a hefty behemoth, something to be marvelled at, as awe-inspiring as an Airstream.  The most popular model, the large Egg, clocks in at 140 pounds and around USD $900, a heavyweight amongst other featherweight grills.  Despite its heavy weight and price tag, the ceramic-clay grill and other Kamado-type grills have already attracted a cult following.

A mushikamado.
 The Egg and other kamado-type grills all rely on its unique shape, which is modeled after the traditional Japanese "mushikamado" clay vessel used to cook rice. (Its foggy history has it that American GIs stationed in Japan had adapted modern mushikamado's to use as barbecues while stationed abroad, later exporting it Stateside as grills.  One manufacturer, Richard Johnson, went so far as claiming that he invented the word "kamado," even though the word was already part of Japanese vernacular, meaning "stove" or "cooking range.")  Due to its unique shape and makeup, kamados, burning charcoal, are generally able to attain extremely high heats, with some claiming to be able to reach 700F, purportedly hot enough to give steaks the dark sear more commonly found in steakhouses as opposed to your average family dinner.  Conversely, the kamado can retain low heats for an incredible amount of time, long enough to act as a smoker.  It's this split-personality that has attracted fans amongst barbecue competitors looking for a grill and smoker all-in-one.

The large Egg can fit a 20lb turkey, and there's still plenty of time for one to get both in time for next week's Turkey Day.  At this point, there's only one question to deliberate: smoked or grilled?  For those that opt for the latter, Egg or no Egg, here's a recipe for a grilled turkey from Saveur's 2009 Thanksgiving issue.

Grilled Turkey (serves 12)
(Recipe adapted by Saveur from Barbara Ries of San Rafael, CA)

For the brine:
1 cup kosher salt
1 lemon, halved
1 orange, halved
1 onion, cut into wedges
3 cloves garlic, chopped
4 bay leaves
1 tbsp dried thyme
1 tbsp ground black pepper
1 twelve pound turkey

For the rub:
10 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 cups flat-leaf or Italian parsley, finely chopped
2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
2 oranges, zested and cut into wedges
8 tbsp unsalted butter
1 large onion, roughly chopped
1 carrot, roughly chopped

(1) Brine the turkey: combine salt, lemon, orange, onions, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, and black pepper in a 12 qt pot.  Add 1.5 gallons cold water and stir.  Squeeze lemons and oranges into the brine and add the squeezed halves.  Submerge the turkey in the brine (weight the turkey down with dinner plates if necessary).  Cover pot with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.  Remove turkey from brine, pat dry with paper towels, and let come to room temperature.

(2) Make the rub: combine garlic, parsley, chili powder, cayenne, black pepper and orange zest in a large bowl.  Using a fork or hands, work butter into ingredients to form a paste.  Rub turkey with the paste.  Put orange wedges, onions, carrots, and 3 cups water into disposable roasting pan fitted with a rack and set turkey on top.

(3) Build a medium-sized charcoal fire in a kettle grill, arranging the coals so that they cover only half of the bottom grate of the grill.  For a smokier flavour, add soaked wood chips to the coals.  Place cover on grill and open the top and bottom vents of the grill.  Let the coals burn until an instant read thermometer inserted into the top vent of the grill registers 500F.  Transfer roasting pan to the top grate of the grill on the side of grate opposite the coals.  Cover grill.  (The temperature will drop to about 350F).  After 30 minutes, cover breast with aluminum foil.  Cook turkey, adding water to the roasting pan as necessary and replenishing the coals every hour or so to maintain a temperature of roughly 350F.  Continue cooking until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the turkey's thigh, without touching the bone, registers 165F, about 3 hours for a 12lb turkey.  Transfer turkey to a cutting board, tent with foil, and let sit for 30 minutes before carving.

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