Father’s day giveaway: Urban Accents Grill Master Gift Kit



Urban Accents Grill Masters kit



Our sad little  gas grill is extremely neglected. After a few winters left uncovered, blanketed in snow, it’s now pocked with rust, covered in a thin layer of dust and coated with remnants of burger and bratwurst from a rare summer BBQ in 2012.

So when it came to testing out my Grill Master Kit and Dryglazes, courtesy of the folks at Urban Accents, I took the stovetop route—with a little help from my trusty grill pan, of course. In spite of my grilling aversion, my wings—coated heavily in the Caymen Citrus Dryglaze—were fantastic. Moral of the story: Grill or no grill, Urban Accents makes the good stuff.

Want to give your dad (or baby daddy) the gift of grilling (or roasting) perfection? Enter my Father’s Day Grill Master contest for the chance to win and Urban Accents Grill Master Kit (a $49.95 value)—complete with Vermont Grill, Santa Fe BBQ, Athenian Herb and Mandarin Ginger Dryglazes; and Chicago Steak & Chop, Kansas City Classic Rub, Argentina Steak Rub and Sonoma Pepper Spice Blends.

Entering is easy: Just follow Better with Butter on Pinterest, pin this post, then come back here, fill out the form below (paste the link to your pin in the “Pin link” form). Contest ends June 6.

Enter to win the Grill Master Kit

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The Dryglazes couldn’t be easier to use—throw two pounds of meat or fish into a freezer bag, add the packet of Dryglaze and two tbsp. of olive oil, shake/massage the bag to coat the meat, marinate for 20-30 minutes, throw it on the grill and VOILA—caramelized glaze-y deliciousness.



Dryglazed BBQ chicken wings



Gourmet game day



Super bowl food ideas



The best thing about game-day parties is the excuse to stuff your face and guzzle beer with zero guilt. Don’t show up to your Super Bowl party empty-handed. Seriously, don’t be that guy/gal.

I’ve even taken you half of the way there, with this handy-dandy Super Bowl recipe list:

You can thank me in free game-day betting squares.

Dips

Jalapeno popper dip

Greek 7-layer dip

Loaded bake potato dip

Hot spinach dip

White queso dip

Sliders and sammies

Spicy whiskey BBQ sliders

Out-of-this-world veggie burgers

Cheeseburger sliders

Fried pizza sandwiches

Philly cheesesteak with garlic aioli

Crock Pot faves

Slow-cooker carnitas

Crock Pot picante chicken

Crock Pot chicken, rice and green chile casserole

Crock Pot chicken taco chili

Slow cooker buffalo chicken sandwiches

Party staples

Italian deviled eggs

Potato salad

Tomatillo salsa

Guacamole

Bacon mini quiche

Mexican munchies

Chicken tostadas

Double-decker taco cupcakes

Won ton tacos

Mac ‘n’ cheese tacos

Mini fish tacos

Pizzas

Greek pizza

Prosciutto, arugula and parmesan pizza

Red pepper and goat cheese flatbread

Buffalo chicken pizza

BLT pizza

Taters

Sweet potato cakes with BBQ brisket

Bacon wrapped potatoes

Potato rings with ranch

Bacon and blue cheese french fries

Mac ‘n’ cheese french fries

Miscellaneous bites

CB&J crostini

Bacon cheddar hush puppies

BBQ chicken cornbread pie

Corn dog tots

Sweet potato chorizo hand tarts

Cocktails

Guava orange margaritas

Bourbon bomber

Dark and stormy

His and her whiskey cocktails

Lights-out punch

Super Bowl sweets

Brown butter and bourbon blondies

Football cookies

Salted caramel cheesecake shooters

Bacon apple pie

Dessert nachos

 

Beef at its best



braised beef short rib



A couple of Saturdays ago, I dragged my cooking club ladies down the paleo rabbit hole—with quite astonishing results. We gorged ourselves on shepherd’s pie, shrimp cakes, lettuce wraps, bacon-wrapped dates, meatballs, key lime pie, chocolate banana pie and last but not least, insanely rich, beef short ribs—bursting with flavor and piled high atop rosemary and bacon-studded sweet potatoes.

Dave eyed the feast from afar, then dove in for the kill as the girls distractedly lingered over paleo-approved palomas.

As for the short ribs, I hesitate to even call them paleo. Nothing is sacrificed, nothing left to be desired. The only thing that could possibly make this dish better is a loaf of crusty french bread to mop up the juices.

mmmm …. bread …

Sorry. Anyway, as I was saying, the recipe is slow, but you can feel the love in the finished dish—and the flavor is worth every minute.



beef short ribs braised



Short ribs after the oven, before finishing on the stovetop

Wine-braised beef short rib with rosemary and bacon sweet potatoes (shhh … it’s paleo!)

(adapted from Saveur)

You’ll need:

4 lbs beef short ribs, bone in

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 yellow onion, chopped

1 stalk celery, chopped

1 carrot, peeled and chopped

1 bottle (750 ml) tawny port

3 cups beef stock

3 cups water

1 cup chicken stock

Salt and pepper

For sweet potatoes:

three large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

4 sprigs rosemary

3/4 cup ghee (or butter)

8 slices bacon

1/4 tsp white pepper

salt to taste



beef short ribs



You can’t go wrong with the Whole Foods meat department

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Generously season ribs with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in large stove and oven-proof pot/baking dish over high heat (I used my big cast iron enamel Le Creuset—it will have to be large enough to hold all of the ingredients). Add ribs and brown on all sides. Remove and set aside.

Add veggies to the pot and cook for about 5 minutes, until lightly browned. Deglaze with port and cook for about 15 minutes, or until port is reduced by about three-quarters.

Return ribs to pot and add stocks and water. Bring to a boil, then cover with a lid or foil and put in the oven.

Bake for about 2 1/2 hours or until the ribs begin to break apart easily with a fork. Remove from oven and allow pot to cool. You can refrigerate overnight, or, like I did, let it cool for a couple of hours or so, then complete the next steps as your dinner guests arrive.

The next day or about an hour before you aim to serve dinner, transfer pot to stove and simmer over medium heat for about an hour, until the sauce begins to thicken into a syrupy consistency and concentrate in flavor. Spoon liquid over ribs every now and then as the dish heats and move the ribs around as necessary to make sure they don’t burn.

 

At the same time you put the ribs back on the stove, cook your sweet potatoes in a covered baking dish with butter or ghee and rosemary in a 375-degree oven for about an hour or until tender. When cooked through, add bacon and puree sweet potatoes (along with the rosemary and butter).

Serve short ribs over sweet potatoes and topped with a healthy ladle of sauce from the pot.



wine braised short rib



 

Paleo perfection: chicken curry with cauliflower rice



paleo curry with cauliflower rice_2



This paleo stuff isn’t for the weak-willed. Carb cravings sneak up on you when you least expect them. To survive, you need some serious substitutes—dishes that make you forget the fact that bagels, cheese, candy, crackers and every other guilty pleasure you can imagine are no where in your near future.

For me, one of those dishes is this paleo curry.

I was highly skeptical of the “rice.” Dave, true to form, was skeptical I could get him to like cauliflower. Lucky for both of us, this carb-substitute came through in the clutch.

If you are going grain-free, paleo, gluten-free, or any other variation of this carb-free torture, this will be your saving grace when your worst hankerings kick in.



paleo curry with cauliflower rice



Note: I used bone-in chicken breast, and I’m convinced it adds flavor and depth to the dish. The only problem is, the meat gets so tender in the crockpot, the breasts virtually disintegrate, which means you’ll have to comb through with a fork and pick out the bones. If the prospect of accidentally feeding your family/eating partners a neglected chicken bone makes you nervous, go with boneless breasts. I was willing to take the risk—and subject Dave to a potential unpleasant surprise—in the name of taste. Fortunately, I managed to find and remove all of the bones.

Paleo curry with cauliflower rice

You’ll need:

2 bone-in chicken breasts (see my note above about the bones)

2 carrots, diced

1 cup mushrooms

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1/2 yellow onion, diced

2/3 cup curry powder

2 cans coconut milk

1 cup chicken stock

1 head cauliflower

This dish is pretty chicken heavy—if you prefer more veggies, I would use only one breast and double, or even triple the veggies. It will seem like a lot, but they shrink considerably during cooking.

First, brown the chicken breasts in olive oil over medium high. Place in crock pot with cut veggies, minus the cauliflower.

Mix curry powder, coconut milk and stock until blended and pour over chicken and veggies. Cook on low, covered, for 8 hours.

For the cauliflower rice, process the cauliflower with a grater, blender or food processor. You want the cauliflower bits to be about the size of grains of rice. Steam in the microwave (no added liquid—the moisture in the vegetable will do the work), in a covered dish, until tender, stirring every few minutes. It took mine about 10 minutes total.

Serve curry over hot rice.



paleo curry 2



Hot, spicy and a little bit sweet







Where’s your mind going? I’m talking about the soup, people. While sweet potato fries usually get all the love, this soup deserves a little attention. Velvety, rich, sweet, savory—and with a sneaking heat that will warm on even the coldest days—you’ll want to keep a batch of this stuff on hand all winter long.

Sweet potato chorizo soup

You’ll need:

2 large sweet potatoes

3 tablespoons butter

1/2 yellow onion chopped

1 cup chicken stock

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp white pepper

8 oz chorizo

Sour cream for garnish

Crumble chorizo in a skillet and cook on medium heat until cooked through, stirring constantly—about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Peel potatoes and cut into small cubes.

Melt butter in stock pot over medium heat. Cook onions in butter for 2-3 minutes. Add sweet potatoes and 1/2 cup of chicken stock. Cook over medium to medium-high heat for 10-12 minutes, or until potatoes begin to get tender, stirring frequently.

Add the rest of the chicken stock and spices, cooking for an additional several minutes until potatoes are cooked through.

Puree soup in a blender or food processor until completely smooth. If the mixture is too thick, add more chicken stock. Stir in chorizo. Serve hot and garnish with a dollop of sour cream.







Mexican done right at Café Poca Cosa







There are some things that make me proud to claim Tucson as my hometown. The breathtaking Santa Catalina mountains. The constant sunshine. And Café Poca Cosa—almost certainly the best restaurant in the city by a desert mile.







There’s no question that owner Suzana Davila’s creative, authentic and upscale Mexican cuisine (sans guacamole and sour cream) could survive thrive in any of the country’s cutthroat culinary proving grounds—from NYC to Chicago. But pleas from restauranteurs to open locations in other cities have fallen on deaf ears. Suzana—and her melt in your mouth chicken mole and moan-inducing tamale pies—are staying put in the Old Pueblo. And that makes me smile.

Another thing that I love, love, love about Suzana is her refusal to sacrifice her culinary prowess in the face of popular demand. The ever-changing (twice daily!) Poca Cosa menu has a mere dozen-or-so entree choices—no distracting appetizers and absolutely no alterations or substitutions. What you get is a beautiful dish that is exactly as the chef intended it. ¡Que fantastico!







Lucky for me, I got inside access to Poca Cosa(thanks Candice!)—and two of Suzana’s most delicious dishes: chicken in mole verde and shredded chicken in mole de chilhaucle. Lucky for you, dear BWB readers, I’m sharing these treasured recipes with you.

Mole de chilhaucle with shredded chicken

You’ll need:

8 skinned chicken breasts (bone-in)

32 oz. sesame seeds

16 oz. fresh almonds, shelled

8 oz. roasted peanuts, shelled

4 large roma tomatoes

12 cloves of garlic

3 yellow onions

1 carrot

10 chilhaucle chilis

6 pasilla chilis

3 guajillo chilis

3 cinnamon sticks

4 cloves

1 tablespoon oregano

8 oz. red chili powder

2 oz. sugar

4 oz. vegetable oil (soy or canola works best)

8-10 cups chicken broth

salt and pepper to taste

Place chicken breasts in a large pot with enough water to yield a gallon of broth. Cut up one carrot, one onion and one garlic clove and add to the pot. Cook for 20 minutes at medium-high heat, making sure the liquid simmers, but does not come to a rolling boil. Remove the chicken breasts from the pot and pick the chicken from the bones. Refrigerate. Season broth with salt and pepper to taste.

Pour about half of the vegetable oil in a sauté pan and add the nuts and sesame seeds and brown until golden. Set aside.

Roast peppers, garlic and one onion under the broiler, turning until they are lightly charred all around.

Mix the nuts and vegetables, in small batches, in a food processor or blender.

In a large, dry sauce pan, toast the chili powder, oregano, cloves and cinnamon. Remove the spices and set aside. Cut up the remaining onion and cook it in the pan with the remaining oil. Add the veggie mix from the food processor and the seasonings and cook for 20 minutes over medium heat, gradually adding broth to maintain a loose but thick consistency. Add sugar, a little more broth and the shredded chicken. Serve with tortillas.







Chicken in mole verde

You’ll need:

6 corn tortillas

Vegetable oil for frying tortillas

1 cup sesame seeds

1/2 cup hulled, raw pumpkin seeds

1/3 cup shelled pistachios

1/3 cup whole blanched almonds

4 large garlic cloves

3 fresh poblano chilis, chopped

4 fresh serrano chilis, chopped

1 1/2 cups husked tomatillos, chopped

1 large bunch fresh corriander (about 2 cups packed)

1 cup shredded iceberg lettuce

about 4 cups chicken broth

3 tablespoons safflower oil

3 lbs cooked chicken, turkey or pork

In a large, heavy skillet, heat 1/4 inch vegetable oil on medium-high until hot but not smoking. Fry tortillas in batches until golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels and break into pieces when cool.

In a dry heavy skillet, toast sesame seeds over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until golden brown (about 8 minutes) and set aside. Repeat with the pumpkin seeds for about 2-3 minutes (until they puff up but do not darken). Finally, repeat with nuts for 2-3 minutes. Set all nuts and seeds aside.

In a food processor, blend garlic, chilis, tomatillos, corriander, lettuce, tortilla chips and 1 1/2 to 2 cups broth until the mixture forms a thick paste. Add nuts and blend until combined, but not smooth.

In a large saucepan, heat the safflower oil over medium-high heat until hot and add sauce. Cook, stirring frequently, adding broth as necessary to reach a thick, pasty consistency—about 12 minutes. Stir in meat and cook for 1o more minutes, stirring constantly. Serve mole with tortillas.







Another thing to visit Poca Cosa for—Cup Quequitos from Suzana’s daughter, Shanali. With more than 100 flavors of vegan cupcakes—and counting—every meal there can have a sweet ending.







Thanks again to Suzana and her staff for welcoming (and feeding) us!

Bring on the beans





Let me start by saying: Holler if you love baked beans. Like, really love baked beans. Sometimes I feel like I’m the only one. Sure, most will take a modest scoopful from the BBQ buffet line, but few make a plate in which their hot dogs/chicken/ribs/etc. are swimming in a sea of ‘em, like I do. In my quest to convert the non-believers, I served up a crock-pot-size vat of these beauties, studded with an entire pound of pork belly:







Pork belly baked beans
Author: Adapted from thepioneerwoman.com
Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 6 hours
Total time: 6 hours 15 mins
Serves: 10-14

 

Ingredients
  • 1 lb pork belly, cut into 3 or 4-inch pieces, skin removed and scored
  • 1/2 of a medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 3 1/2 cups pinto beans
  • 2 cups kidney beans
  • 1 cup cannelli beans
  • 2 cups of your favorite BBQ sauce (I used Sweet Baby Ray’s)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp yellow mustard

Marinade for pork belly:

  • 1 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup bourbon
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Place pork belly in a baking dish, fat side up.
  3. Mix the marinade and pour over pork belly.
  4. Cover dish with tin foil and bake for 2 1/2 hours or until pork is tender and falls apart easily.
  5. Allow pork to cool, discard all the liquid from the dish and remove excess fat from the pork belly (I left a little of the more tender fat on for flavor, and removed the thicker, tougher pieces).
  6. Shred pork belly with a fork.
  7. Combine ingredients for baked beans with the pork belly in a crock pot and cook on high for 3 hours or on medium for 5 or 6.
  8. I finished my beans of in a cast iron skillet on the stove top to let some of the excess moisture cook off. The result is a thicker consistency and a more concentrated flavor.

 

Bring this to your next summertime gathering, say the words “pork belly” and watch the madness ensue.







Tacos never looked so good







No one ever said tacos were sophisticated. Nonetheless, once the suburban soccer mom’s festive alternative to sloppy joes (ground beef and Old El Paso taco kits anyone?), they’ve become a more en vogue meal option. Exhibit A: the hipster-infested patio of Big Star on a summer evening.

The humble taco: delicious, it is, pretty it’s not.

So what’s an aesthetically-obsessed hostess to do? Why, stacked tacos, my dear. Admittedly a smidge over-the-top, they’re a manifestation of my feelings of domestic inadaquacy (spurred by complaints about one too many oven-baked chicken breast dinners).

But, they’re easier than they look, and as delicious as ever. Mine were a little heavy-handed, ingredient-wise—if I had to recommend ditching one ingredient, it would probably be the refried black beans (although delicious, they weighed the dish down a bit)







Baja shrimp and chorizo “stacked” tacos

Makes 8-10 soft tacos

You’ll need:

1/2 lb of uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined

6 oz chorizo

1 can of refried black beans

1 poblano pepper, diced

1/2 yellow onion, diced

2 cups shredded cabbage

1/2 cup corn

2-3 avocados, sliced

2 tomatoes, diced

1 cup queso fresco, crumbled

small flour tortillas

1 Solo cup, with the bottom cut out

Chipotle sauce for cabbage and to garnish

1/2 chipotle pepper with sauce (canned)

1 cup mayonnaise

First, cut all the veggies as instructed and set aside. Then make your chipotle sauce by blending half a chipotle pepper in its sauce (less if you can’t handle spice) with the mayo. Mix a desired about in with the cabbage and corn and put the rest in a piping bag (or sandwich baggie with the corner snipped) to garnish.

Cook the peppers and onions with a little butter or olive oil over medium heat until tender. Add crumbled chorizo to the skillet and cook for about 5 minutes until cooked through. Add shrimp and cook for a few minutes until pink. Careful not to overcook! Remove from heat and set aside.

Before prepping, heat the refried beans (if you’re using them) and the tortillas a bit.

For assembly, make sure you’ve cut enough off the bottom of your solo cup to be able to easily stack the ingredients inside. I greased the inside of my cup with butter so the ingredients wouldn’t get stuck or fall apart when lifting the cup.

The rule of thumb is to stack the heavier and more sturdy ingredients first. Set your plate out, lay a tortilla on top, and place the solo cup, bottom up, in the middle of the tortilla. I started by spreading a layer of refried black beans at the bottom of the cup. I then arranged the avocado slices in a neat, even layer. Then the tomatoes, onions and peppers, cabbage/corn salad mixture, and finally the shrimp/chorizo/onion/pepper mixture. Slowly lift the cup off the plate. Garnish with crumbled cheese and chipotle sauce.

You’ll need to serve these guys with a few more tortillas—based on Dave’s taste test, each “stack” will make about three small tacos.







¡Viva el taco bonito!

Chow, Bella part 2: What to eat in Tuscany







Don’t book your tickets to Portofino just yet. There’s still two more virtual Italian food tours to go. Next stop: Tuscany.

First off, let’s talk accommodations. There’s only way to stay in Tuscany, and that’s to take the agriturismo route, shacking up on a vineyard or a fattoria (a farm). We stayed at Fattoria Casa Sola outside the tiny village of San Donato in the Chianti region. Our room was an old converted farmhouse smack-dab in the middle of rolling vineyards as far as the eye can see.







Not only is it breathtakingly beautiful and impossibly romantic, but you also have instant access to the best Tuscany has to offer: LOTS of vino. Before we get our buzz on, let’s talk about our fantastic cooking lesson experience–right in the kitchen of our little converted farmhouse.

The wonderful Giovanna was our personal tour guide to everything edible in Tuscany.







I’ll share her recipes in later posts—chicken liver crostini, fried zucchini blossoms stuffed with anchovy, homemade spinach ravioli and strawberry-mint tiramisu—but for now, enjoy a little Tuscan food porn:

What to eat in Tuscany:

Chianti

Yes, technically this isn’t a food, but many would say it’s just about the most important part of a Tuscan meal. I would have to agree. Wine tasting events in the Chianti region are plentiful and the number of wineries that participate is buzz-inducing—literally. We paid €15 for unlimited tasting and a souvenir wine glass. Chianti isn’t for everyone, but Dave and I happen to love it. Needless to say, we got our money’s worth—especially since several of the bottles sell for more than €100 in stores. Many of the vineyards also had a Vin Santo for tasting, an amber-colored, extremely sweet, high-alcohol dessert wine, typically served with biscotti.







Casa Sola has several fantastic Chiantis, which added a few lbs. to my suitcase on the way home.







Crostini di Fegatini (Chicken-liver pâté)

Don’t knock this Tuscan staple until you try it. The rich flavor of the fatty liver—combined with the mushrooms, onions and white wine—is undeniably delicious. If you’re squeamish about offal, fear not—it’s rendered unrecognizable by the immersion blender.







Tuscan bread

Tuscan bread has no salt, but that didn’t stop me from inhaling entire loaves of it. Slathered in fresh butter, sprinkled with a little salt, or sandwiching scrambled eggs, salami, spinach and ricotta, it’s what dreams are made of.







Yes, I grocery shopped and cooked on my honeymoon. I’ll accept my Wife of the Year award now.

Cured meats

One glance at the salami selection in a local San Donato butcher shop was enough to make Dave salivate. I’m a little less into cured meats—although I do love me some prosciutto—so I abstained; but for all of those salami lovers out there, Dave assures me it was some of the best he’s ever tasted.







Olive oil

Many of the same vineyards that produce the aforementioned Chianti also make extra virgin olive oil. It’s another can’t-go-wrong food souvenir.







Other Tuscan specialties that I either didn’t have the opportunity to sample, or that didn’t live to be photographed, are Bistecca all Fiorentina (a thick, T-bone steak, usually served rare), gamey meats, including hare, and meat stuffed pastas. Stay tuned for the best bets in the Amalfi Coast.

Food Buzz 24×24: Talking Turkey—3 Turkeys, 3 ways








Hope you all are slowly coming out of a nice Thanksgiving food coma (and just in time to enjoy the last of the leftovers!). Obviously, this post is too late for this year, but be sure to flag it for next year if your turkey-cooking skills could use a little work.

As some of you may know, we have crowded, rowdy Thanksgiving every year at my parents’ house in Tucson—complete with tequila shots and sports gambling. The food is always amazing, but the birds don’t get as much love as they should.

The 50 or so lbs of turkey are my dad’s job, and suffice to say he’s more of a set-it-forget-it-and-go-have-a-bloody-mary kind of guy than a doting tender of the turkey. Plus he never thinks the bird is cooked enough, so it’s inevitably a liiiitle on the dry side.

When it comes to the dirty work, though, he’s your man.







Sorry, love you daddy, but I thought we could step our game up this year. And did we ever.

We did the usual turkey trio: one in the oven, one in the fryer, and one on an ancient charcoal grill that’s been around since Tucson was dirt roads and cowboys.







The ultimate consensus was that the brined, butter-slathered, oven-roasted turkey was the clear winner, but the others held their own.

So we’ll start with the star of the show—a massive, fresh (no frozen birds at our party) 22-pounder which I lovingly brined, slathered in a buttery marinade and monitored with a trusty digital probe thermometer. All that—and a little help from my friend Alton Brown—gave us one of the best birds to date.

The perfect roast turkey

You’ll need:

One turkey, thawed (recipe is for a 14-16 lb. bird)

2 sticks butter

1 tablespoon pepper

1/2 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon garlic powder

For the brine:

1 cup kosher salt

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1 gallon vegetable stock

1 tablespoon black peppercorns

1 gallon heavily iced water

A container large enough for the bird and the brine

For the aromatics:

1 red apple, sliced in half

1 half onion, sliced

1 cinnamon stick

4 sprigs rosemary

6 sage leaves

The night before Thanksgiving, slightly tipsy off Ra’s dangerously strong whiskey and diets, I brined my bird. First, mix all the brining ingredients together—minus the ice water—in a large stock pot (I upped the ingredient amounts for our big bird).







Yes, that is a bottle of Jack Daniels in the background. No harm in maintaining my pre-thanksgiving buzz … besides, how else does one find the stamina to pull off Thanksgiving dinner for 50?? By the way, I had nothing to do with the Belvedere bottle reflection you see in the brine pot.

When the brown sugar and salt have dissolved, remove the mixture from the heat and let cool to room temp.

Add the mixture to your ice water and put the bird in. I have a last minute Ace Hardware run to thank for my brining bin. Technically it was plastic file folder container, but who’s counting? Worked like a charm.

Brine the turkey overnight in the fridge.

Here’s where it gets tricky; timing the bird perfectly is next to impossible, but follow Alton’s loose guidelines: About 2-2 1/2 hours for a 14-16 pound bird (temps to follow). I estimated that our monstrosity would take about 4-5 hours, plus 30-45 minutes to rest, so I put it in at 11 a.m. to be ready at 5ish.

First, heat the oven to 500 degrees. Yes, that’s right. Alton says it crisps the skin and gives you a nice golden brown color. Mine didn’t look as good as his, but since it was delicious anyway, I’m sticking to the plan.

Then, remove the turkey from the brine, rinse it off and pat it dry. Place it in a roasting pan and set it aside.

Heat your aromatic ingredients in the microwave in a small bowl of water for a few minutes.







Once they have cooled stuff them in the turkey cavity. If the giblets are still there when you go in, you missed a step.

Now get to work on the butter mixture. Mix softened butter with your seasonings.







Now comes the fun part: The trick is to loosen up the skin enough that you can stick your hand in between the skin and the breast and massage the butter in.







Lovely, I know.

Then give the entire outside of the turkey a generous slathering for good measure.







Now comes a special Alton Brown trick: form a aluminum foil triangle to the breast like so:







Now remove it—you’ll use it in a minute.

If you don’t have a digital probe thermometer, I highly recommend it—either way, place your thermometer in the deepest part of the breast, sideways (see Alton’s video to get a visual). Now, put the turkey in the oven and put the timer on the outside of the oven. Start the time so you can keep track and set it to go off when the temperature reaches 161 degrees.







Let the turkey cook at 500 degrees for about 30 minutes to brown the skin. Then lower the temp to 350 and put the foil on the breast. This will keep the breast from drying out to much. Mine was cooking a little faster then I would have liked, so I lowered it to 325 about halfway through and then to 300 for the last hour. When the breast temp reached 161, pull that baby out and let it rest for about 30 minutes. Recruit your best carver (Dave in our case) and get to work!







As I mentioned, the turkey didn’t brown as I would have liked, but just look at that juicy breast meat. MMMMMMMMmmmmmmm. Plus, the gravy we made from the roasting pan juices had a depth of flavor like I’ve never tasted, thanks to the aromatics. And to think … we almost went sauce-less after my mother and Q’s near throwdown over gravy-gate 2009: the previous year’s baked-on stovetop gravy mess.

The fryer and BBQ turkeys were a little less time- and labor-intensive. I skipped brining, although if I’d had more time, I would have used the same brining process for the BBQ turkey (the fryer turkey doesn’t need it since frying locks the juices in.)

Fryer turkey

You’ll need:

One turkey, thawed

Dry rub of your choice

Fryer and oil of your choice (we used Canola oil)

First and foremost, read the directions on your fryer to avoid third-degree burns and house fires. The oil usually takes about an hour to heat (you’ll want it absolutely no higher than 350), so plan accordingly.

Rub your turkey generously with the dry rub of your choice (I used a cajun rub) and stick it on the turkey fryer hook thingy. Yup, that’s the technical term. (Your fryer should come with instructions for this).

Slowly and very carefully lower the turkey into the fryer like so:







Bronco Billy is our fearless fryer.

Give the turkey about 4 minutes of cooking time per pound. Pull it out, let it rest and carve it up.







BBQ turkey

You’ll need:

One turkey, thawed

Butter marinade (same as above with spices of your choice)

Charcoal grill with charcoal and a brick

Rub your turkey down with the butter mix, as I described with the roast turkey. I added a BBQ spices to mix things up.

To prepare our grill, we put a brick in the middle, surrounded by coals.







This keeps the heat evenly distributed and the temperature low and steady to avoid overcooking.

Heat your coals. When they’re ready, place the turkey directly on the grill rack.







Our 15 lb. turkey took about 3 hours and 45 minutes.







Cook until the breast meat is about 161 degrees. And by the way, don’t leave a digital thermometer in the turkey while it cooks as my dad did … it doesn’t end well.

Let it rest and carve.







And there you have it.







After all that, 4 lbs of stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn cassarole and appetizers, you’ll understand why I kept good ole Jack Daniels close by.

Happy Thanksgiving!


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