Turkey Dinner Thanksgiving 2001

Tday Turkey

I thought I’d better write this down, since I spent much of Thanksgiving morning trying to figure out how long to cook this 19# bird in order to leave for Clay & Andrea’s by 2:30.
Cooks Illustrated (CI) Nov 99 suggested 5 hours, but that was in the oven, starting at 250 ° for 3 hours…

The same issue for a grilled turkey suggested 2 1/2 hours, 175-180 ° thigh temperature, but that was for a 12-14# bird.

Cooks Illustrated Nov 2000 suggested about 2 hours, in the oven, at 400 ° again for a 12-14# bird.
Weber’s Big Book of Grilling said 18-22# = 3 1/2-4 hours, 180 ° thigh.

Our 2000 13# turkey took 2 hours, but a 19# has lots more mass than a 13# as you will see below.
So I started at 10:30, giving me 4 hours… better safe than bloody.

We bought a garden variety frozen turkey at Safeway, for $6.99 special on Sunday and put it in the bathtub to thaw. That’s $6.99 for the whole freakin’ turkey. You can get your free range fresh bird for about 2 bucks a pound, but once the brining and herbing and stuff is done, is it that much better? All I know is we did Safeway last year, and were invited (nay demanded) to do the turkey again.

Sunday evening, we put it in the refrigerator to finish its thaw. Takes a lot of space!


Brining: (Whoever heard of brining a few years ago?)

We used the Alice Waters recipe:
2 gallons water
2C Kosher salt
1C sugar
fresh sage, thyme, rosemary
5 juniper berries
5 allspice berries

Then there’s the getting the brine water around the turkey. We slipped it in a trash bag and put it neck end down in our big aluminum pot… snug, but OK. Of course the Pope’s nose half is sticking up out of the pot. We poured in the brine up to the level of the pot, hiked up the bag and poured until the height of water and strength of bag said stop… just shy of the Pope’s nose and bone end of the drumsticks, and tied it with string. A space on the top shelf of the ‘fridge had been cleared and I lifted the pot with turkey‹heavy‹to the shelf… bump…. won’t fit, too tall. (Of course we’re doing this in the morning, ready to go to work.) Carol and I stare at the refrigerator and stare at the bird for a while. If we only had a big cooler… Nothing to do but take out the top shelf, clear off the second shelf and put their contents in the cooler, which won’t all fit, throw away the stuff growing mold and let some less perishable stuff like juices and beer set out.

Did that.

Air Dry

Another new fangled CI idea. Let the turkey air dry overnight for crisp skin. For this, the turkey can lie flat and we can put the refrigerator back together. Did that.


I had purchased a fancy package of wood chips, hickory, with dried herbs; rosemary, thyme, tarragon. Soaked three cups of those in water. Built a nice indirect fire. (CI sez use briquettes, they burn more evenly and not so hot as hardwood charcoal.) Sprayed the turkey with canola oil (as opposed to CI’s melted butter), put the turkey on the grille, breast side down, dumped the wet wood chips on the coals and closed the lid and washed my hands. There.

After one hour, turned the turkey over (its a nice, light chestnut color on the upside), added some briquettes, three more cups of soaked wood chips and closed the lid and washed my hands. There.
After another hour, we took its temperature. almost 160 ° in one thigh, 150 ° in the other. We’re going for 170 – 175 °. Set the timer for 30 minutes.

When the timer dinged, we had our 170 ° and by the time we got the broiler pan to set it on, we had almost 175 °. Lifted that sucker out and carried it to the kitchen. Its a dark chestnut color all over and smells divine. It’s one o’clock, oh well, it’ll just get extra rest.

With the turkey out of the way, Carol is making two kinds of dressing and I’m prepping the Brussels sprouts to finish at the Layton manse.

Dressing #1

Bread Dressing With Dried Bing Cherries
From a Martha Stewart TV show as interpreted by Carol. We didn’t think it was that good, and she threw away her notes.

Dressing #2
Cornbread and Sage Stuffing with Pork Sausage
Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home, page 288

THANKSGIVING RULES (clipped from the SF Examiner ca. 1996)

5. Never Serve Brussels Sprouts
by Patricia Unterman

That’s my husband’s rule, not mine. I always serve brussels sprouts. Here’s the way to do it.
Buy fresh, tight, unblemished brussels sprouts at the farmers’ market. (Freshness means everything in brussels sprouts. The old ones smell strong and cabbagey. The freshly picked young ones will be delicate and savory.)

Trim the ends and pull off any loose leaves. Blanch in boiling, salted water until they are just tender. Cool them in cold water. Drain and set aside. (My experience: small ones are ok whole, halve the larger ones, quarter the still larger ones.)

Peel and chop a lot of ginger‹at least an inch per pound of brussels sprouts. Have some brown mustards at hand.

Bring some olive oil or vegetable oil to a sizzle in a large pot, make sure its good and hot and shimmery. Throw in about a tablespoon of brown mustard seeds per pound. When they start to pop, add the chopped ginger. Stir around. Add a hot dried red chili or some red chili flakes, if you like. Throw in the sprouts. Toss until coated. Add a little bit of water and steam until the brussels sprouts are warmed through. Check for salt.

These sparkly brussels sprouts are delicious even lukewarm and really add counterpoint to a Thanksgiving plate. I have converted practically everyone with these fresh, gingery little cabbages.

Did at Thanksgiving at Tom & Kelly 1999. Excellent, Raves.

Now again at Clay & Andrea’s 2001

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