Cooking the Turkey Outdoors is a Social Event

Bill Kelley knows a good thing when he sees it. His decision to smoke our Thanksgiving turkey on the outdoor smoker is more than just sustenance, it’s a social event. Everyone gathers around the smoker to smell, add some wood chips, turn the bird, plus ogle and tell Bill what a cool guy he is. Pair that with a fire pit, popped corn over the flame, a TV screen with football, a couple of footballs to toss, and you have a Thanksgiving party!

Cooking the turkey outdoors is a social event.

Bonedust Brine

It starts with the wood chips. Our yard has nearly 20 varieties of trees and we are always trimming and chopping. Bill used oak wood this time for the smoker. Then, he built his recipe around something called Bonedust Seasoning Rub – a seasoning mix with pungent spices that he incorporated into a brine/marinade. The recipe he found was for smoked turkey legs – first marinating the turkey legs then rubbing Bonedust on them before smoking. Bill took the basic tenets of this recipe and adapted them for an 18-pound turkey.

He created the brine by using the marinade with Bonedust recipe from King of the Q’s Blue Plate BBQ cookbook. The Bonedust Seasoning Rub is author Ted Reader’s signature seasoning mix that can be used on everything from ribs to popcorn.

A typical brine for any meat would involve soaking it in a solution of water, salt and sometimes sugar before cooking. As the turkey soaks it absorbs the brine, retains it during cooking and the result is a juicy and great-tasting bird. Bill improvised a bit from Ted Reader’s turkey leg method and here is what he came up with.

Make the Bonedust Rub

  • ½ cup paprika
  • ¼ cup chili powder
  • 3 T salt
  • 2 T ground coriander
  • 2 T garlic powder
  • 2 T hot mustard powder
  • 2 T sugar
  • 1 T freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 T dried basil
  • 1 T dried thyme
  • 1 T ground cumin
  • 1 T cayenne pepper

Make Luther’s Sheep Dip Marinade

  • 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and diced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 large yellow onion, minced
  • 2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1 12-oz. bottle of beer (preferable dark ale)
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ cup Worcester sauce
  • ¼ cup Bonedust Seasoning
  • 2 T freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 T salt

Bill doubled the marinade for an 18-pound turkey. Place the turkey in a brining bag, place turkey in bag, seal, and turn occasionally to cut turkey. Marinate for 12-24 hours.

The turkey went on the smoker at 8:30 a.m. and by 5 p.m. we were ready to eat. He tended to the wood and the temperature except for a few hours when he played in the annual Turkey Bowl (see He Left Me…Alone with the Turkey). The bird was succulent, juicy and oh so memorable. Pared with Bobby G’s gravy, it was a turkey to remember.

Bookmark this page for next year or try it for Christmas. It’s worth it. And, everyone will think you are really cool!

“Save the neck for me, Clark.”

You might remember that line from the movie, Christmas Vacation, when Cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid) said it to Clark (Chevy Chase). The same request was made of me from my brother Bobby G. (The same guy from Bobby G. Creates Almost Heaven in North Carolina.) I asked him to come the whole way from Raleigh to make the gravy for Thanksgiving.

Gravy as a Verb

If we made gravy a verb, I would say, “I can’t gravy.” Or maybe it’s “I won’t gravy.”

I béchamel, hollandaise, bordelaise, dijonaise, carmelize, but I don’t gravy. Thus, it was gravely important that Bobby show up to gravy for this Thanksgiving.

And, gravy he did.

The Challenge: How to Make Turkey Gravy from a Smoked Turkey

I knew Bobby G. would figure something out.

"Save the neck for me, Clark."

“Save me the neck and the giblets from the turkey, he said. “I also need onion, carrot, celery with leaves, bay leaves, peppercorns, shake flour, and if you can capture any of the turkey drippings from the smoker, I’ll see what I can do.”

I got all the ingredients, including what mom used to call “shake flour” —  aka Gold Medal’s Wondra quick-mixing flour for sauce and gravy. (Guaranteed no lumps or bumps.) But I should have known Bobby would come with a few of his own —  more fresh herbs and a jar of Better than Bouillon organic chicken base.

Bobby G’s Gravy — Thanksgiving 2011

  • Root vegetables: carrot, onion, celery, parsnips, turnips, anything
  • Turkey neck and giblets
  • Herbs: rosemary, thyme, bay leaf, parsley
  • Peppercorns
  • Salt

Save the neck to boil with root vegetables, herbs, and giblets.

Boil the above ingredients a couple of hours. Hint: remove the liver after 30 minutes as it tends to make the stock bitter if boiled too long.

Strain the stock.

Put stock in pan on stove top and bring to a boil. Add shake flour, about two tablespoons of Better than Bouillon and whisk. Flavor with turkey drippings, season to taste.

What About That Smoked Turkey?

Bobby decided to add some captured drippings. The result was a gravy with a slightly smoky flavor…delish!

My Advice

Leave the gravy-ing to the experts. I’m glad I did.

He Left Me…Alone with the Turkey

Bill and Patrick have gone to play in the neighborhood Turkey Bowl. I am trailing along in a while to do my part in the game. However, Bill is smoking the turkey this year and I have explicit instructions what to do in the next 45 minutes: turn 90 degrees, add two briquettes, etc. I have never smoked a turkey so I hope I don’t mess it up.

Tune in at another time to find out how the bird fared. The brine, which included four Jalapeno peppers, was really a tasty concoction. And why do I have time to blog when I have 10 people coming for dinner? That is a subject of another blog.

For now, off to turn the bird and return the punt.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

There’s Still Time…Baked Cranberry-Orange Sauce

Baked Cranberry-Orange Sauce (Photo by Cindy Dyer)

This dish takes no time at all. You can give the traditional cranberry sauce a new twist with a jar of orange marmalade. I made mine a few days ahead. You can serve it cold or warm. The prep is so easy and fast there is still time to make it for today’s Thanksgiving dinner.

  • 4 cups fresh cranberries (one bag)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 (13-oz jar orange marmalade)
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted (optional)

Wash cranberries and drain. Combine sugar and cinnamon in a large bowl; add cranberries, stirring well. Place cranberry mixture in a 9-inch square pan. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Add marmalade, walnuts and lemon juice; stir well. Cool.

Credit for this recipe goes to Southern Living.

No Two Pecan Pies Are Ever Alike

My husband Bill makes the pecan pie. Period. I don’t go there. Why should I when I have someone who specializes in pecan pies? He won’t give me the recipe for the blog, well, uh, because there really isn’t one. You should see him — he gets a big mixing bowl and in goes butter, plenty of eggs, light Karo syrup, a little molasses, maybe some dark Karo syrup, splash of vanilla extract, and maybe almond extract. As he says: “It depends on the guest list, any combination of the above depending on my mood, what’s in the pantry and the liquor cabinet, and what the guests might like.

This year’s pie is a “Pecan-Bourbon Pie with a Touch of White Chocolate.” (Yes, that’s the title of the pie.) We’ve had peanut and chocolate pecan pies, pecan-chocolate, walnut-pecan, straight pecan, rum-pecan, you name it.

It’s always good. You either love pecan pie or you say it’s too rich and you don’t eat it. Trust me, everyone samples Bill’s pies. Sorry folks. No recipe available. The best I can do to advise you is to read the recipe on the Karo Syrup bottle, then improvise.

Have fun!

Thanksgiving 2010 – Going Back

Barbara's update on the traditional green bean casserole.

Since I am starting this blog in January 2011 I feel I have to comment on the two big holidays that just passed. The Garneau siblings, their families, and Dad, met in Raleigh this past Thanksgiving. Both Bobby (brother) and family, and Megan (niece) and family, live in Raleigh so it was a good mid-way point for those of us from Florida, Virginia and Pennsylvania to meet.

A few weeks ahead, Bobby passed out assignments for the food with him stuffing and making the bird (he is an expert!). Everyone contributed delicious Thanksgiving fare but when I reviewed the assignments everything looked typically starchy and beige (although very yummy). I decided to do my quick saute of fresh green beans and cherry tomatoes in olive oil and a few scallions. Let’s say I put a new twist on the traditional green bean casserole. It added the needed color and crunch. Note the red and green colors of the beans and tomatoes also look perfect on a Christmas table.

As usual we played a game of two-hand touch football while the feast was cooking. Dad (aka PapPap) enjoyed the spectacle from the porch seats! I think Mom probably viewed it from heaven and taste tested all our creations. There was a variety of jerseys — Carolina Panthers (Steve Smith), Miami Dolphins (Ronnie Brown), Pittsburgh Steelers (Hines Ward), and Washington Redskins (Reed Doughty and Santana Moss). — A day to remember.

Bobby Garneau, head Thanksgiving chef in Steeler's garb meets his match in the kitchen-- his sister, Barbara