Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday. My family gets together as much as possible, there’s no real pressure to go to more than one house for the day, there’s usually good football and there are still three days left before going back to work!
As a food lover, the day also food. I like to try new things pretty often, except on Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving, to me, is a day to do traditional food… turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, etc. In Livefire manner, though, this year’s Thanksgiving dinner was done using nothing but outdoor cooking! That’s right… the whole meal would be cooked using nothing but charcoal and wood for heat!
I used three cookers outside: an XL Big Green Egg (BGE), a Bubba Keg Convection Grills (BKCG) and a Weber One-Touch Gold 22.5″ grill. The BGE and BKCG were used for smoking and baking, and the Weber was used as a cook top.
This year, I wanted to smoke a big turkey again, because I like leftovers! I like them so much, I can be heard this weekend on an hourly basis on Hybrid FM, Waynesville, Ohio, small town radio and on the internet talking about leftovers. I picked up a 28.5 pound naturally-raised, fresh turkey from Dorothy Lane Market, raised at the Bowman & Landes turkey farm about 30 miles from our house.
I brined the turkey overnight Tuesday night, in a brine with 3/4 cup salt per gallon of water (it took about 3 gallons), 1/2 cup Turbinado sugar per gallon, 1 cup of bourbon, about 2 tablespoons of peppercorns, 3-4 sprigs of fresh sage, 3 fresh bay leaves and a few sprigs of fresh thyme. Since the Bruno the turkey was so big, I put the brine and turkey in a good cooler, adding 16 lbs of ice to ensure it stayed cold. After 24 hours in the brine, I rinsed off the bird, cleaned out the cooler and put the bird back in after drying it off, again with 16 lbs of ice.
By bedtime on Wednesday, the turkey was kept cold; pie crusts were made and in the fridge; and fennel/sherry, onion/pomegranate juice and onion/balsamic vinegar relishes were made. 2 pounds of Bob Evans sausage had also been smoked for breakfast the next day.
Then I woke up Thursday morning, and Thanksgiving began in earnest! Both the BGE and BKCG were loaded up with charcoal, with pecan wood added to the BGE. The turkey was set out with ice on the breasts to keep the temperature down a bit compared to the rest of the bird; this is to try to get the whole bird up to 165 F at the same time when cooking. I quartered 2 onions and 2 apples and stuffed the cavity with them, along with a couple sprigs of thyme and sage. I also chopped up some thyme and sage to put under the skin of the turkey after I took the ice off of it (about 20 minutes later). I added some salt and pepper to the bird and a bit of olive oil was rubbed on the skin. Then it was time to put Bruno on the BGE at 325 F.
The 2 pounds of smoked sausage were chopped up while hashbrown casserole was baking on the BKCG. The sausage was heated up, with some bacon grease, in a cast iron skillet on the Weber. The fire was on one side of the grill to allow me to move the skillet on or off the fire as needed. I added flour to the sausage and browned it all, then added milk to cover the sausage. The hashbrown casserole got done, and biscuits were baked on the BKCG. Once the biscuits were done, breakfast was served!
With Wave 1 of Thanksgiving food done, it was time to move to the main event! I made some bread dough to let it proof, and pumpkin and apple pies were prepped using the already-made pie crusts, then put on the BKCG, one on each grate, with the pumpkin above the apple, though that wasn’t really for any particular reason. While the pies baked, sweet potato casserole was put together, along with green bean casserole.
Green bean casserole is a love it or hate it sort of thing. I happen to love the cheapo stuff with canned beans and cream of mushroom soup with the premade fried onions in a can. I would love to prefer a gourmet version of this, but I like the same old stuff! It’s one of those Thanksgiving Day traditional things, I guess.
While the casseroles were on the BKCG, the turkey got to the right doneness, so it went into the oven just to stay out of the way and keep warm. With the BGE open, stuffing went on it at 350 F. The stuffing was done from a Williams Sonoma recipe, and was made with chestnuts, Italian sausage and crimini mushrooms, and bread went on the BKCG after the casseroles were done.
Now I have to admit something… I broke form and made 2 things on the stove. On was the turkey gravy, which was Williams-Sonoma turkey base, milk and drippings from the turkey. It was really just heating up the gravy. The other thing was boiling the potatoes for mashed potatoes. These could have very easily been done on the Weber, but, by the time I needed to do these, it was raining, and I thought it better to do them inside, both to not ruin the gravy and to not get myself sick standing in the rain. So I cheated a bit there.
Finally, everything was done. After about 7 hours of work, we got through the meal in the also-traditional 30 minutes of eating.
Was it worth it? I’d say yes. My family helped out when they could, opening doors, helping put together stuffing, mashing potatoes. Everything turned out really great except the sweet potato casserole, which I burned a bit, which was okay because I don’t like it anyway. The kitchen was only used for prepping dishes, so it was a bit less congested than normal, and the outdoor cooking really does add a great flavor to dishes, even pied.
Next year, we’ll see if we do a repeat or not. Right now, all I have to worry about is how many ways can I come up with for using these leftovers?
I hope you and your family had a great Thanksgiving. It’s not really all about the food, even though food blogs make it seem that way; I hope you had friends and family to share the day.