Thursday, November 5, 2009

Picture a Day - Day 338

Halloween has come and gone. Discounted candy roams the stores aisles begging for someone anyone to be brave enough to try one of those nasty orange and black peanut butter yucks from Palmers. Yeah, you know the ones I mean. YECH!

A crisp fall wind turns a bit colder, baseball hangs up its jerseys in favor of big burly shoulder pads, it can only mean one thing.

Christmas is less than two months away! GET READY! SELL SELL SELL! BUY BUY BUY!

While the stores preen and groom Christmas for another year at the top of the economic ladder a little holiday sits back smiling to itself a little sadly, waiting for someone to pass the potatoes.

My family has always been fairly big into Turkey Day. To me it was common growing up to have three different turkeys each prepared a different way, ham, two kinds of stuffing, three gravies and numerous pies all brought to the groaning table.

One of the favorite turkey preparations was the smoked turkey (note, not a turkey rolled up in a cigar though that does make a funny visualization). It became quite the traditional challenge as my grandfather would claim that his turkey was smoked for 12 hours, then 24 hours. We all thought a bit much when he was starting to say it'd been in the smoker since the fourth of July.

The cool thing about smoking a turkey, there's very little work needed for a really nice dinner and it's very cheap.

We got our smoker free but you can also get a little ceramic smoke box for your grill. It takes a lot more work watching and replacing chips than the set it and nearly forget it smoker but you still get tasty turkey for a tiny price.

If you are gonna try smoking the first thing to do is pick chips. If you check out some hardware stores you'll find tons of options. Mesquite, hickory, cherry, apple all of which offer a slightly different flavor pallet.

I've been sampling a few over the summer: I love cherry as it gives just a slight almost sweet smoky flavor while apple to me doesn't have enough flavor to bring anything to the party.

But by far the most popular and best flavor chip is courtesy of Jack Daniels.
They chop up the old oak barrels they use to age their whiskey in and sell those for wood smoking chips. And it's pretty obvious once you open the bag and a strong heavy whiskey scent hits you in the face (also a good reason to make sure little puppies who like to eat wood don't get their jaws on it. I'm just saying).

I like to mix and match chips so I included some Maple as well out of curiosity.

The first step, soak the chips in water for 30 minutes to help the smokey goodness leech out.
For my Thanksgiving Wednesday in early November I picked some Turkey Thighs which are the size of small chicken breasts. Last week Turkey was super on sale so we got a breast for $3 and some legs for under $2.

Sadly it wasn't quite the same sale this week but still a pretty good deal for so much meat.
Now's a good time to pick what you're going to put on your turkey pieces. There's a simple option of a poultry rub, something a bit more bbqish, or you could even try brining the turkey the night before you decide to smoke it.

I went with a Tandoori rub because my husband and I are strange individuals. It worked okay. I actually have a South African rub I like a lot that's a sweet and savory mix that I think I'll try next time.
Mr. Turkey Thighs go into the smoker for 4 hours or so to get golden and tasty.

It's best to watch this sucker in case something were to go bad and when I was previously employed we used to smoke at night, put the meat in the fridge for a day and when we came home warm it up in the oven and finish on the grill.

So you get tasty smoked meat with very little work right after coming home from work. Win Win.

To go with our Turkey Thighs, I wanted something very traditional and homemade Thanksgiving - whole cranberries.

It's actually really simple. You heat one cup sugar to one cup water to boiling.
I tossed in a cinnamon stick for some extra flavor but not necessary.

Once it reaches boiling dump in 12 ounces of whole cranberries. Turn that down and let it simmer for 10 minutes stirring occasionally.
You should get a nice gooey mess like this. Then just dump that into a bowl, cover and stick in a fridge. Tasty fresh cranberries in under 15 minutes, no can needed.
I made a little stuffing to go with my turkey thigh and cranberries to complete my Thanksgiving Wednesday.
My husband and I are nowhere near ready to host Thanksgiving for anyone other than us, but it's nice to know that if we were to become snow bound thanks to the random weather we could whip up something so it'd still feel like the holidays.

And it's so easy we can have Thanksgiving every week. Take that Christmas with your Advent Calendars and fancy candles.

Anyone else employ a smoker for all your smoked meat needs? Have you ever made what seems a fancy meal in the middle of the week just cause?

Is anyone else getting excited for the coming holidays or dreading all the work?


lhchsm said...

I welcome it and dread it at the same time. This is the first year I will ever cook Thanksgiving dinner, even though I'm 51yo and have been married for 20 years. Now that my mil has passed away, all of the special-day meals will be at our house ... I guess from now on. The good news is that I get to plan the menus, adding or subtracting foods and ignoring "tradition." The bad news is that I've never had this opportunity before and will be learning on the job.

Rachel said...

I'm sorry to hear that you're still sickly! I hope you get to feeling better soon so you can enjoy having company over this weekend.

We have a smoker and Chris has pretty much smoked all kinds of meats on there. We love smoked chicken - it's sooooo good.
This year for Thanksgiving, it looks like we'll be smoking the turkey, so I'll definitely have to try the Jack Daniel's chips. We have an electric smoker, and Chris likes to put the chips on the lava rocks down by the heating coils - so we have to watch it and check for flare-ups. But things always turn out really good - very tasty. I'm not sure yet on what we'll use to spice the turkey, but we may play around with some injectable spices!!

And don't be so down on yourself about not being ready to host Thanksgiving! You two could totally pull it off. I did it when we first moved into our house. The key is to plan your meal, prep and make some things ahead of time, and don't let too many cooks into the kitchen!! It's cool if your family wants to bring some dishes... it's NOT cool if they want to prepare them and cook them in your kitchen! My MIL decided she wanted to make homemade rolls (which sadly, were so not worth the effort!), and it just got to be too many people in our little kitchen. Other than that, though, everything was fine and we had a great time!

Lady Jaye said...

For cranberries, my favorite is in puree with some sugar and orange zest. I just love it, it's something my family has been doing forever (and my mom says the recipe is actually from the bags, so it's a standard recipe). I never could get the idea of jellied cranberries, to me it doesn't taste nearly as good.

And the smoked turkey looks deelish! I'm feeling a tad envious now... :P

Linda said...

I love Thanksgiving. Turkey, cranberries, stuffing. All my favorites. I cannot wait. Now we might not actually celebrate it on Thanksgiving day this year. I don't know what we're going to do, but I'm having some turkey!

Chesney said...

I hate making thanksgiving day dinner - and you are doing it early, what's up with that LOL Although I hate making it, I love eating it, we should have came to your house! :)