UPDATED BELOW, with “turkey pr0n!”
Thanksgiving day 2010 was clear and very cold–and the sun at this time of the year never reaches into our North-facing backyard. But Fratguy and Geoff were undeterred–they(respectively) smoked and grilled two 12 or 13-pound turkeys yesterday, and both were delicious. On my morning run, I saw another family deep-frying a turkey in their driveway. Parts of our town smelled smoky, although I don’t know if that was due to other grilling or smoking turkeys, or just fireplaces. It was difficult to sort out the smoke scents.
The grilled turkey was done a lot faster than the smoked turkey, which turned out to be a big plus at 2:45 in the afternoon, when the gang was hungry and all of the sides were ready. (Smoking stuff when it’s only 27 degrees outside makes it difficult to keep the temperature up. One can understand why it was the southeastern United States that invented barbecue culture, and not the northern woodlands.) I was glad to learn of the American turkey’s origins–and, finally, what a “guinea fowl” was, via this informative article by John Bemelmens Marciano! And if you’re wondering as I did, yes–he’s the grandson of Ludwig Bemelmens, the creator of the Madeline books.
Both turkeys were delicious, with that handsome mahogany burnish just like the Norman Rockwell painting of the Thanksgiving bird. The smoked turkey’s breast meat was just slightly moister, although the grilled turkey’s breast was plenty moist. I was impressed with how much the smoke permeated the big bird–it really was soaking in it! Collecting drippings to make the gravy was a bit of a challenge, although Geoff and Fratguy managed to do it. The drippings made an invaluable contribution to the depth and flavor complexity of the gravy: the smoke flavor was complementary rather than overwhelming, and the hint of orange from the oranges stuffed in Geoff’s grilled turkey made a nice addition too.
And, if I do say so myself, the dressing and the pies were big hits. Because I made a double recipe of the dressing, peeling the chestnuts (two pounds!) took for-fracking-ever, and I’m not convinced that they added much beyond the sausage, herbs, and turkey wings baked on top. For Christmas, I’m considering leaving them out altogether or substituting pecans instead. (Although I will say that the microwave method for chestnut-peeling is much better than boiling or baking the bloody things. Just cut crosses in them and microwave 3 at a time for 30 seconds at full power so you can peel them while still warm. Works like a charm.)