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Time for Thanksgiving, Christmas, & New Years dinner

By Paul Kirk CWC, Ph.B., B.S.A.S.
Kansas City Baron of BBQ
Barbecue Guru
Order of the Magic Mop
Ambassador of BBQ
Certified Master BBQ Judge

It’s time to get ready for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years or just having your family and friends over for dinner.
Apple Cider Brine is a little different from what you are used to for holiday turkeys. This keeps the breast meat moist and flavorful.

Apple Cider Brine
2/3 c. kosher or sea salt  
2/3 c. light brown sugar, packed  
6 slices fresh ginger, thick, peeled and bruised (smashed)   
2 bay leaves  
6 whole cloves  
1 tsp. coarse ground black peppercorns  
2 tsp. allspice berries, crushed
8 c. unsweetened apple cider
1 fresh or thawed turkey 12-25 pounds
2 oranges, quartered  
2 turkey size oven cooking bags

In a 3-4 quart saucepan, combine cider with salt, sugar, ginger, bay leaves, cloves, peppercorns, and allspice; stir to dissolve the sugar and salt.  Bring to a boil over medium heat; cook 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat, add 4 cups of ice water, and set aside to cool. Line a heavy roasting pan with turkey-sized oven cooking bags, which should be double-layered.

Remove the turkey from its wrapping, remove neck and giblets, and set aside for stock or other use, and rinse and prepare bird.  Stuff cavity with orange quarters. Make a collar of the top of cooking bags (helps keep bags open), and slip bird inside, standing it upright (legs pointing up), and unfold the top of the bag.  Pour the brine in and over the bird and add an additional 2 cups of water.  Draw up the first inner bag, squeezing out as much air as possible, and secure with a twist-tie; do the same for the outer bag.  Place the turkey breast side down in the roasting pan and refrigerate for 12-24 hours, turning 3-4 times while brining.

Just prior to roasting, remove the turkey from the brine; discard the bags, brine, and all cured herbs, spices, and oranges remaining in the bird.  Rinse the turkey under cold water and pat dry with paper toweling. Air-dry turkey under refrigeration for 4-6 hours (before cooking) for crispier skin when roasting.  The turkey is now ready to be roasted or smoke roasting.

Then there are so many types of stuffing. Here’s one that’s a little different but good.  Try substituting pulled or chopped pork for the sausage.  This impressive stuffing gets its Yankee accent from apples and dried cranberries.

Sausage, Apple and Dried Cranberry Stuffing
14 oz. white bread, cut into 3/4-inch cubes (about 12 cups)
1 lb. sweet Italian sausages, casings removed
1/4 c. (1/2 stick) butter
6 c. sliced leeks (white and pale green parts only; about 3 large leeks)
1 lb. tart green apples, peeled, cored, chopped
2 c. chopped celery with leaves
4 tsp. poultry seasoning
1 cup dried cranberries (about 4 ounces)
4 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
2/3 c. chopped fresh parsley
3 eggs, beaten to blend
1-1/3 c. (about) canned low-salt chicken broth

Preheat oven to 350° degrees F. Divide bread cubes between 2 large baking sheets. Bake until slightly dry, about 15 minutes. Cool completely.

Sauté sausages in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat until cooked through, crumbling coarsely with back of spoon, about 10 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer sausage to large bowl. Pour off any drippings from skillet. Melt butter in same skillet over medium-high heat. Add leeks, apples, celery and poultry seasoning to skillet; sauté until leeks soften, about 8 minutes. Mix in dried cranberries and rosemary. Add mixture to sausage, then mix in bread and parsley. Season stuffing to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.) Mix eggs into stuffing.

Fill main turkey cavity with stuffing. Mix enough chicken broth into remaining stuffing to moisten (about 3/4 to 1 cup chicken broth, depending on amount of remaining stuffing). Spoon remaining stuffing into buttered baking dish. Cover with buttered aluminum foil. Bake stuffing in dish alongside turkey until heated through, about 45 minutes. Uncover stuffing and bake until top is golden brown, about 15 minutes.

Now for dessert, besides Pumpkin Pie.  Jack Daniels takes on the traditional pecan pie.

Jack Daniel's Pecan Pie
4 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 c. granulated sugar
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 c. dark corn syrup
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/4 c. Jack Daniel whiskey
1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1-1/4 c. pecan halves
1 10-inch deep dish pie crust

Preheat oven to 375º degrees F. Combine eggs, sugar, butter, syrup, vanilla and Jack Daniel's; mix well.   Sprinkle chocolate chips over the bottom of the pie shell.  Add the pie mixture and pecans. Bake at 375º degrees for 35-40 minutes. Enjoy.

Everybody have a Safe and Enjoyable Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Sides on the Grill

By Steve Collins
The Home Chef

Here are a couple of ideas to add a little variety to Thanksgiving dinner. People will love these grilled goodies and maybe you’ll start a new tradition.

Grilled Poblano Peppers Stuffed with Chorizo and Cornbread
3 poblano chilies, halved lengthwise & seeds removed (If you can’t find poblano chiles, use Anaheim.)

1/2 lb. bulk chorizo sausage (if you can’t find chorizo, substitute your favorite spicy sausage)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c. onion, diced
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 c. roasted green chilies, peeled & diced
2 c. cornbread, dried (favorite recipe)

Prepare a hot fire in the grill.

Brown chorizo in a sauté pan and then drain the oil. Put the browned chorizo in a bowl and set aside. Wipe the pan clean. Heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for a minute. Add the onion and cook until soft (about 5 minutes). Add the cumin, oregano, and roasted chilies then blend thoroughly. Add the cornbread and chorizo and mix well. If needed, add just enough water to hold the stuffing together. Fill the prepared chilies with the stuffing and then place them directly over the fire. Cook for 12 minutes. Remove from the grill and let them rest for 10 minutes. Serves 6.

Grilled Root Vegetables
Add a smoky dimension to your root vegetables this year. Cook your veggies indirectly over the center. Add your favorite wood chips for smoky flavor. For vegetables I like to use apple or cherry wood.

1 c. wood chips, soaked for at least a half hour
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c. olive oil
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
2 sweet potatoes, scrubbed & cut into 6 pieces each
2 turnips, scrubbed &d cut into 1/4’s
3 large carrots, scrubbed & cut in half lengthwise
3 beets, scrubbed & cut into quarters
2 onions, peeled & cut into quarters
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
4 sprigs fresh rosemary

Prepare fire. When the coals are hot, spread them to either side leaving an area of no coals in the center where you’ll cook the vegetables. Drain the wood chips and sprinkle them evenly over the coals on each side. Put the vegetables in a large bowl. Mix the garlic and olive oil and add the mixture to the vegetables tossing to coat well. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place the vegetables on the cooking grate over the spot between the two fires. Close the grill lid and cook for 30 minutes. Using a spatula, loosen the vegetables from the grate (check that there are enough coals to cook for 30 more minutes). Close the lid and cook for 30 more minutes. Take the vegetables off the grill and put them into an oven safe baking dish.  Sprinkle them with the balsamic vinegar and add the rosemary sprigs. Keep warm until ready to serve. Serves 6.

Wishing you a great Thanksgiving and happy grilling!

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BBQ Stuffed Jalapeno Peppers

By Kent “The Deck Chef” Whitaker

Sometimes when you have only a few ounces of barbecue in the fridge you have to either make a skimpy sandwich or just grab a fork and enjoy the two or three bites. Either way, it seems like a waste. I hate skimpy pulled pork sandwiches and a few bites would just leave me wanting more barbecue.

Thank goodness for my love of leftovers and philosophy of using what you have and not stressing out over things. The other good news is that I was grilling stuffed jalapeno peppers. If you have read any of my articles, you can guest what came next. Yep, chopped up those few fork servings of hickory smoked pork and tossed them in the recipe.

My recipe for stuffed jalapenos is pretty standard except for the following. If I add real bacon bits or pulled pork, I use barbecue sauce. If I use crab meat I add a dash or two of Old Bay seasoning, if I use something like beef BBQ or ground beef I lean towards steak sauce. You’ll see in the recipe. The other tip, more people comment on the seasoned breadcrumbs than I can count. People love that touch.
Pulled Pork Stuffed Jalapeno Poppers
It goes without saying. Use protective gloves when working with hot peppers! Also, this is a base recipe, I also add things from time to time including minced onion, parsley, garlic and such. I suggest making a base recipe, slapping some on a cracker and testing it. If you feel it needs something else, add it.
12 nice sized jalapeno peppers, halved and cleaned
8 oz. pkg. cream cheese
1 c. shredded taco blend cheese (more if desired)
1/2 c. fine chopped pork barbecue
2 Tbsp. sour cream
2 Tbsp. steak sauce or bbq sauce
Season crushed croutons
Light dash of Cajun or Creole seasoning

In a bowl, combine the ingredients except the peppers and the crushed croutons or breadcrumbs. Test, adjust as needed, cover and start slicing peppers while wearing gloves. Don’t worry about the next step if you would like a crunchier pepper. If you desire a softer texture then do a quick boil. Bring a large enough sauce pan filled with water and some milk to a rolling boil. Drop the peppers in and boil for about 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and drain off the water. I rinse with cold in a colander. Next, stuff the pepper halves with mix, place on the grill and cook until the cheese begins to bubble and brown. I generally place them on a sheet of foil with a bit of non-stick spray on the top rack. About halfway through the grilling process I sprinkle the peppers with the crumbs. When done, remove from heat and allow to rest for a few minutes then serve.

Kent Whitaker is the author of eight cookbooks, ranging from hometown cooking with a culinary history twist to titles for NASCAR tailgating and barbecue. He has also written and illustrated two books for children, is a trained USCG AUXCHEF, and is the winner of the Emeril Live / Food Network Barbecue Contest. His latest book, Bullets and Bread,  is in bookstores nationally and is also available online at, as well as at Barnes and Noble and on Amazon.

Photo by Kent Whitaker

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