Friday, November 26, 2004

That Orange-brined Smoked Turkey

We had this one again (fourth time) for Thanksgiving -- but we keep doing it because it works! I found the recipe in the Chronicle and have been transferring it from place to place less I lose the tattered, ornage-stained clipping it originally came from!

Orange Marinated Brined Smoked Turkey

From Jeff Starr, Stags' Leap Winery. This turkey is moist and tender with a subtle blend of citrusy and spicy flavors. It is perfect as is, sans gravy, but a rich gravy recipe is included for those who find Thanksgiving dinner incomplete without it. The turkey is easy to brine and smoke, but the recipe should be carefully read before beginning.

-- 1 gallon orange juice
-- 2 cups rice wine vinegar
-- 2 cups apple cider vinegar
-- 1 cup dark brown sugar
-- 6 garlic cloves, crushed
-- 1/4 cup sliced fresh ginger
-- 1 bunch green onions, sliced
-- 2 bunches cilantro, chopped
-- 12 whole star anise
-- 2 cinnamon sticks, crushed
-- 2 tablespoons red pepper flakes
-- 1 tablespoon whole cloves
-- 2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
-- 1 cup kosher salt + salt to taste
-- 1 turkey (12 to 15 pounds), giblets removed, liver and neck reserved
-- About 2 pounds wine-barrel or orange-wood chips (grapevine cuttings or hickory chips may be substituted)
-- Olive oil as needed
-- Pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS: Combine the orange juice, rice wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, garlic, ginger, green onions, cilantro, star anise, cinnamon, red pepper flakes, cloves, peppercorns and salt in a stock pot or large saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes. Let cool. (May be prepared 1 day ahead; refrigerate in a nonmetal container.)

Thoroughly rinse and dry the turkey inside and out. Place in a large plastic, glass or earthenware container that is not much wider than the diameter of the turkey and deep enough so that the brine will cover the bird completely. Pour in the brine; make sure it covers the turkey. Cover and refrigerate for 3 days. If the brine doesn't completely cover the bird, turn the bird every 12 hours.

About 4 hours before serving, soak wood chips (wine-barrel chips or orange wood imparts a good flavor) in water for at least 30 minutes.

Remove the turkey from the brine and pat it dry; truss and place on a roasting rack. Rub with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Place a drip pan on the fire grate of a kettle-type grill. Place 20 or 30 briquets on either side of drip pan. Light and let burn until coated with white ash, about 30 minutes.

Place the turkey in the center of the grill over the drip pan. Place small handfuls of wet wood chips on the briquets. Cover kettle with the lid. Partially open lid and kettle vents. Try not to remove the lid too often, which will lower the temperature, but check approximately every 45 minutes and replenish briquets as needed, adding about 10 each time and also additional smoking wood.

Should the briquets begin to burn too hot or flare up (turkey skin will blacken) gently damp down the fire with a small plant mister, taking care not to blow briquet dust into the drip pan. (If turkey skin gets too dark, cover with foil.) Maintain about an inch of water at all times in the drip pan. Carefully add water if drippings appear to be boiling away.

Smoke the turkey for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, or until a meat thermometer inserted in thickest part of breast (not touching bone) reaches 165-170 degrees.

Carefully transfer the turkey to a carving platter and let rest for about 15 minutes before carving. Suggested wines: 1993 Stags' Leap Winery Petite Syrah, 1994 Franciscan Oakville Estate Cuvee Sauvage Chardonnay, 1993 Hess Collection Cabernet Sauvignon.

Serves 12 to 15.

Note No. 1: The smoking process (using subtle smoking woods such as oak wine-barrel chips, not a wood as assertive as mesquite) is the key to enhancing the citrus flavor of the brined turkey. Be sure to add a few soaked wood chips whenever the smoke stops coming out of the kettle vents.

Note No. 2: Just like an oven- roasted turkey, this one produces wonderful pan juices -- better, even, because of their haunting smoke flavor. You can use them to enhance the gravy or later on with leftovers.

Take care during the smoking process to keep the pan juices clean and clear of charcoal dust (a deeper pan makes this easier). If a little dust lands on the juices, it will settle with the fat on top; collect the clear, clean juices with a bulb baster or a fat-separator cup.

Take care when removing drip pan; it will be awkward to handle and extremely hot.

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