Ultimate La Caja China Holiday Guide - Part 1
~Chef Perry Perkins~
What we’re really talking about is a wonderful day set aside on the fourth Thursday of November when no one diets. I mean, why else would they call it Thanksgiving? - Erma Bombeck
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, but it’s no secret that (especially for us foodies) it can bring with it a lot of kitchen chaos and performance anxiety.
So many dishes, so many people, and so many "cherished family traditions" that must be upheld it’s would be well-nigh impossible to make it through the day without at least some drama.
That’s one reason I love to fire up the grill every November...it’s a peaceful place to gather with other’s seeking to escape the kitchen, and prepare some delicious dishes at the same time.
The best part about “grilling Thanksgiving” on La Caja China, is that you have room to grill everything at once!
Here are my two “go to” Thanksgiving menu items from the grill...
Main Dish: Grilled Turkey and Cranberry Barbeque Sauce
I gotta say, if given a choice I will never, never serve another turkey (or chicken) that has not been brined. The improvement in moistness, flavor, and general “cook-ability” makes it a no-brainer.
The aromatics make a huge difference as well. My wife had made it clear that the testing is over, THIS is our Thanksgiving turkey recipe from now on, and no further modifications are allowed!
Aromatic Caja China Turkey
1 (14 to 16 pound) frozen young turkey
For the brine:
1 cup kosher salt
1 quart turkey stock
2 tablespoon black pepper
1 cup of honey
1 quart boiling water
1 gallon heavily iced water
For the aromatics:
1 red apple, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 cup water
6 leaves sage
2 med pears, chopped
1 cinnamon stick
4 sprigs rosemary
2 to 3 days before roasting:
Begin thawing the turkey in the refrigerator or in a cooler kept at 38 degrees F.
Combine the stock, boiling water, salt, honey, and peppercorns, in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally to dissolve solids, add aromatics, and bring to a boil.
Remove the brine from the heat, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate.
Early on the day or night before you’d like to eat:
Combine the brine, gallon of water, and ice in the 5-gallon bucket. Place the thawed turkey (with innards removed) breast side down in brine. If necessary, weigh down the bird to ensure it is fully immersed, cover, and refrigerate or set in cool area for 8 to 16 hours, turning the bird once half way through brining.
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Remove the bird from brine and rinse inside and out with cold water.
Discard the brine, and allow the turkey to come to room temperature.
Note: Once brined, do NOT salt your turkey. If you use the drippings for stock or gravy, don’t salt those either, at least not until you’ve tasted the finished product.
Spatchcock the turkey, (see video) and reserve the backbone for stock.
Light the 12 pounds of coals and your La Caja China, and allow to burn to an even gray. Spread the coals to either end of the coal grate, leaving a space in the middle, slightly wider than the turkey.
Place your turkey skin side up in the center of your grill, and cover with a disposable hotel pan, or a double layer of heavy foil.
Grill the turkey 2 1/2 to 3 hours, flipping it skin-side down after the first hour. If you want to judge doneness with a thermometer, insert a probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and reduce set the thermometer alarm (if available) to 161 degrees F.
At 2 hours, flip the bird back over, and brush the bird with cranberry bbq sauce (recipe below), at 2 1/2 hours, flip skin side up and brush with more sauce.
Let the turkey rest, off the heat and loosely covered with foil for 20-30 minutes before carving.
Serve with additional sauce, on the side.
Cranberry Barbeque Sauce
1 can Cranberry Sauce (jellied)
1/2 jalapeño, seeded, finely diced (opt)
1/4 cup ketchup
1 tsp yellow mustard
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
Empty cranberry sauce into 2 quart saucepan, whisk, add the remaining ingredients, whisk again, and cook, over medium heat, until simmering.
Cook until the mixture is thick like barbecue sauce.
I’ll leave you with my number one tip for having putting on a great Thanksgiving feast, regardless of your experience on the grill, or in the kitchen. It’s one I try to practice every year...
This is what it’s about peeps…not the turkey, not the pies, and (believe it or not) not about being the perfect grill-master. Find a quiet spot to sit for 20-30 minutes, before you start cooking Thursday morning, and reflect on what you have to be thankful for and why you’re thankful for them.
Keep those thoughts firmly in place as you ride into battle, and remember that, in addition to all of our other many blessings, each of us here at Latin Touch are thankful for you!
Have a great holiday!
As a third-generation chef, Perry P. Perkins focuses his love of cooking on barbeque, traditional southern fare, and fresh Northwest cuisine.
Perry runs the non-profit organization, MY KITCHEN Outreach Program, which teaches nutrition, shopping, and hands on cooking classes for at risk youth.
His cookbooks include La Caja China Cooking, La Caja China World, La Caja China Party, and the NEW “La Caja China Grill.”
You can follow the rest of Chef Perry’s cooking adventures at ChefPerryPerkins.com