Saturday, March 29, 2014

Woody's Mountain Dew Turkey

Woody and I were friends--even roommate for a while--back in college. Over the years we have stayed in touch, but our friendship took a leap forward a few years ago when we learned that we had both become "Eggers." 

Ever since, Woody's been leaning on me about his Mountain Dew turkey recipe. I finally got around to trying it a few weeks back for a family dinner we hosted. For this post I will intersperse my photos with his instructions.

Full Text from Woody's November 2012 email. Reprinted with permission.

I promised a few folks that I would type up the process I used to prepare this year’s Mountain Dew Thanksgiving Turkey.  Let me begin by saying that I, in no way, take full credit for any of the ideas contained in this recipe.  I made several phone calls to folks and researched a few websites to get some ideas.  I only collected the information and then followed the instructions.  That being said…this turkey was darn tasty, and I will certainly take credit for that!  I did my best to assimilate the steps I took, but in full disclosure, I was consuming mass quantities of adult beverages during the process.  I may have left a detail or two out.

These are the two sites I primarily used to get ideas for Egg set up and cooking temps etc.:

Items Used:
I used a smaller bird
  • Big Green Egg
  • Full bag of Harris Teeter brand lump coal
  • Chunk of apple wood
  • 19 lb turkey - Bought fresh (not frozen) and kept in fridge for a few days before the brining process.
  • Farberware Brining Bag - found at Target and used to hold the bird and liquid.  The double Ziploc top is necessary to prevent a potential mess.
  • 1 Disposable aluminum roasting pan
  • 4 liters Mountain Dew
  • Roasting rack
  • EVOO
  • Cavender’s All Purpose Greek Seasoning (2x 3.25 oz bottles)
  • 1 onion
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 2 red apples
  • 3 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 1 gallon freezer bag full of ice
  • 1 stick of butter
  • Aluminum foil

  • Remove giblet bag and neck from cavity of turkey. (I discard, but I know some use these items for gravy and/or stuffing)
  • Rinse turkey inside and out with cold water
  • Place turkey in brining bag
  • Pour all 4 liters of Mountain Dew in the brining bag submerging turkey as much as possible.
  • Seal brining bag releasing as much air as possible
  • I placed the bag in garage refrigerator to keep turkey cold.  You can use a cooler and ice bags as described in the sites listed above.
  • Brine the turkey for a total of 36 hours (roughly 2 hours/lb)
  • I flipped the turkey halfway through the process to ensure both sides of turkey were adequately submerged in the Dew.

Turkey en Dew

Egg Set Up:

I poured a full bag (roughly 6lbs) of the lump coal in the Egg.
I placed one decent sized piece of apple wood in the coal to add a little smoke
I used the inverted plate setter method with the ceramic feet as a base on which to place the roasting pan. (good picture of process in the Egg Set Up section of the Naked Whiz link)
As always, test the set up in advance to ensure that everything fits inside the Egg.
Go ahead and light the Egg to bring it to temp 300-320 F.  I let it warm for 20 min or so.

36 hours later . . .
Turkey Prep:
Remove turkey from brine and discard liquid
Pat dry turkey inside and out with paper towels
Liberally rub turkey with EVOO
Coat turkey with Cavender’s seasoning inside and out.  Be sure to cover the entire surface of turkey and even try to sneak some between the skin and breast meat.  You can’t use too much.
At this point, I placed turkey on the roasting rack sitting inside the roasting pan.
Place the Ziploc bag of ice over the breast for about 20 min.  Both websites describe this process and reasons for doing it.  Worked great for me.
Quarter an onion and place in turkey cavity
Quarter and apple and place in turkey cavity
Rough chop a large celery stalk and place in cavity
Place the three rosemary sprigs in cavity
Tie the legs together
Quarter last apple and place in bottom of roasting pan
Soften a stick of butter and mix in some Cavender’s Seasoning (don’t liquefy)
Remove the bag of ice after 15-20 min
Apply the butter/seasoning mixture over the breast (good picture of process in the Egg Set Up section of the Naked Whiz link)
Add roughly 64 oz of water (two big plastic stadium cups full) to bottom of roasting pan (might want to wait until the pan is sitting in the Egg before adding the water to make it easier to carry)

Cavender's butter atop the breast

Icing up, son.


I was able to keep the Egg temperature fairly steady in the 300-310 F range.
Place roasting pan with turkey in Egg and start cooking.  Let cook for 60 min.
After initial 60 min, take some remaining butter/seasoning mixture and, using a brush, baste the breast and legs.
Repeat basting step every 20-30 min.
After two hours or so, keep an eye on the skin as you may want to loosely tent the wings, thighs and breasts with aluminum foil to prevent from over browning

Progress over the course of the morning.


Back to the voice of your humble Grill Knuckles correspondent. This turkey got rave reviews from family. It was tasty indeed. The Mountain Dew doesn't actually convey much flavor to the turkey meat that any of us picked up on. My wife is a turkey traditionalist. The oven-roasted bird will probably always have a place at our own table, but this is a great recipe for any time you've got a group to feed and want to hit them with a fun and delicious twist on a traditional meal. Thanks, Woody!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Venison Backstrap Medallions

I've started to enjoy the meat from the deer I killed in September (you can read about that here). In fact, I've been enjoying it a lot, but just getting around to posting about it.

My first sampling came on a Sunday when the wife and kids were gone and a couple of friends came over to watch football. 

The backstrap is a cut that runs up either side of the spine. It's known as the "hunter's choice." From what I've read elsewhere around the web that this is the first cut to get eaten up by most folks. Recipes abound. What caught my eye was a simple recipe I found after some googling.

Venison Backstrap Medallions:
  • Pan fry some (where "some" equals the number of medallions you're cooking) bacon strips until they're partially cooked, but still floppy. Set aside.
  • Season the medallions with salt and pepper.
  • Sear the medallions in the pan using the bacon grease.
  • Wrap the medallions with the bacon.
  • Transfer to the Big Green Egg (I used a raised grid at 350f)
  • Cook to desired doneness.
  • Enjoy right away.

Using toothpicks would've been a good idea to hold the bacon together. I thought if I started with the medallions on their side with the heat hitting where the bacon overlaps it would all work out. Well, it all worked out from a flavor standpoint. But the bacon didn't cooperate totally from a presentation point of view. Nobody complained.

Typically I use a Thermapen to gauge internal temp. Medium rare for venison is 125-130f. These were a halftime snack and I was hurrying so I just pulled them using a little guesswork and intuition. The result?
The result was very rare venison. One of my friends doesn't care to see juices in his meat. He's a well-done kind of guy. But to his credit he took on an adventurous spirit and ate it all up with enthusiasm. Most venison I've ever had was been pretty tough and chewy. This was truly amazing though. Very tender, juicy and flavorful. Wow. You understand why it's the hunter's choice.

Also for snacks during the game we had some venison sausage meatballs. Part of the 31 lbs of venison I got back from the butcher was ground Italian spicy sausage. This has become some of my favorite. I don't know the exact blend, but it has some pork in there--just enough to make it a little fatty--and some blend of seasonings that's really tasty. My kids do NOT care for spicy food, but they put that aside for this stuff. They take these things down and just keep extra milk handy.

This particular batch I made into golf ball sized meatballs and placed them into the meatball rack that Labon had given me for my birthday. It was perfect for the job. I just got these nice and brown and we snacked on them too. Just ate 'em plain. And, by golly, they were plain good.

Other times I've made sausage patties and fried the sausage in the frying pan. There's not too much pork in there that I can tell. The pan needs to be oiled rather liberally, because these things are a far cry from fatty.

Anyway, I've enjoyed trying the different cuts. I still have some cube steak to cook up. I'm not sure what to do with that exactly. But it is very gratifying to have some meat in the freezer that I harvested that I know is lean, healthy and even where it came from.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Adventures with Bacon: The 50/50 Burger

So Labon's been watching the Destination America channel. In particular he's taken with the United States of Bacon. Heh. That rhymes. Anyway, there was an episode where they talked about the "50/50 Burger," popularized at Slater's in Huntington Beach, CA. Quite simply, it's a burger made from 50% ground beef and 50% bacon. Do I have your attention?

This went down at Casa de Labon. He did the shopping too. He asked the butcher at the grocery store about grinding the bacon. He declined citing how terribly it would gum up his meat grinder. Fair enough.

So we decided to employ the food processor. Behold: one pound ground beef beside one pound ground bacon. Can you guess which is which? We decided that ground bacon looks kind of gross.

But the two together make some nice looking patties.

So there's a high fat content in these things. Drippy fat means Labon had to do some vigilant flippin.

Slater's serves the burgers with a fancy chipotle mayo and avocado and a fried egg. We didn't have all that mess--or really even the desire to fancy it up that much. But the egg sounded pretty great. We also slipped some mayo on the bun.

The yolk broke open before I could get that first bite in. But looking at it makes my mouth water even now. That drizzly, gooey goodness getting all over the burger made it just perfect. We served it up with some sweet potato fries and some dill pickle wedges.

Wow. In real time I could feel my wedding band and my watch band getting tighter as my extremities swelled from the sodium in this meal. But when you've got a bacon burger in your hands, it's hard to care about those little details. Labon was kind enough to send me home with some leftovers. My 7 year old daughter's reply? "Wow! I wish I'd been at that party." Yes. It was a bacon party for two. Delicious burgers. But with that much bacon, I have to declare that this is a sometimes food, people.