Norman Rockwell's "Freedom from Want"

Whether you’ve decided to roast, grill, smoke or fry your turkey, the final step can make or break your presentation.  Even the most beautiful bird, with a crisp and golden skin, can end up looking like a pile of hacked-up meat on the plate if you don’t carve it properly.  A well-carved turkey, on the other hand, allows guests to fully appreciate the quality of your cooking.

On Wednesday evening, I had the pleasure of attending the second class in Jason Tesauro’s “Modern Gentleman” series at the Morrison House.  Titled “Birds & Brews,” the evening was dedicated to two subjects: craft beers and turkey dinners.  While the Dogfish Head beers that Devin Arloski shared with us were delicious, the real education of the evening was a freezer-to-plate walk-through of how to brine, cook and serve a traditional Thanksgiving turkey by Chef Dennis Marron.

With Chef Marron’s guidance, even a first-time carver can quickly dispatch a holiday bird.  And if you think you’re the only one who doesn’t know how to do it…think again.  It was a matter of moments between Marron’s honing his knife-edge and all of us gathering tightly around him to make sure we didn’t miss a step.

A chef’s step-by-step guide to carving – and the recipe for his turkey brine – after the jump. (more…)

Sometimes there’s just too much to ‘splain to contain it all in one place.  Especially when it comes to Thanksgiving.

For those of you who remember our experience with a smoked turkey on “Fakesgiving” last year, check out Endless Simmer’s inaugural podcast today.  Mike shares airtime with Top Chef’s Fabio Viviani, Elizabeth Karmel from Hill Country Barbecue and championship barbecuer Clint Cantwell.  They’re all talking turkey and sharing different techniques to step up your Thanksgiving game.  Check out the podcast and then vote for your favorite preparation style (hint: smoke it out!).

If you’re pressed for time and looking for step-savers, Mike put together a list of local restaurants that can help with some (or all) of the turkey day preparations.  Check it out over at DC Foodies, where Mike regularly posts the “Foodie To-Do List” of upcoming events.

And keep your eye on this space for some turkey carving tips and tricks courtesy of the Morrison House’s Chef Dennis Marron.  We’ll be learning from the chef at tonight’s “Modern Gentleman” program and bringing back what we learn to share it with you.

side-by-side2We’re headed into the home stretch, turkey-wise.  If you took one of my suggestions over at DC Foodies and ordered a fresh turkey, you’re probably getting ready to pick it up today or tomorrow.  If you bought your bird frozen, it should be thawing in your refrigerator by now.  If you’re planning to brine your turkey (and I can’t think of any good reason why you wouldn’t), you should be dunking it in the brine no later than tomorrow morning to give it at least 24 hours to soak in that juice-preserving salty goodness.

So we figured we’d report back on our highly scientific survey regarding smoked vs. roasted turkey.  As you may recall, we here at Capital Spice tested the two methods side-by-side using two halves of the same brined turkey for our Fakesgiving festivities earlier this month.  Now, with more than 50 votes cast, our analysts at Thanksgiving Headquarters are calling this race early.

Here in DC, lopsided electoral victories are hardly newsworthy.  Even so, we were surprised at smoked turkey’s level of support in our poll.  The results as they stand right now have smoked turkey holding onto 70 percent of those polled (37 votes).  Roasted turkey conservatives hold 11 percent of the vote (6 votes), and undecided (or hungry) voters who opted for “Both” make up 19 percent of the electorate with 10 votes.

smoked-turkey2Maybe it was the beautiful lacquered look of the smoked half, with its crispy skin and delicate smoke ring…

Maybe it was the subtle interplay between the richness of the smoke and the light, salty bite of the brine…

Most likely, it was the fact that the vast majority of you who found your way to our comparison did so while searching for some combination of “Big Green Egg,” “turkey” and “smoked” or “smoking.”

Whatever the reason, the people have spoken – and they say it’s time for a change.  So join us this November in welcoming a new direction for America’s holiday with a brined and smoked turkey.

If you do decide to try your hand at smoking your turkey this Thanksgiving, please drop by and let us know how it turns out.  And if you’re in the DC area and want to enjoy a smoked turkey but lack the Big Green Egg or a similar device for smoking it yourself, let Rocklands do the work for you.  Metrocurean has the details on what they’re offering, and it looks great!

We’ve already headed out to spend (Smoked) Turkey Day with family, so you may not hear from us again until the weekend (damn food comas).  Whatever your plans, have a safe and happy Thanksgiving – and check back soon for plenty of food and restaurant news just in time for the holidays.

Thanksgiving is about tradition, and here at Capital Spice we’re thankful that our families have such strong and unique traditions surrounding the holiday.  With our families’ traditions as a model, we decided to try our hands at a variation on a Thanksgiving dinner this weekend, calling it “Fakesgiving” and inviting some of our friends over to share the holiday-inspired meal.

There’s lots to tell about the meal, but we thought the turkey warranted a post all its own.  Our original plan was to buy a 16-pound turkey from the Organic Butcher of McLean, brine it for a day and then smoke it on the Big Green Egg, but the first bird they brought in for us weighed in at more than 24 pounds! 

We were overwhelmed by the prospect of that much turkey, and we knew there was no way we could fit a bird of that magnitude inside the Egg.  Thankfully, the butchers said it would be no problem to order up another fresh bird for us the next day.

As it turns out, the next turkey they received was almost 23 pounds – still a gigantic bird relative to what we were looking for.  But time was no longer on our side, so we decided to take the bird in its entirety and then break it down at home.  This would allow us to cook it more quickly, and it also permitted us to conduct a taste test (always fun) by cooking the same turkey two different ways.

Smoking on the Big Green Egg (and a visit from the DC Fire Department), roasting in the oven, and a side-by-side comparison after the jump. (more…)