Using an outdoor gas grill to cook your Thanksgiving Day turkey

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By Norm Harding, Reporter

The Thanksgiving holiday is all about traditions. Most American families usually have their own tradition when celebrating Thanksgiving, from preparing the turkey and/or ham, to attending the holiday parades, to watching the many football games on TV, or to just lounging around with many friends who have gathered for the holiday.
Since white meat cooks faster than the dark meat, and the turkey possesses both, just use a brine to keep the bird moist while you slow-grill it on your gas grill, which then leaves your kitchen oven available for all those essential side dishes, and stuffing.

Brining the turkey
Brined turkeys in a simple saltwater solution are moister, better flavored and have a crisper skin than turkeys straight from the store. The process is simple, with only three major elements to keep in mind: brine formula, time and temperature.
1) Remove the package of giblets from the body of the turkey. Remove any excess fat deposits from inside the turkey’s body. Rinse the turkey, inside and out, under cold water. Drain the water from the turkey and pat it dry with paper towels.
2) For a long soak (overnight, or no more than 14 hours), use 1/2 cup table salt for each gallon of cold water. For a 4-6 hour soak, double the amount of salt; that is, 1 cup table salt for each gallon of cold water.
3) Following the long or short soak, whichever works better for you, allow enough time for your bird to soak, drain and “breathe” a bit before readying it for roasting.
4) During the brining process, it is essential to keep the bird at a temperature of less than 40 degrees. If you have a container large enough to accommodate your turkey and it will fit in your refrigerator, problem solved! A better idea is to just use an ordinary cooler or plastic tub with enough ice packs or sealed bags of ice to keep the temperature low.

Grilling the turkey
Soak hardwood chips, such as oak, apple, cherry, mesquite or hickory in water for about one hour. Wrap the soaked chips in a piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Poke three or four holes in the top of the foil.
Turn all the burner control knobs to HIGH and then turn on the grill. Place the aluminum wrapped wood chips over one of the side burners. Close the lid, allowing the grill to preheat for about 15 minutes and heat the wood chips.
If using a three-burner grill, turn off the center burner. If using a four-burning type, turn off the middle two burners. Turn the side burner knobs to MEDIUM.
Place the turkey, breast side up, onto a rack in a large roasting pan. Pour 2 to 3 cups of liquid (juice, wine, beer, water, etc.) into the pan. Place roasting pan on the center of the grill grate. Baste the turkey with melted butter every hour as it grills. Close the grill lid.
If your turkey is too tall to close the lid, place the roasting pan on the flavor bars beneath the grilling surface and just place the turkey on the grill.
Grill the turkey for 10 to 15 minutes per pound. Check the internal temperature of the turkey after two hours with an instant-read meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the turkey’s thigh, taking care not to touch the leg bone. When the turkey is done, the temperature should read at least 165 degrees.

Southern Cornbread and Oyster Dressing
4 Tbsps. butter, divided
1 cup chopped onion
4 green onions, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
3 cups crumbled cornbread
3 cups soft bread crumbs
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 pint shucked oysters, drained; reserve 1/2 cup liquid
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add onions and celery and sauté until tender, not browned.
Combine cornbread and bread crumbs in a large bowl; mix in sautéed onions, salt, pepper and parsley. Add beaten eggs and toss; moisten with the oyster liquid until moist but not soggy. Gently stir in the oysters.
Pat the mixture into a large lightly buttered rectangular baking pan. Dot with remaining butter and bake about 45 minutes, until golden brown and set in the center.

Baked Sweet Potatoes and Apples with Pecan Butter
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup chopped pecans
2 Tbsps. orange juice
1 Tbsp. stone-ground mustard
1 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. freshly grated orange peel
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. ground red pepper
1-1/2 lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled, sliced 1/2-inch
3 small tart cooking apples, sliced horizontally 1/2-inch, seeds removed
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Melt butter in a 13-inch by 9-inch baking dish. Stir in all remaining ingredients except sweet potatoes and apples. Place sweet potatoes in butter mixture; toss to coat. Cover; bake for 25 minutes. Add apples; spoon butter mixture over apples. Cover; continue baking for 15-20 minutes or until sweet potatoes and apples are tender. Makes 6 servings.

Cranberry Cream Pie
1 cup whole berry cranberry sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 pkg. (3 oz.) orange Jell-O
1 cup whipping cream, whipped
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1 pastry shell, baked or graham cracker piecrust
Whipped cream for garnish
Combine cranberry sauce and brown sugar in a saucepan over medium heat; bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Add Jell-O, stirring until dissolved; let cool. Fold whipped cream into cooled cranberry sauce mixture; pour into baked pastry shell or graham cracker shell. Chill for several hours, or until set. Garnish cranberry pie with additional whipped cream. Store cranberry cream pie in refrigerator.

Spicy Raisin Sauce
If your Thanksgiving Day meal includes a baked ham, as mine always does, try this spicy raisin sauce for a little extra kick to the traditional ham.
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup raisins
2 Tbsps. butter
2 Tbsps. cider vinegar
Dash of Tabasco sauce
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
2 tsps. cornstarch
In a saucepan, combine sugar, water, raisins, butter, vinegar, Tabasco sauce, salt and ground cloves; bring to boil. Cook until raisins are plumped. Dissolve cornstarch in a few teaspoons of cold water; stir until dissolved. Gradually stir cornstarch mixture into the hot mixture. Cook and stir until slightly thickened and clear. Makes about 2 cups of raisin sauce.
Norm Harding is a cooking columnist for the Beacon. To send him recipes, email him at nharding@brunswickbeacon.com.