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Giving Thanks: Reflections on Year One at Magnolia Tribune & a smokin’ turkey recipe

This article first appeared on the Magnolia Tribune.

Nearly one year into our operation, I’m proud of our team at Magnolia Tribune and am thankful for our readers. Read a little about our vision and progress, or jump straight to a killer smoked turkey recipe at the bottom!

There is so much to be thankful for in our lives. I am thankful for a God that pursues me even in my sin and rebellion; for loving family and friends who bring me joy, comfort and support; and for a nation, which despite its challenges, still affords people the freedom and opportunity to achieve dreams.

One of those dreams for me was the launch Magnolia Tribune in January of this year. The motivation was simple. Americans increasingly do not trust the media to deliver accurate and balanced coverage. Worse still, citizens believe that media intentionally misleads to drive an agenda. 64 percent of Americans believe the news favors the Democratic Party. 22 percent believe it favors the Republican Party.

Beyond perceived partisanship, much of the media tends to be persistently negative about the world around us, contributing to division and discontent. It ignores the good things happening, as well as the good people doing those good things.

Against this backdrop, Magnolia Tribune’s vision is to ensure that the whole story gets told, including the positive. We call it “Telling Mississippi’s True Story.” Our mission is to provide citizens with the information and insights they need to understand, engage and enjoy the world around them.

I am proud of the progress made in the first 10 and a half months of operation, of our team and the thoughtful content they have produced. We have broken stories and forced coverage of news that would otherwise have gone unnoticed. We have told positive stories of our progress as a state, shone a light on the parts of Mississippi’s culture that make us special, and provided readers with the most accurate, in-depth analysis of this year’s election of any outlet in the state.

Our readership is up 70 percent, our newsletter now has over 70,000 subscribers who received daily content, and our redistribution network is growing. None of that would be possible without readers who support the mission. I am deeply thankful for anyone reading this, or any of other hard work. Magnolia Tribune is just getting started.

Magnolia Tribune is reader-supported local journalism. As we near year end, will you help to ensure we continue to provide accurate, timely, and relevant news and information that helps Mississippians make sense of the world around them?

Let’s Talk Turkey

Sure, there are hams and rib roasts. Yes, there are sides aplenty, from dressing to stuffing, mac-n-cheese to green bean casserole. Undoubtedly, there are pies. Oh so many pies! My favorite is pecan. But there is no more iconic a thanksgiving dish than a big ol’ gobbler of a turkey.

If I’m honest, for most of my life, I thought turkey was bland, dry, and a real downer compared to rest of the fixins’ at Thanksgiving. Then, I discovered fried turkey. My world was changed. But over time, frying turkeys lost its luster. Yes, they are delicious. But it is also a ton of effort and mess with gallons of grease to lug and dispose of. Not to mention fire hazards.

Now, I almost exclusively smoke turkeys. Every year, we do two turkey breasts. One a more traditional herb recipe and one a cajun bird covered in a “Nashville hot” glaze for extra umph at the end. I’m going to share both here.

Cajun on left. Traditional on right. You’ll notice in this picture that I failed to keep the old girls’ skirts from coming up. The easy solution is to press toothpicks into the skin around the bottom of the bird. I just forgot the year I did these.

To Brine or Not to Brine?

The answer is to brine. There are two types of brine: wet or dry brine. A wet brine involves submerging a bird in a salt bath overnight. A drine brine involves rubbing a salt mixture under the skin of and over the top of your bird and letting it sit (for as much as 3 days!). There are arguments for both methods. Wet brines produce a juicier turkey. Dry brines produce crispier skin. I do both. On the Tuesday afternoon before Thanksgiving, I will submerge each of the two turkey breast in my wet brine. Wednesday morning, I will taken them out, pat them dry and apply my dry brine.

Wet Brine Ingredients:

  • 4 Quarts Water
  • 1 1/2 Cup Kosher Salt
  • 1 Cup Maple Syrup
  • 6 Lemons Cut in Half
  • 1 Bunch Rosemary
  • 1 Bunch Thyme
  • 3 Tablespoons Whole Peppercorns
  • 2 Garlic Heads, Sliced Across to Create Two Halves
  • 6 Quarts Ice Water

Place 4 quarts of water in a large pot, along with all of the ingredients, except for the ice water. Cover and bring to a boil. Stir to ensure all of the salt is dissolved. Take solution off burner and add 6 quarts of ice water. Let cool completely. Pour the mixture in a brining bag, or if you want, a five gallon bucket. I split it between two brining bags since I am doing two turkey breasts, which are smaller than a whole turkey. Add your turkey and refrigerate for 12-18 hours.

We threw on a goose for good measure last year.

Herb Dry Brine Ingredients:

  • 3 Tbsp. kosher salt
  • 3 Tbsp. dark brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 2 tsp. dried rosemary, chopped
  • 2 tsp. rubbed sage
  • 1 1/2 tsp. black pepper (fresh ground is better)
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder

Cajun Dry Brine Ingredients:

  • 3 Tbsp. kosher salt
  • 3 Tbsp. light brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. paprika
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder

For each of the brines, you simply mix the ingredients together. Now, you have to get your hands dirty. Dig under the skin of the breast breaking the inner lining from the top of the bird so that you can run your hands all the way down the breast. Dump in some of your brine and rub so that it covers the whole breast under the skin. You will see the seasoning through the outside of the skin. Now cover and rub the outside of the skin with the rub. Stick your turkey in the refrigerator uncovered to let the salt do its magic on the skin. I let it sit like this for at least 24 hours before putting it on the smoker.

Reserve your remaining season mixture for the day of the smoke.

Smoking the Bird

Get your bird out of the refrigerator. Get some room temperature unsalted butter and mix it with any of your remaining dry brine mixture. Now get your hands dirty, again, and shove that mixed butter down underneath the skin of the turkey against the breast. It will baste as your turkey heats up on the smoker. You can also melt this mixture and inject it into your turkey if you would like.

Make use of toothpicks to pin the skin of the turkey down at the bottom. This will prevent the skin from contracting during the smoke and yield a crispier product.

In terms of smoking the turkey, make sure you are applying indirect heat. If you have a vertical smoker, like a Big Green Egg, this means putting the plate setter down to prevent direct heat. Also be sure to put in a water tray to keep the smoker moist.

In terms of wood choice for smoking, I have used all sorts of wood, including apple, pecan, hickory and cherry. My current go to is cherry for the color it yields. The key is to just make sure that the wood has combusted. You will know that when your smoke goes from thick white or gray smoke to thin blue smoke. If you do not wait for this to occur, you could end up with bitter meat.

I keep my smoker at around 275 degrees for smoking poultry and insert a good meat thermometer that monitors the internal temperature of the turkey. I periodically baste with a mixture of butter and lemon. When it has reached 155 degrees in the deepest part of the breast, I pull the turkey.

Let your turkey rest for at least 20 minutes before slicing. I tend to slice by removing the entire breast from the carcass and then slicing horizontally.

Nashville Hot

I mentioned that I apply a “Nashville hot” glaze to my cajun turkey. This is not really necessary, but we like the additional kick. In the last 30 minutes or so of the smoking, I will slather it on with a barbecue brush. It forms a spicy crust. This turkey put my wife into labor with our second born.

Crusted with Nashville Hot Glaze

Nashville Hot Glaze Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter, cubed
  • 2 Tbsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. crushed red pepper
  • 3 Tbsp. light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. onion powder

Melt the butter in a sauce pan, add your seasonings. Let them “brown” in the butter for a bit. Slather on to turkey.

This article first appeared on the Magnolia Tribune and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Read original article by clicking here.

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