How to Cook a Cajun-Style Deep-Fried Turkey

Before we get started, don’t be intimidated by the word “Cajun” in reference to food. Many people have the mistaken impression that Cajun cooking is all about seeing how high you can get on the Scoville heat scale. That is inherently untrue. Although some dishes, like sauce piquante and boiled crawfish, will definitely leave your mouth tingly, the overwhelming majority of Cajun and Creole cooking is more about intense flavor versus intense heat. When talking about a Cajun-style deep-fried turkey, the description is more about the cooking method than the seasoning. In fact, this blogger lives in south Louisiana and regularly fries turkeys for Thanksgiving or Christmas, and we like to try different flavor profiles. A family favorite is one we call the “Casian” Turkey (which is Cajun-fried, but marinated and rubbed with Asian flavors).

The Equipment

setup

You will need a 30-quart fryer, a propane burner, a meat thermometer, a turkey rack (which goes inside the bird), and a turkey lifter (which hooks to the rack to lift it). You can buy the full setup online from Academy, Walmart, or other big-box stores. Next you will need about 3 gallons of peanut oil, which is the best choice for frying turkey because it has a high flash point (less likely to catch fire), high smoke point (ensures good flavor), and can be used multiple times before disposal — in case you’re frying more than one. In Louisiana, neighbors often like to get together and take turns using the oil. Basically, men love to cook when there’s danger involved, and there’s an excuse to get together and drink a little beer. If you’re making an event out of it and frying multiple turkeys, you may need a little extra oil.

The Bird

Your turkey should be no more than 14 lbs. If you have a lot of people to feed, you can fry more than one and can even experiment with different flavor profiles for each. Make sure every turkey is completely thawed. This is very important. Frying a frozen turkey is VERY dangerous. The ice reacts with the hot oil in an explosive manner. Once thawed, a turkey is completely safe to fry. Just be sure to remove the neck and giblets from the inside of the turkey.

The Fill Line

Remember that the turkey will displace the oil when you place it into the fryer. Do not overfill the pot with oil. You want enough oil so that it will cover the bird once submerged, but not overflow the pot and catch on fire. Many turkey fryers come with a max fill line, but you can determine the exact amount you will need by placing your thawed turkey in the empty pot and filling it with water until the top of the turkey is barely covered. Remove the turkey, allowing the water to completely drain out of the turkey and back into the pot, then measure and mark the water line.

The Marinadecajun-injector-creole-butter-injector

The flavor profile is completely up to you, but you will need to generously inject your marinade into the meat of the entire bird. The recommendation is 2 oz. of marinade per pound of meat. You can create your own marinade, or for a variety of marinade flavors that each come with an injector, visit the Cajun Injector website. For our “Casian” turkey, we add a little dry sherry to a basic teriyaki marinade.

The Rub

Insert the turkey rack through the cavity of the turkey (neck side down), pat the skin of the turkey dry with paper towels, then generously rub the bird with your favorite seasonings. For our “Casian” turkey, we make a rub with salt, pepper, garlic powder, ginger, and a little bit of curry powder. Too much curry will take over, but you can be generous with the garlic and ginger.

The Fun Partslhcb_04_fry_174d

Set up your frying station OUTSIDE on a flat surface, a safe distance from structures and wooden decks. To avoid oil stains, do not place the fryer on top of concrete pavers. Heat the oil to 350° F. You can actually begin heating the oil while preparing the bird, but don’t leave the pot unattended. Hook the lifting tool to the turkey rack and slowly lower the bird into the oil. Cook the turkey about 3 to 4 minutes per pound, until the dark meat has an internal temperature of 175-180° F and the white meat has an internal temp of 165-170° F. It takes about 45-60 minutes to fry a 13-14 lb. turkey. When the turkey is done, slowly lift it from the pot and place it in a pan on paper towels to drain. Let the turkey stand for 15 minutes before carving it.

Turkey photos by Oxmoor House, courtesy of Time, Inc.

It’s Pizza Grilling Time!

Alison Miksch - Photogapher / Heather Chadduck Hillegas- Prop Stylist / Erin Merhar - Food Stylist

Grilled pineapple dessert pizza. (Photo: Alison Miksch – Photogapher / Heather Chadduck Hillegas- Prop Stylist / Erin Merhar – Food Stylist)

October is National Pizza Month…as if we need a reason to eat pizza! Whether you’re talking about flatbread with caramelized onions and shiitake mushrooms, grilled fruit dessert pizza, or just a good old-fashioned pepperoni and cheese, once you try making pizza on the grill, you’ll never want to cook pizza indoors again.

If you’re in a rush, you can actually place a store-bought frozen pizza on a hot grill for around the same length of time you would cook it in the oven. Be sure and rotate it occasionally so that it cooks evenly, and keep an eye on it so that the crust doesn’t burn. Whether you’re using gas or charcoal, it will create a nice crispy crust and will be much more flavorful than if cooked in a standard oven. Using charcoal or wood chips will help give it a gourmet smokey flavor.

If you have a few extra minutes, creating your own grilled pizzas is so much more fun! Everyone can be involved in the prep process and enjoy experimenting with combinations of their favorite ingredients. You can go low-tech by buying pre-baked pizza crusts, get a little more adventurous with store-bought pizza dough, or go full-on gourmet by making your own dough at home. If you’re using raw dough, be sure and spray the grill with cooking spray to keep it from sticking and cook the dough for 3 to 4 minutes prior to adding your toppings.

Smoked sausace, corn, and sweet onion grilled pizza. (Photo: Alison Miksch - Photogapher / Heather Chadduck Hillegas- Prop Stylist / Erin Merhar - Food Stylist)

Grilled smoked sausage, corn, and sweet onion pizza. (Photo: Alison Miksch – Photogapher / Heather Chadduck Hillegas- Prop Stylist / Erin Merhar – Food Stylist)

If you’re making an afternoon of it, you may want to considering pre-grilling some toppings to put on your pizzas. Grill-worthy toppings include chicken, ham, shrimp, pineapple, smoked sausage, corn, and garden vegetables. In addition to any pre-grilled toppings, other topping ideas can include artichoke hearts, spinach, banana peppers, caramelized onions, roasted garlic, kalamata olives, and fresh herbs. Of course, don’t forget the pepperoni, or the kids may revolt.

For a fun family activity, create a “pizza bar” prep station where each person can create his or her own fabulous pizza. For sauces, you can offer traditional pizza sauce, pesto, olive oil, BBQ sauce, and buffalo wing sauce. For cheeses, offer mozzarella, goat cheese, feta cheese, and crumbled blue cheese. If you want to finish off your pizza-palooza with a yummy dessert pizza, check out our recipe for grilled dessert pizza.

Happy grilling!

Grilled pizza photos courtesy Time, Inc.

Winging It for Backyard Tailgating

Add zest to your next backyard tailgate party with mouth-watering chicken wings and three delicious sauces that are sure to please every palate.

Grilled Wings

Ingredients

3 pounds chicken wings
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preparation

  1. Light one side of grill, heating to 350° to 400° (medium-high) heat; leave other side unlit. Dry each wing well with paper towels. Toss together wings and oil in a large bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss to coat.
  2. Place chicken over unlit side of grill, and grill with lid closed 15 minutes on each side. Transfer chicken to lit side of grill, and grill with lid open 10 to 12 minutes or until skin is crispy and lightly charred, turning every 2 to 3 minutes. Toss wings immediately with desired sauce. Let stand, tossing occasionally, 5 minutes before serving.

Alabama White Sauce

Ingredients

1/3 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
4 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons Creole mustard
1 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 garlic clove, finely grated

Preparation

Whisk ingredients together. Use as a drizzle or toss wings in sauce to coat. Yields about 2/3 cup.

Buttery Nashville Hot Sauce

Ingredients

1/4 cup butter, melted
3 to 4 tsp. ground red pepper
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Preparation

Cook butter, ground red pepper, brown sugar, salt, paprika, and garlic powder in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly, 1 minute or until fragrant. Remove from heat, and stir in vinegar. Toss wings in sauce to coat. Yields about 1/3 cup.

Vietnamese Peanut Sauce

Ingredients

3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/3 cup fish sauce
1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 to 3 tsp. Asian chili-garlic sauce
3 tablespoons finely chopped toasted peanuts
1/4 cup torn cilantro and mint leaves

Preparation

Sauté garlic in oil in a small saucepan over medium heat 1 to 2 minutes or until golden. Stir in fish sauce, brown sugar, and chili-garlic sauce. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, and stir occasionally for 4 to 5 minutes or until thickened and reduced to about 1/2 cup. Stir in peanuts. Toss wings in sauce to coat. Sprinkle coated wings with cilantro and mint leaves.

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Photo Credits:

Photo courtesy Time, Inc. Photographer: Alison Miksch; Food Stylist: Erin Merhar; Prop Stylist: Caroline Cunningham

The Secret to Restaurant-Quality Steaks at Home

Imagine this scenario: a special occasion is nearing. It’s your significant other’s birthday, or perhaps a distant relative is coming in. The point is that you want, and in some cases need, to treat them to something special. What is the first thing that comes to mind when the ole “special” word is tossed out? Why, it’s steak of course! Doesn’t just reading the word “steak” bring you to a happy place? Anyone who is a fan of steak probably already knows his or her favorite place in town to get a quality steak. Unfortunately, having a fancy chef at some restaurant cook this steak will not work for this special occasion. This one must be made from the heart by Chef You. Although grilling a steak properly can be tricky, it is well worth the effort for that special occasion. Here are a few tips to consider. For the sake of brevity, we’ll just focus on two of the most popular steaks to cook: the Tenderloin and the Ribeye.

Tenderloin

Ribeye

Also called a filet, this will be your most expensive piece of meat. However, this steak is most definitely worth the price because it is considered by many, this writer included, as the most delicious steak that can grace your palate. Sometimes with these steaks, less is more. Heat your grill to high heat, add some black pepper and coarse salt to the top of your steak, then throw it on the grill. You want to cook these steaks over high heat until they are brown, which will take about five minutes per side, depending on how “done” you prefer your steak. For a particularly thick piece of meat, you may also want to brown the sides a bit. While some people prefer their steak rare or well done, there is nothing quite like a medium-rare steak. In fact, most chefs agree that medium-rare steaks give you the maximum amount of tenderness and juiciness while ensuring that the center of the steak is actually warm. To test if your steak is medium-rare, press your finger in the middle of the steak. If your steak gives ever so slightly then bounces back, you have yourself a medium-rare steak. A mushy steak will tell you that it is still rare. Keep going until you get that bounce-back. To get that restaurant-quality flavor, before the steak is finished, liberally baste it with garlic-infused butter. Garnish the top of the steak with a sprig of one of your favorite herbs, and proceed to blow the mind of your special guest.

Ribeye

This next steak can be one of the most flavorful and juicy steaks you can find. Where most the flavor comes from is up to you. If you prefer a simple flavor, liberally applying coarse salt and black pepper to your steak, and even some garlic powder if you choose. However, to get the most out of your ribeye, make sure to marinate it in a plastic bag for a couple of hours. Once it is in the bag, pour in plenty of balsamic vinegar or red wine. Another tasty addition to a ribeye marinade is Parmesan cheese. Feel free to marinate your steak with whatever your heart desires, or whatever the person you are cooking for desires. These are only suggestions. Just remember to allow plenty of time to let the flavors sink in. Once done marinating, throw that baby on the grill over low flame for about five minutes. Flip to the other side where you will most likely cook a little longer than the first side. Again, test the doneness by pressing the meat with your finger. Ribeyes are a little harder to judge than filets because they’re not as thick, but with a little practice, you’ll quickly get the knack. Once you think it is ready, pull it off and let it rest for about five minutes. This is very important to do for all steaks! Cut in too quickly, and the juices all run out, leaving the meat a little dry.

Charcoal vs. Gas

Ah, the classic grilling debate. In this writer’s opinion, always go for charcoal over a gas grill. With charcoal, it is a slower process, but it tends to give your steaks a more distinct flavor. Also, do not be afraid to experiment with wood chips. Cherry or pecan are both particularly good choices. But don’t throw the chips directly onto the charcoal, which will cause them to burn off too quickly. Wrap the wood chips in some tin foil and place them next to the fire. This will deepen the flavor profile of your charcoal-grilled steaks.

Happy Grilling!

Yummy Summer Slider Bar

An American classic: Beef sliders with American cheese on a sesame seed bun.

An American classic: Beef sliders with American cheese on a sesame seed bun.

Summer is a time for living and entertaining outdoors. Whether it’s the Fourth of July or just an average Monday in July, we Americans tend to spend the day focused on what we are known for: eating. Nothing like celebrating our independence by eating like the free men, women and children that we are. This year, maximize your freedom of food choice by setting up a slider bar. Sliders are smaller than regular burgers, which will allow you to try a few different kinds at once. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Nice Buns
The most underrated part of the burger: the bun. A bun can either make or break your burger. While the sesame seed bun is probably the most iconic bun out there, there are also several other types of buns. From Kaiser rolls to English muffins to croissants, be courageous with your bun choices. An excellent option is King’s Hawaiian sweet rolls, which are the perfect size for sliders and add a little extra sweetness to every bite.

Kicking it up a notch: Ground beef and pork with arugula, tomato, caramelized onions and blue cheese on a grilled bun.

Kicking it up a notch: Ground beef and pork with arugula, tomato, caramelized onions and creamy blue cheese on a grilled bun.

To Beef or Not to Beef
Ah, the heart of the burger, the meat. You could go traditional with ground beef, or you could even try chicken, turkey, or pork — or all of the above. When you’re going with a non-traditional slider, you can either grill cuts of meat or ask your butcher to grind the meat. Another option is to make pulled pork by cooking a Boston butt in the crockpot. Simply season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, brown sugar and apple juice, then cook it until the meat pulls apart. Is so easy, yet so good! There are also plenty of vegetarian options. You could try a portobello mushroom cap in lieu of meat, or you could pick up black bean burgers from the frozen food section of the grocery. Who knows, you may even have your meat-lover friends trying to swipe your veggie burger away from you.

It Actually IS Easy Being Cheesy
For those of us who require cheese on our burgers, make sure to have plenty of cheese options for your slider bar. American is always a classic, especially on the Fourth of July. But feel free to experiment a little. Excellent choices include pepper jack, Swiss, feta, blue cheese, goat cheese, and Havarti. If you want to be really adventurous, check out the gourmet cheese section of your grocery store and look for something interesting, like a Melkbus with black truffles. Mmmmm.

Now we're talking gourmet: Pulled pork sliders with kale-slaw on a ciabatta roll.

Now we’re talking gourmet: Pulled pork sliders with zesty kale-slaw on a ciabatta roll.

Veggie Tales
A good burger always has its fair share of veggies on it. Sure you could do the ole lettuce and tomato, but we’re trying to provide freedom of slider choices here. Try also providing an assortment of options like sprouts, arugula, sauteed mushrooms, caramelized onions, and roasted red peppers. Grilled fruits (like pineapple or mango) also make a great addition.

To Top it Off
No burger is complete without that special sauce. Ketchup and mustard are fine, but if you haven’t caught on yet, we’re trying to be a little different. On your sliders, try topping them with sauces such as sriracha, creole mustard, cilantro mayonnaise, hummus, any of the different flavors provided by Tabasco, or just doctor up some “secret sauce” in the kitchen.

Would You Like Some Fries with That?
Finally, we need a side dish or two to round out those slider options. Since a burger bar can be pretty labor-intensive, you may want to try and keep the sides easy. In fact, whatever you can do to prep ahead of time will keep you from spending the day chopping while everyone else is having fun. So keep it simple when it comes to the sides. Grill some corn on the cob, heat up some baked beans, grab a bag of coleslaw, or just throw some frozen fries in the oven. Honestly, no one is going to care about the side dishes because they’ll be filling up on yummy sliders.

Refreshing Watermelon Cocktails

Ah, watermelon…that sweet and refreshing summer fruit. On a hot day, nothing hits the spot like watermelon that has been iced down all day, just waiting to be cut and enjoyed. But if you’re ready to take your watermelon game to the next level, here are some delicious cocktails honoring this vibrant and juicy fruit. For the recipes that call for frozen watermelon, cube the melon, remove all seeds, and place in a single layer on a baking sheet in the freezer for a couple of hours until frozen.

honeysuckle-watermelon-cocktails-sl-x

Photo: Chris M. Rogers; Styling: Lydia Degaris Pursell

Honeysuckle Watermelon Cocktail

Blend or process 8 cups seeded and cubed fresh watermelon until smooth, then pour into a pitcher through a mesh strainer. Add the following ingredients, mix, and serve with garnish of lime slices, watermelon slices, or fresh mint sprigs.

  • 1 cup honeysuckle vodka
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 cups lemon-lime soft drink

.   .   .

watermelon-bellini-mr-x

Photo: Jennifer Davick; Styling: Lindsey Ellis Beatty

Watermelon Bellini

Rub the rims of champagne glasses with a lime wedge and dip the rims in coarse sugar to coat. Blend or process the following ingredients.

  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 3 cups frozen watermelon
  • 1 cup sparkling wine, chilled
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • pinch of salt

Top off with an additional splash of sparkling wine and serve with garnish of a watermelon slice.

.   .   .

Photo: Southern Living

Photo: Southern Living

Watermelon Mint Margaritas

Rub the rim of cocktail glasses with a lime wedge and dip the rims in coarse sugar to coat. Blend or process the following ingredients and serve with a garnish of fresh mint.

  • 4 cups frozen watermelon
  • 1/2 cup tequila*
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon grated lime rind
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (about 3 limes)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves

*For a kid-friendly version, substitute tequila with orange juice or apple juice.

.   .   .

Photo: Lee Harrleson; Styling: Virginia Cravens

Photo: Lee Harrleson; Styling: Virginia Cravens

Slushy Watermelon Mojitos

Blend or process the following ingredients and serve with a garnish of fresh mint sprigs or lime slices.

  • 5 cups frozen watermelon
  • 1 cup sparkling water, chilled
  • 3/4 cup white rum
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 1 (6-oz) can frozen limeade concentrate, undiluted

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Recipes and photos courtesy of time inc.