Smoked Turkey Legs with a Satsuma-Honey Glaze

After the culinary fiasco of 2004, I approached this year’s Thanksgiving with some trepidation. My confidence was not bolstered when Xy finally read the creme bruleé recipe and asked the following immortal question:

What’s an egg yolk?

I couldn’t believe she was serious, but it turns out she’s never separated an egg before and couldn’t remember which part was which. Hint: The white is the part that turns white when you cook it. The yolk is the other part.

My main responsibility was the turkey. Here’s how I did it.

My original idea was to follow a recipe in the paper that called for slow-cooking turkey legs with mandarin oranges. However, as Thanksgiving Day approached we realized that our crockpot was not big enough to accommodate the six large legs Xy had purchased. Also, it seemed like a shame not to use the Big Green Egg for such an occasion. So I decided to change gears.

From Recipe Link I got the idea to brine the legs, something I’d never even heard of before.

Making the brine was easy: a gallon of water, a cup of salt, half a cup of brown sugar, a gallon of veggie stock. (Actually I didn’t use a full cup of salt. I used 3/4 cup and rounded it off with a 1/4 cup Tony Chachere’s creole seasoning.) Bring to a boil. Let it return to room temperature, then combine with a bunch of ice water and immerse the turkey legs. Put it in the fridge overnight.

In the morning I fired up the Big Green Egg, and got it about as hot as I ever have, over 900ºF, I think. Then I took it back down to something like 250º. I had a lot of pecan wood chips intermixed with the charcoal to impart a nice smoky flavor.

I rinsed the brine off the legs and got them on the grill around 9:30 AM. Smoked ’em for a good four hours. More like five probably. After the first two hours, I turned them and thought they looked a little dry, so I decided to concoct a mop. Returning to the mandarin orange idea, we made a glazing sauce out of fresh-squeezed satsuma juice and honey (and lemon and olive oil and butter and maybe some other stuff). I then turned and mopped the legs every half hour or so until it was time to eat.

Smoking the Legs

They turned out well. In fact, they were so appetizing that even my vegetarian friends were tempted into sampling them.

Smoked Turkey Legs with a Satsuma Glaze

But next year I’d like to try making them a little spicier. Maybe some more cayenne in the brine or the glaze.

Also on the menu: raw oysters (plus a few thrown on the grill) and oyster dressing and Xy’s famous cheeseball and herbed mashed potatoes and green bean casserole and cranberry sauce (with the “can lines still visible”) and sweet potato casserole and pumpkin pie and home-made thin mint cookies (even better than the Girl Scout version).

And of course, Xy’s key lime creme bruleé.

Xy's Bruleé

Despite several mishaps, she pulled it together, and it was delicious.

I'm Eating Key Lime Creme Bruleé

But mostly we were happy to enjoy the company of friends: Daisy and DJ and Anna and her daughter Lily and Christina from New York who joined us at the last minute.

Footnote: After the meal we eventually made a pilgrimage to a suburban cineplex to see American Gangster which turns out to be a perfect Thanksgiving flick.

Worst Ever?

I’ve been skeptical of Thanksgiving for years. There are two conceptions of Thanksgiving which seem to be etched into my mind from early childhood: The idea of giving thanks to God, and the idea of unbridled gluttony. Pilgrims, Indians, the whole historical thing — not so much. To me it’s always been about God and gluttony, and frankly neither concept gets me very motivated.

I thought about giving thanks to people who’ve helped me out over the past year. For example, I am thankful to Mike Leonard, for turning me on to Crystal body deodorant. But somehow that just didn’t seem inspiring enough to carry the holiday.

So this year I made a grab for the gluttony, and I failed. Yesterday’s Thanksgiving dinner was a severe blow to my self-image as a competent cook. Unlike most Americans, I did not stuff myself silly on good food, because there was none. I actually went to bed hungry and had to get up for a bowl of cereal at about 1:00 a.m.

Indeed, when I consider every Thanksgiving holiday I can remember celebrating, this one stands out as the worst on the culinary front. We had friends over (Jaylene, Scott, Erik) and that was fun. But I don’t think a single dish came out as planned. Some things were so bad they ended up in the trash; others were edible, at least, but everything was disappointing, except for the pies, which were store-bought.

My main responsibility was the turkey. We got an organic, free-range bird, about eleven pounds. I slathered it in margarine (because Xy bought it by mistake instead of butter) and Zatarain’s, mounted it on the vertical roaster, and smoked it on the Big Green Egg for about three hours, using pecan wood chips. I had trouble maintaining the Egg at a steady 300 degrees. It spiked to as high as 450 and as low as 250, I think, but eventually I got it stabilized.


For whatever reason, the bird was not a delicate golden-brown when I brought it in. It was more black. Not very appetizing. Maybe I should have put some water in the drip pan. The meat was a little dry, perhaps not too bad, but we had no gravy.

Oh well. It’s an indication of how fortunate I am that even my worst Thanksgiving is pretty good.

I still don’t know what to think of this holiday, though.

Turkey Prep


Jaylene Marsh came to visit us for Thanksgiving. She drove down from Indianapolis yesterday, and today she took this picture with her phone and e-mailed it to me. I posted the picture to Flickr. (Thanks, Rachel, for turning me on to the site.) So this is my first real attempt to post from Flickr to my blog, and thus to the roxlyst.