Tuesday, November 24, 2015

How to Dry-Brine Turkey in 3 Easy Steps

By Dru Chai

Everyone thinks smoking or deep frying a turkey will guarantee juicy and flavorful meat. That couldn't be further from the truth. The key is to brine the turkey, and to cook the turkey to the correct temperature. I started brining my turkey 4 years ago -- wish I did it sooner.

Now there are too types of brining -- wet and dry. With wet brining, you need to completely submerge the turkey in a container filled with salt solution. Then you need to find enough room in the fridge for that container. With dry brining, all you need to do is rub salt all over the turkey, and throw it in the fridge for a few days.

So is brining really that essential? YES. It's the difference between dry and moist turkey. With dry brining, the salt draws out the meat juices via osmosis. The salt dissolves into the juices, and is then reabsorbed into the meat and breaks down the the muscle proteins. The result is tender, succulent, seasoned turkey meat.

Here is what I do to dry brine turkey in three easy steps:

1. Pick a turkey that is not frozen, and not kosher -- which is already pre-salted. Take the turkey out of the package, remove all giblets and neck inside the cavity. Pat dry with paper towels. Set aside about a tablespoon of kosher salt per 5 pounds of turkey.

2. Carefully separate the skin on top of the turkey breast (don't be shy!) with your hands and liberally rub some of the salt underneath there. Then rub the rest of the salt all over the turkey, especially on the skin of the breast. You could even add some dry herbs or finely chopped fresh herbs to the salt mixture.

3. Put the turkey at the bottom of your fridge, with plenty of space and away from other food in the fridge. If you're uncomfortable with raw poultry sitting in your fridge, then you can cover with plastic wrap. I like to leave the turkey uncovered anywhere from 1-3 days, depending on how much time I have. That's it! The rest is up to you on cooking the turkey. Be sure to thoroughly rinse and pat dry before cooking the turkey.

TIP 1: If you plan on adding a dry rub or butter on top of the turkey, remember that you don't need any more salt (unless you like salty poultry).

TIP 2: Whatever method you choose to cook your turkey, just don't overcook it. 150 degrees F at the breast, and 165 degrees F at the thigh. Rest for about 15-30 minutes before cutting to let the juices redistribute.

Cheers to an awesome Thanksgiving dinner, and to never eating dry turkey meat again.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Review: Sunday Southern Brunch at Lillie's Q in Brea

By Dru Chai

If you're going to the all-you-can-eat Sunday southern brunch at Lillie's Q in Brea, you're going to need bring at least two of the following items: a huge appetite, stretchy pants, and a wheelbarrow to roll yourself out. Oh yeah, it's also a big plus if you love juicy, slow smoked, melt-in-your-mouth brisket.

During my initial visit to Lillie's Q, I was salivating at the thought of trying their brisket, which was not yet available. The prime brisket is now the crown jewel of the Sunday brunch offering. Listed at $33/lb on the menu, the brisket has all the makings of respectable Texas-style cow. The outside crust (bark) is heavy on the black pepper, and the peach smoke flavor is subtle yet aromatic.

Most of Lillie's Q regular menu is a la carte, and the check can quickly skyrocket if you're ordering multiple dishes. A relative bargain at $25 per person, the brunch is the best way to sample many of Lillie Q's popular dishes like the pork rinds with pimento cheese, Kool-Aid pickles, and creamy stone-ground grits.

Brunch item classics like bacon, pancakes, and potatoes are all there, but it's the Southern dishes that shine -- mac 'n cheese, baked beans, biscuits and gravy, cornmeal-crusted tilapia, collard greens, and green beans. That doesn't even include the chopped salad, potato salad, chicken salad, coleslaw, and watermelon.

The short order kitchen menu includes three different types of omelettes to go along with several chef specials. The chicken n' waffles and the Southern eggs benedict are highly recommended.

Brunch also includes mini versions from Lillie Q's dessert menu: banana pudding, cobbler, build-your-own peach shortcake, and even chocolate stout (yes, beer) brownies. There's even a chocolate fountain with assorted dippers. If your stretchy pants aren't already bursting at the seams at this point, you can wash it all down with endless champagne and mimosas.

Lillie's Q
240 S. Brea Blvd
Brea, CA 92821

Brunch is available on Sundays, 10am-2pm.
$24.99 for adults, $9.99 for children ages 3-10.