November Blog

November Thanksgiving Menu 


Fresh Pears with Stilton

Spiced Pecans and Pumpkin Seeds

* * *


Renaissance Ribs

Grilled Maple Glazed Turkey

Southern Sausage Dressing

Cider-Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Creamed Spinach Casserole

Smashed Potatoes with Caramelized

Pan Gravy

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Cornmeal Muffins with Dried Cherries and Walnuts

Cranberry Sauce with Port Wine

* * *


Pumpkin Pie with Bourbon Whipped Cream

Baked Apples with Vanilla Ice Cream and Mexican Caramel Sauce

* * *

Introduction to Thanksgiving


Turkey 101

Grilled Turkey (basic grilled turkey recipe from site)

Thanksgiving Food Safety




It’s hard for the Girls to believe that there are still so many people out there who have yet to experience a Grilled Thanksgiving Turkey!  You might ask yourself why would that come as such a surprise? 

Well, before Elizabeth entered the exciting grill-world, she worked for the public relations agency that (literally) started the #800 trend, and they started it with The Butterball Turkey Talk-Line.  She managed the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line for seven years and learned more than you could imagine about cooking turkeys.  Each year, Butterball would host “Turkey U.” to train the home economists who answered the hotline on every conceivable way to cook a turkey.  And, not surprisingly, the grilled and smoked turkeys won the taste-test hands down.

So, Elizabeth has been preaching the grilled turkey gospel ever since, nearly 16 years! The best part about grilling a turkey for Thanksgiving is that it is win, win, win!  It tastes great, is never dry, and looks picture-perfect. Even more importantly, it frees up oven space for all those yummy side dishes and pies; the bonus is that the turkey griller spends the day demurely fending off compliment after compliment.   The only thing you might miss is the aroma of the turkey roasting inside, but all the other benefits far outweigh missing the smell of the roasted turkey…just bake another pie and no one will even remember!  

Elizabeth has put together a menu that is easy and balanced with contemporary and traditional recipes.  She’s blended America’s favorites (Southern, Eastern and Midwestern) with old and new recipes and suggestions of many of our grill-friends.  Feel free to pick and choose, adding your own family recipes (or bakery goods) along the way, and if you have any recipes that you’d like to share, e-mail them to us, .

Grill your Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner

Turkey 101

It’s much easier than you think, so close your eyes, take a deep breath and get ready for the best turkey you’ve ever eaten (or made!)

“Thanksgiving is the easiest meal of the year.”  So says Elizabeth’s mother.  And, in a way she is right.  The cooking couldn’t be simpler but the expectations make it the most difficult meal of the year.  All the anxiety is directed at the (truly) simplest task:  the turkey.  In fact, it’s so simple that Gretchen also makes ribs, just to give her something to do! (more than that later) to Renaissance Ribs.

Do you suffer from turkey trauma?  If so, read on and follow these steps to rid yourself of the tremors and the trauma.

 Mantra: Repeat this mantra, with conviction and often: Turkey is easy, grilled turkey is even easier!

 Grill the turkey: Forget the oven, preheat the grill!  Save oven space for all your side dishes.

If frozen: thaw, thaw, thaw!  Defrost turkey in the refrigerator on a tray (to catch the drippings) for three days.  That means, on the Monday before Thanksgiving buy the turkey or take it out of the freezer.

Fresh vs. Frozen:  This is the annual debate and Elizabeth contends that a frozen turkey is actually fresher then a “fresh” turkey.  Here’s why, when the turkeys are processed they are immediately flash frozen -  – freezing the freshness of hours-old birds.  Fresh turkeys on the other hand are kept just above freezing for weeks before you actually grill it up for Thanksgiving.  But, the bottom line is to buy the turkey you like best. Brining your turkey or buying a Kosher Turkey (i.e. Empire Brand) helps to insure juiciness.  

Remove the giblets:  When preparing the turkey, remove the giblets and neck (look in both cavities for extra pieces!)  from the turkey.  Look in every hole of the turkey.  More than 50% of first-time (and even some experienced) turkey cooks leave in the bag of giblets only to run from embarrassment during the carving “photo op.”  But don’t toss the bag, use the giblets to make the gravy!

Less is more:  Now that the turkey is prepped, it’s almost ready for the grill.  Stuff the cavity with stalks of celery, carrots and onions and rub a thin coat of olive oil on the skin.  Just before putting on the grill, sprinkle with Kosher salt.  You don’t need a butter-soaked cheese cloth, or to put herb butter under the skin or any other complicated recipe.  Elizabeth has tried it all and has found a little oil and a little salt makes the best grill-roasted turkey.

Disposable Roasting Pans:  Most of us have a really nice roasting pan in our cupboards, well use it for something else.  It’s a “witch” to clean and takes up too much room on the grill.  Instead buy an aluminum-roasting pan from the grocery store.  (If you are roasting an 18+ bird, buy two or else it won’t be sturdy enough.  The aluminum is pliable, which is important because you may have to bend the sides to close the lid of your grill.

Breast side up:  Once the turkey is all oiled up, it’s ready to go!  Place breast side up in the disposable roasting pan sprinkle with Kosher salt and it’s ready to grill-roast.  The turkey never has to be turned over.  It will be golden-brown, picture-perfect and juicy…just by leaving it alone.

Turkey meets the grill: Place the turkey, in the roasting pan, in the center of the cooking grate.  Make sure the grill is set on the indirect method at a medium heat (325 F – 375 F).  Now, close the lid and “forgetaboutit.”

If you are cooking on charcoal , you’ll need to add briquettes every hour.  If  you’re cooking on gas, check the temperature after 2 hours.  No need to baste!           

And don’t peek !

Testing for doneness or instant-read meat thermometer for instant success: The turkey is done when it reads 165 F in the breast and 185 F in the thickest part of the thigh (be careful NOT to hit the thighbone when probing).  Try one of the new thermometers that is designed to keep the probe in the turkey while it cooks and leaves the controls outside the grill so you can check on the doneness without lifting the lid. 

The proof is in the eating:  Once the turkey is done, let it rest for 15-20 minutes so the juices are re-absorbed.  This will insure that your turkey is at its maximum juiciness and gives you time to make the gravy from the pan drippings.

Enjoy and take a Bow for your family’s best turkey ever!

Thanksgiving Food Safety

Thanksgiving is the only holiday that revolves solely around the food, thus giving it the most potential for “indigestion.”  Follow these food safety tips to make sure your indigestion comes from the dinner conversation and not the dinner itself!  With all poultry (turkey and chicken) most “food borne illness” is from cross-contamination-using the same knife or platter or cutting board for the poultry and the uncooked vegetables or bread.

1.         Dispose of turkey juices and packaging immediately.  Wash hands and sink with   hot soapy water.

2.         Wash any cutting boards, knives, or kitchen tools with hot soapy water.  If you      want to be extra careful, use a diluted bleach solution of ¼ cup bleach such as Clorox and 2 cups of water.

3.         Use a separate platter or roasting pan to transport raw food or cooked food.

4.         Cook the turkey until completely done, 165 F in the breast and 185 F in the thickest part of the thigh.

5.         Enjoy, these precautions are just that, no cause for alarm.  Just be food safe.  For any specific questions, call the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line at 1-800 BUTTERBALL.

Grilled Thanksgiving Menu

A coarse-laden meal like Thanksgiving calls for light appetizers or nibbles. Otherwise, the guests fill up on the starters before they even sit down for the main event! 

 Fresh Pears with Stilton

When serving fresh pears, less is always more.  A bit of the best English Stilton or blue cheese and a lightly toasted walnut half covers all the taste points for a satisfying but light appetizer that truly excites the appetite instead of squelching it!

ripe pears

½  pound best-quality Stilton or Saga Blue Cheese

Walnut halves, toasted, about ½ cup

Pick firm but ripe pears.  Wash well.  Using an apple corer, or a knife, remove seeds.  Cut pears in half and then again in thin slices.  Lay on a plate and set aside.  When the Stilton is very cold, cut thin slices with a vegetable peeler.  Put one slice of cheese on top of each pear.  Garnish with a toasted walnut halve and serve at room temperature.

Serves 8 –12

Spiced Pecans and Pumpkin Seeds

In the South, sweet spiced pecans signal the start of the fall holiday season.  We’ve expanded our geography and mixed the sweet tastes of the South with the spicy taste of the Southwest for the best “handful of nuts” we’ve had in a long time.  They are good with a beer, but even better with a glass of champagne!

½  pound pecan halves

½  pound pumpkin seeds, shelled

¼ teaspoon cloves

teaspoon chipolte chile powder, or other chile powder

¼  teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon superfine sugar

2 teaspoons fine sea salt

tablespoon Olive oil

Pick through nuts for shells.  Set aside.  Mix all spices, sugar and salt until well combined.  Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large heavy-bottomed skillet and add nuts.  Toast nuts by stirring frequently and coating all nuts with the olive oil.  While nuts are still warm, sprinkle evenly with spice mixture, stirring to coat well. Adjust seasonings and cool nuts on a cookie sheet before serving.

Serves 8 -12

Renaissance Ribs

Our friend Gretchen makes these Italian-spiced baby back ribs for her Italian in-laws every Thanksgiving because her husband couldn’t decide which he liked better, her grilled turkey or her “Renaissance Ribs”, so they have decided to have both as their new tradition for Thanksgiving!  But be forewarned, they are much too good to cook only once a year!

Charcoal: Indirect

Gas: Indirect/Medium heat

4 racks baby back ribs

Juice from 2 lemons

2  cups water

¼ cup Italian seasonings

Favorite barbecue sauce, optional

Remove silver skin from back of ribs.  Combine lemon juice and 2 cups water and set aside.  Rub the juiced lemons over front and back of ribs and place ribs in marinade for 30 minutes.  Remove from marinade and rub front and back with BBQ rub.  Can be done up to one day in advance.

Place ribs in center of the cooking grate or in a rib rack.  Grill 1 to 1 ½ hours or till tender, brushing with sauce if desired during the last 20 minutes of grilling time. 

To serve, cut ribs into 2- or 3-rib portions.

Orange Brine for Grill-Roasted Turkey

Brining helps insure that the turkey stays extra juicy during the roasting process.  This orange brine complements the Maple-Glaze and scents the turkey with Thanksgiving’s favorite seasonings.

6 cups water

cup sugar

2 cups Kosher salt (if using iodized table salt use only 1 cup)

2 oranges, quartered

3 tablespoons whole cloves

3  bay leaves

teaspoons whole peppercorns

12-14 pound turkey, defrosted And cleaned

Olive oil for brushing turkey

Heavy duty foil pan

In a large saucepan over high heat, bring the water, sugar and salt to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar and salt.  Let cool to room temperature.

In a 3-gallon plastic bucket or other food safe container large enough to hold the turkey, combine one gallon of water, the oranges, cloves, bay leaves and peppercorns.  Add the sugar-salt solution and stir.

Submerge the turkey in the brine.  If necessary, add more water to cover turkey and top with a weight to make sure it is completely covered with the liquid.  Refrigerate for 8-12 hours. 

Follow turkey roasting instructions. 

Grilled Maple-Glazed Turkey

The sweet maple syrup combined with the sharp orange citrus and vanilla bourbon notes not only glaze the skin to an ebony sheen but flavor the drippings for extra rich and delicious gravy!  But remember, only glaze during the last 30 minutes of the cooking time to prevent burning.

Charcoal: Indirect

Gas: Indirect/Medium Heat

1 12-14 lb. turkey, defrosted

1  tablespoon olive oil or vegetable oil

Kosher salt and pepper to taste

Maple Glaze

½  cup real maple syrup

Juice of a small orange

tablespoon Bourbon

Mix all ingredients and set aside.  Brush on turkey only during the last 30 minutes of the cooking time.  Follow basic grilled turkey instructions below:

Remove the neck and giblets; reserve for other uses.  Remove and discard excess fat.  Rinse bird inside and out and pat dry.  Season body cavity with salt and pepper.  Tie legs together and twist wing tips under back.  Brush turkey with oil and lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Arrange turkey breast side up, on the cooking grate over Indirect Medium Heat.  Place lid on grill.  Cook 11-13 minutes per pound or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in thickest part of the thigh (not touching the bone) registers 180 degrees F and the juices run clear.

Transfer turkey to a platter and let stand for 15 minutes before carving.

Gas Grilling Turkey Tip: Be sure to place the turkey in a foil drip pan when using a gas grill.  About 30 minutes before the bird is done, remove the foil drip pan and place the bird in the center of the cooking grate.  This allows the bottom of the bird to get some color and gives the opportunity to make a gravy from the drippings that have accumulated in the foil drip pan.


Makes 12 to 15 servings.

Gravy Note: Please keep the drippings for the gravy for and added burst of flavor in the gravy.

Southern Sausage Dressing

This very simple dressing is based on the one that Elizabeth’s mother makes.  It is her family’s favorite side dish, and the only recipe that absolutely can’t be omitted or changed.  And it really is essential to use the Pepperidge Farm (blue bag) herb-seasoned stuffing mix!

large package Pepperidge Farm, herb-seasoned stuffing

½  loaf of favorite bread, crumbled

pound bulk sausage (hot) (preferably Neese’s brand)

1 bunch celery, chopped

yellow onions, chopped

1 stick butter, melted

can low-salt no-fat chicken broth or homemade stock

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Mix package of stuffing mix and fresh bread crumbs and set aside, tossing occasionally so all crumbs dry out.  Meanwhile, cook sausage in a skillet until completely cooked through and drain on paper towels.  Remove excess grease.  In the same skillet, sauté

celery and onions until soft and onions begin to caramelize.  Mix vegetables, sausage and melted butter in with the bread crumbs until well combined.  Moisten with chicken broth until stuffing holds together but is not too wet.  Place in a buttered casserole dish and bake at 350 F for 35-40 minutes or until top is browned.  (Alternately you can stuff the turkey just before cooking but this will make it stuffing.  “Dressing” is the preferred lingo in the South and it is always on the side!

Cider-Roasted Sweet Potatoes

The tart-sweet-savory combination of apple cider, vinegar and olive oil brings out the natural sweetness and contemporizes sweet potatoes—and we promise no one will miss the marshmallows! The recipe is written for the grill, but it can also be roasted in a 400 F oven for the same cooking time.

Cooking Method: Indirect/Medium High Heat

6 medium-sized sweet potatoes, preferably “Garnet” variety (about 5 pounds)

½ cup apple cider

1 tablespoon Olive oil

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

tablespoon dark brown sugar

Sea Salt

Peel and cut sweet potatoes in 2-inch wedges or chunks.  Whisk the next four ingredients together and toss with sweet potatoes.  Place potatoes and liquid in a large shallow roasting pan and roast in the center of the grill or in an oven for about 45-60 minutes stirring occasionally or until browned on the edges, soft on the inside and all the liquid has evaporated. 

While still hot, season to taste with sea salt.  Serve warm.

Serves 6-8

Creamed Spinach Casserole

This recipe comes straight from Popeye’s dreamland.  Spinach lovers, finally, here is a “creamed” spinach recipe with just a touch of cream and a whole lot of green!  If you miss the extra cream, just add more and adjust the seasonings but the Girls like it on the drier side.  This dish can easily be made the day before.

Grilling Method: Indirect/Medium Heat

4 packages frozen chopped spinach, cooked and drained

2 tablespoons butter

2 shallots, peeled and minced

1 tablespoon Pernod

1 tablespoon flour

1/2-2/3 cup half and half

Freshly ground nutmeg

Freshly ground pepper

Drizzle of Truffle oil (about 2 teaspoons)

Sea salt or Fleur de Sel to taste

Make sure as much of the water as possible is removed from spinach by pressing the cooled spinach tightly with the back of a spoon.  Set aside. Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat, add shallots and cook until soft and slightly caramelized, about 10 minutes.  Add Pernod, stir and add flour.  Whisk for 2-3 minutes or until flour is slightly browned (this eliminates the raw flour taste).  Stir in half and half until heated through and season with a pinch of ground nutmeg, fresh pepper, the truffle oil and salt.  Mix well.  Place in an oven-proof casserole dish and cook in the grill over Indirect/Medium heat until hot and bubbly. 

Note: Can be made in advance and heated in the grill or an oven (375 F) for 30-40 minutes, just before serving.

Serves 4

Smashed Potatoes with Caramelized Garlic

This is an updated version of classic mashed potatoes.  The skin is crisped in the grill and left on when “smashed” with the sweet caramelized garlic and olive oil.  Try it for Thanksgiving and you’ll end up making the recipe all year long!

Grilling Method: Indirect/Medium Heat

2 heads of garlic, roasted
¼ cup olive oil or more to taste
24 new potatoes, cleaned
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Remove the loose, papery outer skin from the head of garlic. Cut about ½ inch off the top to expose the cloves. Place on a large square of aluminum foil. Drizzle the olive oil over the cloves. Fold up the foil sides and seal to make a packet, leaving a little room for the expansion of steam. Grill over Indirect Medium heat until the cloves are soft, 30 to 45 minutes. Remove the garlic from the grill and allow to cool. Squeeze the garlic from the individual cloves into a small bowl.

Brush the potatoes with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Place in the center of the cooking grate over Indirect Medium heat and roast for 25-30 minutes or until done. While still warm, either put the potatoes through a potato ricer or place in a large bowl and mash with a fork. Add the garlic into the potatoes and continue to mash, adding the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 6

Pan Gravy

This gravy is enhanced by white wine and the pan drippings.  To make the gravy process less stressful, follow the directions up to the pan drippings and set aside.  As the turkey “sits,” resume the gravy and it’ll come together in a matter of minutes.  If you are making the Maple-Glazed Turkey, use any extra glaze…or better yet, make another batch for the gravy and omit the white wine!

Giblets and neck bone from turkey

2  pieces of celery with leaves, cut into 2 inch pieces

small onion, cut into a eighths

Drippings from the roast pan

¼ cup flour, approximately

½ cup, white wine, optional

Kosher salt and pepper to taste

Place neck bone, giblets, celery and onion in a saucepan with 2 cups of water.  Let simmer 1 ½ hours.  Strain and retain liquid, discarding vegetables and giblets, set aside.  Heat turkey pan drippings in a sauté pan over medium heat, add a little of the liquid and the flour and whisk for 3-5 minutes until flour is browned (this eliminates the raw flour taste).  Stir in the wine (or leftover maple glaze) and a little more of the giblet liquid until the consistency is smooth and thick.  Adjust seasonings and serve with smashed potatoes, Southern Sausage Dressing and turkey.

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Cornmeal Muffins with Dried Cherries & Walnuts

These muffins are much more savory than sweet and are a nice wholesome accompaniment to turkey and trimmings.  Be sure to save a few extra because they really shine when split and used for leftover turkey and cranberry sauce sandwiches!


1 stick unsalted butter, softened

1 cup brown sugar, packed

½ cup white sugar

4 eggs

15 ounce can solid pumpkin, unsweetened

½ cup milk

cup whole wheat flour

½ cup unbleached white flour

cup white or yellow cornmeal

teaspoons baking powder

teaspoon baking soda

teaspoons cinnamon

Pinch of salt

½ cup dried cherries

½ cup toasted walnut pieces

Pinch of salt

Pre-heat oven to 350 F .

In a large bowl, using a hand-mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs and pumpkin, mixing well.  Alternate milk and sifted flour mixture, ending with the dry ingredients.  Mix in cherries and walnuts.  Spoon the batter into a greased or lined muffin pans and bake 25-30 minutes or until batter pulls away from the side and a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack.

Makes 12 regular or 48 mini muffins

Cranberry Sauce with Port Wine

If you’re still opening a can for this ubiquitous side dish, give it up and try this ultra easy recipe for fresh cranberry sauce.  The fresh cranberries almost cook themselves and the port and orange juice give them a depth of flavor that you’ll never get from the canned variety.  To balance the tartness, try adding chopped Granny Smith apples at the beginning of the cooking time.

12 ounce package fresh cranberries, cleaned

¾  cup sugar

¼  cup orange juice

½  cup water

½  cup port wine

Pinch of salt

2 granny smith apples, chopped, optional

Rinse cranberries discarding any over-ripe berries.  Set aside.  Mix sugar and liquids in a saucepan over medium heat until sugar is dissolved, add a pinch of salt and stir.  Add cranberries (and apples if using) and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat and cool completely.  Refrigerate and serve cold or at room temperature.  Best made the day (or days) before.

Makes about 2 cups.


Pumpkin Pie with Bourbon Whipped Cream

The Girls’ favorite part of Pumpkin Pie is the Bourbon Whipped Cream, so we either make the recipe on the back of the Libby’s pure pumpkin can or have a guest bring the pie, but we always make the whipped cream.  It is amazing what a difference a little Bourbon makes to the flavor of the whipped cream—and the pie!  But make sure you use the best quality Bourbon you can find.  If you are not normally a Bourbon drinker, go to the Liquor store and purchase an “airplane” bottle of the finest brand that they sell, it’ll cost very little but make a big impact on your recipe.  This tip goes for any alcohol that is called for that you might not ordinarily have on hand.

Store-bought or favorite pumpkin pie recipe (the back of the Libby’s can has a reliable recipe.)

Bourbon Whipped Cream

To make bourbon whipped cream, add 1 tablespoon super-fine sugar and 2 tablespoons bourbon to cream as it is being whipped.  Beat until stiff and serve immediately. Refrigerate any unused cream.

Serves 4

Baked Apples with Vanilla Ice Cream and Mexican Caramel Sauce

Mmmm Good.  This is a little different from the traditional pies of Thanksgiving but it is equally delicious—all the flavors of a warm caramel apple a la mode!  And the added value is that it is easy to make for a crowd, even if you don’t ordinarily bake. The Mexican Caramel sauce can be made several days in advance and the apples are a snap if you have an apple corer, if not, perhaps now is a good time to invest in one!

granny smith or favorite cooking apple, cored and rubbed with lemon juice

1/2-3/4 cup apple cider or undiluted apple juice concentrate

2 cinnamon sticks, broken into large pieces

tablespoons white sugar

2 tablespoons sugar in the raw

2 tablespoons cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground cloves

Pinch of Salt

Place apples in a non-reactive glass or stainless steel pan, making sure all apples touch.  If an apple will not stand up, slice a piece off the bottom to level it.  Pour liquid over apples, making sure a little goes inside the cored apples.  Distribute cinnamon sticks evenly in the bottom of the pan make sure the liquid comes up about ½ inch of the side of the pan, if it doesn’t add more cider.  Mix the remaining ingredients and divide equally between the apples, filling the core.

Place pan in the center of the cooking grate (or in a 375 F oven) for 45 minutes or until liquid has reduced and apples are tender.  Serve at room temperature with a scoop of Vanilla ice cream and a generous drizzle the Mexican Caramel Sauce.

Homemade Mexican Caramel Sauce (Dulce de Leche)

14oz sweetened condensed milk

Remove label from can, place in a 4 quart heavy-duty saucepan and cover with water.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 2 ½ – 3 hours making sure the can is covered by water the entire time.  You will need to add water several times during the cooking process.  The milk will slowly caramelize during this process.  Remove can from water with tongs and a mitt as the can will be very hot and let cool.  Serve room temperature over baked apples.  One can makes enough for 12-15 servings.

Note: This method of making Dulce de Leche has been done in Mexico for years and years.  If you are uncomfortable with the method, pour condensed milk into a heavy-duty saucepan and cook very slowly, stirring constantly until the milk is reduced and caramelized.

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a food fanatic and the Grill Girl from North Carolina who has seasoned, basted and tasted my way across the country. Please join me on my non-stop, culinary journey...

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