For Fourth of July spark, celebrate with these stunning recipes
Turkey on the grill seems appropriately all-American. For a small gathering, try a bone-in breast coated with a homemade rub. You can pile thin slices on a pretzel roll with a slice of ripe tomato, a tuft of arugula and a smear of mayonnaise for an amazing sandwich. (Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune)
This holiday, we're hosting family at our log cabin over the long weekend, and divvying up the meal duties. Our foursome selected dinner on the Fourth of July for a couple of reasons. One, we enjoy cooking. Two, we need to be sure dinner's done in plenty of time to catch the fireworks show over the lake.
Turkey on the grill seems appropriately all-American. But while we love turkey burgers and cutlets for speed, for a small crowd I prefer a bone-in breast coated with a homemade rub. Split in half, a 4-pound breast will cook in last than an hour. Plenty of time to pull together a couple sides and make a pitcher of fresh lemonade.
I prefer to seek out fresh, all-natural turkey without added liquid. Our local butcher even split the bone-in breast in half for easier carving and quicker cooking. Wrapped in plastic and packed in ice, it transports safely. When frozen turkey is the only option, you'll need to allow a couple of extra days for it to thaw in the refrigerator.
To guarantee moist breast meat, I always take the time to brine the turkey in a salty, sugary solution. Just mix up the brine in a large container (one that fits in the fridge or a cooler packed with ice) and add the turkey.
Bone-in breast halves need a couple of hours; a whole turkey can stay overnight. Just remember, the smaller the piece of meat, the less time required. You can always make the brine weaker and leave the meat longer. When time is tight, boost the salt and sugar and reduce brining time.
I'm not a big fan of serving sauces with grilled meats — too distracting. Instead, I coat the turkey with a dry rub for flavor and drop-dead gorgeous skin. My favorite rub combines brown sugar and smoky chilies with a kick of dry mustard. Take my advice: Double the recipe. You'll want to use it on pork chops, ribs and beef brisket all season long. Store extra rub in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid.
Adding wood chips to the grill is another way to impart flavor — in this case smoky flavor. Soak chips in water for 30 minutes before using. Everyone agreed — the combination of the brining, the brown sugar rub and the apple wood made this turkey the best we've ever grilled. Like the finale at the fireworks, it's not to be missed.
Top turkey tips
The turkey can be delicious made up to two days ahead. Serve it thinly sliced at room temperature. Or, gently warm the whole breast in a low oven.
Leftovers taste terrific on top of a tossed salad with a creamy dressing.
Or pile thin slices on a pretzel roll with a slice of ripe tomato, a tuft of arugula and a smear of mayonnaise for an amazing sandwich.
Brown sugar grilled turkey breast
Prep: 30 minutes
Brine: 3 to 6 hours
Cook: 1 hour
Servings: 8 to 10
Note: Ask the butcher to split the whole turkey breast in half. You can use this same method to grill a whole (unstuffed) 8- to 12-pound turkey. It'll take 2 to 2 ½ hours to cook.