Have a John Kass Thanksgiving

Brine it, beer it, deep fry it

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    There's more ways to cook a bird than just sticking it in the oven.

    "Every year, millions of Americans foolishly forget to clip Kass' turkey brining column before preparing their Thanksgiving turkey," Tribune columnist John Kass wrote on Sunday. "By then it's too late."

    That’s true, and this is probably too late to help you, but John Kass’ annual Thanksgiving dinner columns are a worthy window into America’s turkey trends -- at least among those willing to experiment with twists on the traditional.

    "John Kass has just become Bridget Lancaster of America's Test Kitchen," sowhat of Northbrook once commented.

    This year is the second in which Kass extols the virtues of brining your turkey. His recipe includes kosher salt and admonitions to not use a chemically scented garbage bag or to brine a turkey labeled "Water and/or salt added."

    "You might as well pour rock salt over canned chicken salad," he writes.

    Before brining, deep frying your turkey was in. "It’s all about getting a juicy bird," David Casey, of Casey’s Meat Market in Western Springs, told Kass last year.

    "A few years ago, folks were frying them. Before that, there was the bagtechnique. And before that, people were roasting their birds breast-side down. It’s just the search for the perfect bird," Casey said.

    Of course, longtime Kass readers know that his perfect bird isn’t even a turkey -- it’s a chicken. A beer-can chicken.

    "Once you try it, you will be transformed, forever," Kass promises.

    In 1999, Kass wrote that "A tasty new back-yard barbecue phenomenon is sweeping the newsrooms of America, including mine, and leaching out into the real world."

    "As a former butcher, it's my duty to tell you about it," he continued.  "So fire up those grills for the weekend. It involves a chicken or two. And a strangely placed can of beer."

    In 2001, Kass warned readers not to use wood chips in the preparation, even if a New York Times recipe called for it.

    He’s written about beer can chicken ever since, and while he celebrates it as a summer grill, I can report that I’ve had it for Thanksgiving and it was the second-best holiday meal I’ve ever had -- slightly behind the deep-fried turkey.

    In today’s column, Kass writes of the an old Greek man, Gus, who fought off a man who had broken into his home. A man who loves his horta, described by Kass as "boiled greens drizzled with olive oil and lemon and salt."

    Gus is having none of it.

    "On Thanksgiving, I know what I like," he says. "I like a nice leg of lamb."