Putting his spin on Thanksgiving tradition

Brandon DeJaynes enjoys cooking turkey like this Honey-Apple Brined/Smoked Turkey Breast served with Rustic Vegetable Hash, Smoked Garlic Red Potato Mash and Turkey Basil Gravy. | H-W Photo/Deborah Gertz Husar
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Nov. 20, 2019 10:10 am
Brandon DeJaynes

QUINCY -- Thanksgiving always has been a favorite holiday for Brandon DeJaynes.

"I enjoy cooking turkey, enjoy smoking different meats," said DeJaynes, owner and executive chef of the Convenient Chef in Quincy. "I like taking the traditional sides and traditional meats and kind of doing my own little spin on it."

A Thanksgiving plate this year might feature Honey-Apple Brined/Smoked Turkey Breast, Rustic Vegetable Hash, Smoked Garlic Red Potato Mash and Turkey Basil Gravy.

But no matter what the dish, a key ingredient is patience.

"A lot of people try and rush it," he said. "The biggest thing is just having patience with food. If you want it to be as good as you expect, you need to have patience to let the food kind of work for you."

When making the crust for one of his signature pies, for example, DeJaynes plans ahead to give it time to rest.

"I literally let it rest at least a day, 24 hours at least," he said. "Anything short of that, it gets elastic, breaks easy and doesn't hold the shape."

In business for nearly two years, and cooking long before that, DeJaynes said he's most known for his desserts – "where I get most out of the box and creative with flavors, textures and colors" – and tasting menus.

The Quincy native's first job, at the age of 14, was bussing tables in a restaurant, but baseball was going to be his career. Drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals out of college, he played for several years before a spring training injury turned his focus back to food. DeJaynes trained under some well-known chefs, learning different techniques in different areas of the country before moving back to Quincy.

"I just always had a love for food, trying to be different and creative from an artistic standpoint," he said. "I take a lot of pride in how my food looks and, more important, how it tastes."

Instead of following a set recipe, he creates and recreate dishes for the business and at home cooking for his wife Tricia and their boys Jayce and Jaxton.

"I try to have a different menu every night. It keeps me on my toes, really experimenting to see what works and what doesn't," DeJaynes said.

"With the whole process we do, I want to be as different as possible," he said. "Quincy is very meat and potatoes, and there's nothing wrong with meat and potatoes, but I'm trying to get people outside their box by doing different things."

Brandon DeJaynes shares some tips for cooking during the holiday season:

Take shortcuts when possible to save time like buying chopped onions or bell peppers from a supermarket salad bar. "Pick out what you need, and you can be doing something else more productive," he said.

Keep chicken broth on hand. "A good trick with turkey if you happen to overcook it or it dries out as it sits is to take some chicken broth to room temperature or a little past room temp and drizzle it over the top before you serve it," DeJaynes said. "It's something a lot of people don't think to do."

When blind baking a piecrust, line it with aluminum foil and add pie weights. No pie weights? No problem. "Use any kind of dried beans, rice," DeJaynes said. "I've even used, in a pinch, pennies. I had a sack of pennies I put down to act as pie weights."

Honey-Apple Brined/Smoked Turkey Breast

1 gallon hot water

1 pound kosher salt

2 quarts vegetable broth

1 pound honey

1 gallon apple juice

1 (seven-pound) bag of ice

1 (15- to 20-pound) turkey, with giblets removed

Combine the hot water and salt in a 54-quart cooler. Stir until the salt dissolves. Stir in the vegetable broth, honey and apple juice. Add the ice and stir. Place the turkey in the brine, breast side up, and cover with cooler lid. Brine overnight, up to 12 hours.

Remove the turkey from the brine, and dry thoroughly. Rub the bird thoroughly with the vegetable oil.

Heat the grill to 400 degrees

Using a double thickness of heavy-duty aluminum foil, build a smoke bomb. Place a cup of hickory wood chips in the center of the foil, and gather up the edges, making a small pouch. Leave the pouch open at the top. Set this directly on the charcoal or on the metal bar over the gas flame. Set the turkey over indirect heat. Insert a probe thermometer into the thickest part of the breast meat, and set the alarm for 160 degrees. Close the lid and cook for one hour.

After one hour, check the bird. If the skin is golden brown, cover with aluminum foil, and continue cooking. Also, replace wood chips with a second cup.

Once the bird reaches 160 degrees, remove from grill, cover with foil and allow to rest for one hour. Carve and serve.

Rustic Vegetable Hash

1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and cleaned

pound sweet corn

pound carrots

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 teaspoons sugar

1 garlic clove, minced

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Juice of lime

Basil, cut into chiffonade (shredded or finely cut)

Thoroughly whisk together vegetable oil, lime juice, sugar, salt and minced garlic. Toss mixture with Brussels sprouts, carrots and sweet corn. Place on a baking sheet. Roast at 450 degrees until tender, about 25 minutes. Toss with remaining lime juice and basil.

Smoked Garlic Red Potato Mash

3 pounds red potatoes

2 tablespoons kosher salt

16 fluid ounces (2 cups) half-and-half

6 cloves smoked garlic, crushed

6 ounces grated Parmesan

Dice potatoes, making sure all are relatively the same size. Place in a large saucepan, add the salt and cover with water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and then reduce heat to maintain a rolling boil. Cook until potatoes fall apart when poked with a fork.

Heat the half-and half and the garlic in a medium saucepan over medium heat until simmering. Remove from heat, and set aside.

Remove potatoes from the heat, and drain. Mash and add the garlic-cream mixture and Parmesan; stir to combine. Let stand for five minutes so that mixture thickens and then serve.

Turkey Basil Gravy

24 ounces reduced sodium chicken broth

8 ounces red wine

1/3 cup flour

1 tablespoon fresh basil

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Remove the turkey from the roasting pan or grill, and set aside to rest while leaving the drippings from the turkey in the pan.

Place pan with the drippings over medium heat. Add the broth and wine at the same time. Whisk to combine, scraping the bottom of the pan until all of the bits have come loose while cooking for another 2 to 3 minutes in order to slightly reduce the mixture.

Transfer the liquid to a fat separator, and let sit for 5 minutes to allow fat to separate. Return mixture to pan, add flour, place over medium heat and whisk continuously until the mixture starts to thicken and become smooth, approximately 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the basil, and whisk to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.