Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Interview: Talking Turkey with a Diva

It's time for our News, Reviews and Interviews day, Wednesday! Today I'm inteviewing Danielle Dimovski, leader of competition barbecue team DivaQ. Danielle was on CTV Canada AM recently (the Canadian equivalent of the Today Show), giving tips for smoking and grilling an entire Thanksgiving dinner. I thought she could give us some tips for smoking the perfect bird.

Hi Diva, thank you for talking turkey with us today. You recently celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving on October 12. What are traditional Thanksgiving dishes for you?

Turkey, sweet potatoes, parsnips, stuffing, mashed potaotes, gravy, and glazed carrots.

Pretty much the same as the US. What non-traditional dishes do you like to prepare?  I keep it traditional.

Obviously, we are focusing on smoked turkey this week. I spoke about brines yesterday and know that you talked about brines this month on the show. Besides brining, what are your top 3 tips for smoking a perfect turkey?

OK, #1, Butter under the skin is awesome, #2 use aromatics in the cavity, and  #3 don't ever stuff your turkey.
And the reason we don't stuff our turkeys bound for the smoker is slows down the cooking process and makes it so the internal temperature of the turkey stays too long in the "danger zone". We don't have this problem when cooking turkeys at a higher temperature, but the barbecue zone of 200-225 degrees just can't get a stuffed bird hot enough, soon enough inside.

On to the skin. I'm a skin picker, I'll admit it. Rubbery or tougher turkey skin is one thing that can happen when smoking slow and low. Diva, what is your favorite way of combatting rubbery skin?

I start high and finish low. I use butter in mass quantities under the skin and canola oil on top. I always end up with nice crispy skin.

I kind of glazed over when you said, "butter in mass quantities", but starting high and finishing low is interesting. Tomorrow I'll be posting a recipe that starts low and finishes high. I can see the benefit for crisping up the skin first, though, so there is no fear of overcooking the bird at the end. I use olive oil and butter under and over as well. It's really a must-do with smoked turkey, in my opinion.

So like I said, Diva recently talked with the folks on CTV Canada AM. I was wowed by her command of the show. I was also impressed by how much she covered. Having done one TV show in my life, I know that tiny things can "eat time" and it's tough to get all that you'd planned in. For those of you that missed it, here is a clip.

Danielle, can you tell us what it was like preparing for the show?

The day before was spent prepping all the side dishes and all of the turkeys. Basically I did an entire thanksgiving meal on the grills and then warmed it up on the show. Plus an additional two show turkeys were brought to showcase techniques (brining and injecting).

Were you nervous? (If you were, it didn't show!)

No I don't get nervous doing TV anymore. It is easy when you are talking about something you love - BBQ!!

Danielle competes all over the US and Canada with her barbecue team, Diva Q. Last year she competed at the exclusive Jack Daniel's Invitational. Danielle, have you ever prepared smoked turkey for a competition as a specialty meat?

No, actually I have never done it for competition. I think it would be an excellenct choice as an "anything butt" or part of a black box competition.

For those that don't compete, or follow barbecue competitions, the "anything butt" category is kind of a free-style barbecue entry that is anything but the four competition meats - pork, chicken, ribs or brisket.
Danielly, I know you are working on a cookbook, which I can't wait to get (no pressure), how is that process different than how you practice for competition, or is it?

It is much more time consuming. As I work through the various recipes I have to constantly stop, take notes, and revisit the ingredient list. It is taking much much longer than I would have liked. Life for me right now gets in the way sometimes but it is stull really enjoyable. I have been fortunate to receive some really good advice and guidance from some very accomplished BBQ writers. They have been making the process much easier.

And finally, what's next for the year and the future for DivaQ?

We are off to Georgia in a couple of days travelling slowly through the US and stopping at many BBQ places on the way. The competition is in Douglas and it is the BEst of the BEst invitational and open. It is a terrific couple of contests. Very well run. Other than that I have some projects, competitions, travelling and we've already lined up for next year more TV opportunities. Plus one of the cookbooks may be finished and then off to hopefully be published. That's it in a nutshell - non-stop work!!

You go girl! I met Danielle in writing She-Smoke and have truly enjoyed continuing to talk barbecue with her. Someday we will actually meet in person, Diva. Until then, I'll see you soon on the interwebs.

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