Friday, June 23, 2017

Smoked Strawberry Napoleon

A New Flavor Twist- Smoked Strawberry Napoleon
A New Flavor Twist- Smoked Strawberry Napoleon

SMOKED STRAWBERRY NAPOLEON WITH PROSECCO CREAM

Take advantage of the short, fresh strawberry season by using your harvest in unique and flavorful recipes.  Up first, this take on strawberry shortcake that is in a league of its own!

INGREDIENT LIST

 Here’s what you’ll need:
  • Packaged Won-Ton wrappers
  • Frying oil (be sure to use one for high heat)
  • 1 quart of smoked strawberries smoked with Minuto® chips (reserve about 6 whole strawberries for garnish)
  • ¼ cup of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds
  • ¾ cup cold Mascarpone cheese
  • 1/3 cup cold heavy cream
  • ¼ cup cold Prosecco
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper

PREPARING THE WON-TONS

In a large skillet, heat 1 cup of high heat oil.  When ready, reduce the heat to medium-high and begin adding won-ton wrappers one at a time without crowding the pan. I usually can fit about 4 at a time. This step will take you a bit to do enough wrappers to ensure you have 3 per Napoleon serving. 

I like to cook the entire package of won-ton wrappers as these make excellent snacks either alone or for dipping salsa, guacamole or your favorite dip.  Plus, they make a great sweet snack when sprinkled with cinnamon/sugar or powdered sugar. When cooking the won tons, watch for a tan hue and bubbles to begin on the wrapper. Turn once and remove to a paper towel lined plate about 20 seconds after turning, as the won-ton holds a lot of heat and will continue to cook out of the pan.

PREPARING THE STRAWBERRY FILLING

Placed the quartered smoked strawberries in a large bowl with 2 tablespoons of sugar and the vanilla; toss to coat.  Set aside until we are ready to assemble everything.

PREPARING THE PROSECCO CREAM

Preheat the oven to 375° F.  Spread the almonds on a baking sheet and bake until golden about 5-7 minutes.  Set aside.

Combine the mascarpone, heavy cream, the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar, ground red pepper, and the prosecco in a medium bowl.  Beat with a mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form, about 2 minutes.  Be sure not to over beat.  Refrigerate briefly to bind everything.

ASSEMBLING THE NAPOLEON

Place one cooked won-ton on a serving plate.  Top with a large dollop of Prosecco cream and then cover with smoked strawberries. Repeat this process 2 more times so you have three won-ton layers per plate.  Top with almonds and a whole smoked strawberry on top plus a little extra of your smoked strawberries.

THE ULTIMATE TREAT THAT ISN’T TOO SINFUL!

With the sweetness of the Prosecco cream, the hint of smoke in the strawberries, and that crispy crunch of the won-ton layers, this is a one of kind napoleon that you and your guests won’t soon forget.  Feel free to experiment with different cream fillings and fruits.  I like cannoli cream as well with a hint of cinnamon.  And don’t forget to take picture of your masterpiece and send along to us at SmokinLicious®.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

WHY WON’T MY WOOD CHIPS SMOKE??

Smoking wood chips burn up too fast, while the smoking wood chunks last

WHY WON’T MY WOOD CHIPS SMOKE??

We’ve all been there!  You purposely made a list of all the things you would need for the weekend BBQ.  Carefully selected the meat, cleaned the grill or smoker the weekend before, and purchased the wood chips to impart that great flavoring you can only get from hardwood!  You marinated the meat 24 hours ahead and woke up on grill day full of excitement.

So, what happened?

Instead of having the best, most flavorful meal you had to settle for an ordinary grill day with no special flare.

Why?

The wood chips failed to smoke.  Or, worse yet, they just burned up in minutes.
It’s time you learned exactly what to do with those wood chips so this never happens again!

Tip #1: Understand the basics of hardwood

Wood is loaded with water.  It’s only after the tree is cut that a loss of water or moisture occurs as there are two types of moisture content in wood: free water which is water in the cell cavities and bound water which is water held in the cell walls.

Try to cook or grill with a wood that has been fresh cut and you’ll likely have a very bad meal; acrid undertones and black, sooty color.   Wet wood stimulates acrid smoke vapor.

Now, go the opposite direction.  Take a wood that is dry, as in it’s too low to register on a moisture meter, and you have a full heat generator.  This is what we want in the fireplace or fire pit to keep us warm, not in the grill, as it will simply generate too much heat and produce overdone, dry foods.

Tip #2: Understand Oxygen Flow

Even when using equipment with fuel assist like LP, gas or electric, you still need to be aware of air flow.  Quality equipment is always designed with insulation in mind to keep heat from escaping but all equipment has some level of venting built in.  Whenever you use grilling or smoking woods with equipment, you need to find the balance between air intake (oxygen) and exhaust damper or vent.

Some manufacturers will build in the ideal location for the wood chips by incorporating a drawer. Even if you don’t have this option on your grill, you can still provide the perfect spot for producing combustion to the wood by simply placing your wood chip container on or above the heat source.  That’s it!  Often this can be accomplished by putting your container right on the heat diffuser or bar that is under the grill grate.

Tip #3: Understand What the Lid is For

Have you ever wondered why charcoal grills have a completely removable lid while LP/Gas and Infrared grills always have a hinged lid that is permanently attached?

The reason is very basic; grill grates, regardless of material construction, are designed to absorb heat and produce conduction heat where they contact the food items (conducting heat from the grate to the food).  The lid of the grill reflects the heat back to the food grates in what is termed convection heat (transferring heat by air flow or through a liquid medium like water (think boiling eggs).  These grills maintain vents somewhere on or near the lid to vent out the gases from the LP or natural gas used to operate the grill.  Remember, LP needs to be mixed with air to burn, thus, the reason for all those vents on LP grills!

Here’s the thing – if you keep opening the lid while using wood chips, you change the dynamic of the heat absorption forcing the unit to work harder to produce both conductive and convection heat.  Plus, you will keep altering the stages of combustion of the wood chips.  Leave the lid alone!

Tip #4: Don’t Wet the Wood Chips

I hear this all the time that the worry with wood chip use on a grill is that they will burn too fast.  Let’s break this down so you understand just what happens when smoke vapor is produced from wood material.

The drier the wood the faster it will go through the stages of combustion and the more heat it will produce.  If you have wood that is without measurable moisture, you will get limited or no smoke production, just heat.  You need to purchase wood chips that have some measurable moisture to work effectively.  Chips labeled as kiln dried are likely too dry for producing smoke vapor.

Tip #5: Step Up from Chips to Chunks

Maybe it’s time to abandon wood chips all together in favor of bigger pieces of wood.  Here’s how to know what would work better:

If you’re cooking one item and it is a short cook time, then chips will serve you well.  If, however, you are planning on loading the grill with an assortment of foods say sausage, chicken, corn, peppers, ribs, etc., then you may want to consider using wood chunks either directly on the grill’s diffusers or in a wood chip metal box (learn how to do this).  These pieces, being large and dense, will burn longer giving off more smoke, which means less work for you to replenish.  Plus, you can do different types of wood chunks all at the same time (one cherry, one maple, one hickory … you get the point).

Success with wood chips can be had if you learn to purchase wood with some moisture, use the wood dry (no pre-soaking), keep the wood over the heat source of the equipment so it can combust, and use the right type of wood product – chips versus chunks – for the length of cook time.

Then get ready to truly have the best grill day ever!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

HOW TO CUSTOMIZE YOUR WOOD COOKING TECHNIQUES

Customized Smoking Wood Products Make a Difference with Equipment Efficiency and Taste
Customized Smoking Wood Products Make a Difference with Equipment Efficiency and Taste

Why Not Build Your Own Wood-fired Ingredient Box?

I’m old enough to remember the days when the purchase of a new car was very limited in terms of customizing.  You didn’t get the opportunity to choose much more than the exterior color and even those choices were limited to a few!  Today, you can go online and literally build your own car from the type of engine and fuel it will use, to the color, texture, and material of your interior and everything in between.  This got me thinking about customizing when it comes to the wood-fired cooking experience.  Why should cooking woods be any different than the car industry?  Why not build your own wood-fired ingredient box when it comes to the smoking wood?

Since SmokinLicious® Gourmet Wood Productsinception, we have offered a level of customization to the user purchasing our products that has been unmatched by any other company.  We provide options that empower the user to combine various products as you would the ingredients to a homemade stew.

Why is This an Option of Value and Importance?

There are times that you need different products on hand to simply do specific functions.  For instance, Grande Sapore® Wood Chips are a means of bringing the temperature of some equipment up quickly.  Smokin’ Dust® provides for a sudden burst of smoke vapor due to its lower moisture level.  Double filet smoker wood chunks tend to be the ideal sizing to place on diffusers/flavor bars of LP grills and achieve smoke vapor around foods being cooked.

I think one of the primary reasons that smoking wood should have a level of customer choice is that most of us don’t own just one piece of equipment.  I think I’m safe to assume that all of us have a conventional stove top.  That gives the opportunity to do stove top smoking.  Many of us have the newer models of LP grills that allow for the placement of woods chunks and/or the use of wood chips.  Then there are those that have the conventional stove top, the LP grill, the charcoal grill, and a dedicated smoker.  Wouldn’t it be great to source all the products need for these different types of equipment from one supplier and even get the chance to purchase a combination of products for one price?

And the icing on the cake –  Now that’s customization at its best!!  That’s SmokinLicious®!
It’s time to make your wood-fired cooking experiences uniquely your own by starting with SmokinLicious® and our wide array of species and flavor options just waiting for your hand and imagination to take your wood-fired cooking memories to new heights!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

GRILLING: THE WOMAN'S GUIDE

Woman ‘Man’-ing the Grill- Tools are Essential

It’s long been the equipment associated with the guys.  Perhaps it’s due to the primal start of cooking over live fire which initially was a man’s skill.  Hunt the animal and cook it on fire and hot coals.
Recently, the trend has begun to turn around in favor of more women grilling components of a meal on the grill.  In fact, it’s not just the traditional LP/gas grill but charcoal grills as well, as women take their new recipe and technique finds out of the traditional indoor kitchen and to the outdoors.

Just Because It’s Outside Doesn’t Change The Purpose

There is no question that outdoor grilling equipment has evolved into something of fantasy.  We now have choices beyond the standard LP, natural gas, charcoal, and electric grills.  Many brands are now featuring dual fuel cooking, meaning they may have gas or electric assist but use wood and/or charcoal for heat and flavor!

What does this mean for the ladies who want to do more outdoor cooking on the grill?

Versatility!  It is so easy to cook an entire meal on the grill without it taking several hours or more.

Accessorize!

The key to ensuring that an entire meal can be cooked on the grill is to have the right tools and that includes some accessory items.  Let’s look at each recommended item and answer the question why it’s important to the woman’s full meal grill event.

#1 Grill Grate Accessories:

First up, the grill pan, grill basket or grill topper.  These are perfect for vegetables and fruits making it so easy to ensure that the food doesn’t stick to the grill grates and that every piece gets cooked evenly.  Plus, since many grills are now sold with a side burner, you can always steam or par boil tougher vegetables first, then transfer to the grill pan/basket/topper.  Or, use that side burner to make rice for a healthy starch side.  Don’t have a side burner on your grill or are using a charcoal grill?  Then buy a butane burner!  These are so inexpensive yet give you another cooking option to get everything ready at the same time.

#2 Easy Charcoal Lighting:

If you don’t know what a chimney starter is, time to learn.  The charcoal chimney starter is the best way to light a charcoal fire.  Although these traditionally use newspaper at the bottom (for ignition) and load charcoal chunks (can be briquettes or lump) into the body of the unit, I take a simple method of lighting my chimney.  I load with my favorite charcoal and use a butane torch under the unit to light – no newspaper needed.  This allows me to leave the butane on auto fire for a few minutes to ensure the lower coals are lit.  Simply pull the torch out, shake the chimney while wearing fire gloves, and return to a heat safe surface until the top coals turn white-gray.  Oh, and you can always light the chimney off that side burner too!

#3 Purchase 2 Thermometers

Stop guessing at when things are done!  You need to invest in 2 quality thermometers; one for the grill/smoker and one instant-read for the food.  Be sure the thermometers you invest in can take a reading in 5 seconds or less, have at least a 4-inch probe for thicker cuts of meat, and have cables that are durable (if you don’t go with a wireless), especially for equipment thermometers that are placed through venting holes or under lids.

#4 Silicone

Anything made from silicone will become a lifesaver at the grill.  Silicone pot handle covers, spatulas, heat resistant tongs – you get the idea.  This material can handle the high heat of grills so stock up on those items you’ll need and use the most.  Suggestions? Tongs, pot handle covers, spatulas, spoons, mat.

Diversify!

Grilling does not necessarily mean you must put all foods on the grill grates.  Use high heat cookware to help you out.  Think cast iron or high heat clay and enamels meant for the grill.  These are perfect for starting one pot wonders like legumes, pasta dishes, even sauces.  With a roomy enough grill, you can fit many different items – grill pan/basket, Dutch oven, and rib racks.  Don’t forget most grills come equipped with a lower and upper grill rack so more fragile items that need less heat can go to the top.  Here’s some tips on food to cooking equipment match:

Tip #1: Cast Iron and Charcoal

Cast iron is, without question, the best material for cooking directly in the coals.  Here’s a tip – if you have an outdoor fireplace or even a fire pit that uses wood, you can do this method of cooking by placing your cast iron skillet or Dutch oven directly in the coals.  Keep in mind, I said coals, not flame.  Coals have a very high BTU rating and can cook foods within cast iron as if they are in the oven.  Just be sure to pack the hot coals around the cast iron after placing the pan in the coal bed.  Perfect items to try: vegetable medley, roasted potato, curry dishes, au gratin dishes.

Tip #2: Cast Iron and LP/Gas Grill

Just like having the side burner on a grill, cast iron on the grill is like having an extra pot on the stove.  Cast iron comes in lots of sizes and cookware type: saucepan, skillet, Dutch oven.  Anything you would traditionally make in cookware on the stove can be done on the grill.  The key is to ensure that you have this on a section of the grill that isn’t set to “high”, as cast iron holds heat.

Tip #3: The Upper Grill Rack

Though small in overall size, the upper grill rack is designed for those fragile items or for items that require simple warming.  Think melting butter for vegetables, heating sauces, warming bread and rolls.  Use it!  It can be of great value to keep you from needing anything indoors.

Tip #4: The Rotisserie

If you have a grill with a rotisserie, use it!  Keep in mind, as that item turns on that rod, the meat or poultry renders some fantastic juices.  Catch them!  Put a high heat pan under the food item with some great vegetables and use the drippings to add superb flavor to the cooking process.

Flavor It Up!

Now, let’s be clear!  Unless you’ve invested in a dual fuel or hybrid grill, one that allows you to use charcoal and/or smoking wood, most standard LP grills are just that: grills not smokers.  If you don’t have a hybrid but want to get some smoking woods flavoring to your foods, then start thinking of adding charcoal and wood chunks!

Yes, you heard me right.  Wood Chunks vs. woodchips which was the product of choice for years with LP grills.

Why Smoking Wood Chunks?

Most grills today are designed with covers for the gas burners to diffuse the heat more evenly.  They go by a lot of names: heat distributors, flame tamers, heat plates, burner shields, flavorizer bars.  The addition to the traditional LP grill is the reason why you can use smoking wood chunks.  Simply place a few small wood chunks under the grill grate right on top of the heat diffuser.  Be sure you only put chunks on a burner you will ignite.  Replace the grill grate and you’re ready to go!  And, yes, you will get real wood smoke vapor to flavor whatever you’re cooking on the grill.  I promise!

Final Points

"Man”-ing the grill is no different than planning a meal in your conventional kitchen.  Pick out the components of the meal and decide what needs to cook where on the grill: directly on the grate, on the rotisserie, in cast iron, on the coals.  If doing a meat, be sure to marinate 6 hours or best, overnight, to ensure a moist outcome and to reduce cooking time.
Have everything prepped including the grilling tools you will need and this is a walk in the park for the woman that is use to planning daily meals for her family.  The best part, you can enjoy more of those great warm days and not sweat in the confines of the hot summer kitchen!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

HOW TO TURN YOUR LP/GAS GRILL INTO A SMOKER

Gas grill technique for adding smoking wood chunks to develop a smoke flavor to your cooking.

This is the year!  You made a promise to yourself, family and friends that this outdoor cooking season, you were going to bring more flavor to meals cooked on the grill by incorporating smoking wood and grilling wood.  All you need to know is, what are the options for setting up the grill for this type of cooking without purchasing a smoker?

We have the answer and lots of options to utilize your existing equipment!

LP/Gas Grills of All Types

There is a great deal of variation in LP/Gas Grilling equipment in terms of grilling surface space, number of burners, BTU rating, etc.  Know up front, that this will play into how frequently you need to replenish grilling or smoking wood or even to monitor the foods being smoked on the grill.  Essentially, these tips will work on any brand/model that you may own.

How To Add Grilling Woods to the LP/Gas Grill

Heat diffusers are commonly found on newer models of grills.  They are made of high heat tolerant metal and cover the actual burners of the unit.  Their purpose is to ensure even heat distribution throughout the grill so both radiant and conductive heat are maximized.

Wood Chunks On The Diffusers

If you have a grill model that has heat diffusers (remember, they may go by other names like flavorizer bars, flame tamers, heat plates, burner shields and heat distributors) then you’re ready to use smoking wood chunks on your unit!  Yes, I said smoking chunks.  This is by far the easiest method of getting true smoke flavor to the foods being cooked.  Plus, you can set up an indirect method of cooking using smoking chunks.

You will need 3-4 wood chunks sized to fit over your heat diffusers and under the grill grate when set in place.  A 2x2x3-inch size fits most units and these should have some measurable moisture level; at least 20% moisture is ideal meaning you won’t need to presoak the wood.  If you have an old grill model before heat diffusers were standard, you can still use smoking wood chunks by placing them in a smoker box.  These boxes will generally fit 3-4 chunks of the size referenced above but be sure to use a good quality box.  My preference is cast iron.  Insert the chunks into the smoker box and leave the lid off!

Indirect Cooking Method

What truly makes for barbecue and not just grilling or smoking on an LP/Gas unit is using the indirect method of cooking.  The smoking wood chunks will be set on a burner that is turned on to medium or medium-high heat depending on the BTU level of your unit.  The higher the BTU level, use a medium setting.  Overall, you want the grill’s temperature to average 225-250° F for cooking traditional BBQ items like ribs, brisket, pork shoulder, and poultry.  If using the smoker box, you will place the box on the grill grate of the side with the burner lit.  My preference is, if doing very large cuts of meat, to turn on two burners if you have a 3-burner or more unit.  The foods will be placed on the unlit side of the grill.

Water Keeps Everything Moist

To ensure that any meat or poultry cooked on the grill remains moist and tender, include a water pan or two in your set up.  This is easily done by purchasing readily available disposable pie tins from the discount store.  I like to add warm to hot water so the grill does not have to exert much energy to heat up the water, which takes heat away from the unit.  Remember, the water will be evaporating during the cooking or smoking process so have additional water available if it depletes before the cooking is complete.  Water pans are set on the unlit burner side of the grill, directly under the food.  This will also act as a drip pan, catching all those juices.

Moist Cold Surfaces Attract Smoke Vapor

You have your smoking wood chunks on the lit burner, your water pans on the unlit burner, the grill’s temperature is holding steady, the grill grate has been in place taking on heat – we’re now ready for the meat.  Always take the prepared meat directly from the refrigerator to the grill COLD!  Cold foods will attract smoke vapor faster, allowing the vapor to condense on the food’s surface.  A moist surface also help attract the smoke so feel free to keep a spray bottle of water to spritz your meat’s surface as needed, though this often is not needed.

Leave the Lid Alone!

Remember, this isn’t traditional grilling on the grill.  We are doing barbecue smoking using an indirect method of cooking.  Keep the lid closed!  Every time you do so, you release heat, smoke, and moisture.  What you do need to watch closely is the temperature of your unit as the consistent temperature is what ensures an evenly cooked food item, as well as a tender, moist outcome.

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