Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Breakfast Potato Takes on Smoke!

The smoky deliciousness of breakfast potatoes!

 

Give It A Smoky Start

As with most breakfast potato recipes, this one has just a handful ingredients to make it oh so memorable at the breakfast table.  It starts with a key ingredient – smoked potato – which you can find the technique for on our previous posting.  This is a recipe that can certainly accommodate your specific preferences so alter it as you please.  For my rendition, you’ll need the following:

 

Gather These Ingredients:

  • 2 cups smoked potato cut into pieces no larger than 1 inch
  • 2 cups of chopped sweet pepper – I’m using red, yellow and orange for a pop of color
  • 1 Jalapeno pepper diced
  • 1 cup of rough cut onion
  • 1 Tablespoon oil – I’m using coconut oil for its high heat level
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil or flavored olive oil – I’m using a Tuscan flavor
  • 1 cup of ricotta cheese
  • 1 red tomato sliced into ¼ inch thick slices
  • Oven safe skillet

 

One Hot Skillet Makes It Easy

Be sure you’ve readied all the ingredients as this recipe can be completed quite fast.  Place your oven safe skillet over medium-high heat and allow to heat.  Add the tablespoon of high heat oil and move the pan around to ensure the oil coats the entire bottom surface.  Add the cup of chopped onion and allow to cook for 3-4 minutes.  You’ll know you’re ready for the next step when the onion becomes translucent.  Add the 2 cups of chopped sweet pepper and mix well.  Allow the vegetable mixture to cook until tender, about 8 minutes.

 

Adding Heat and Smoke

Once you see the vegetables take on a shine and tenderness, it’s time to add the diced jalapeno pepper, mixing well.  After just a couple of minutes, go ahead and add the 2 cups of smoked potato to the mixture.  Mix well and allow to absorb some of the existing cooking oil and moisture.  The colors will begin to blend as well as the flavors getting us close to the finished dish.

 

Mellowing Out the Boldness

To add another level of flavor, a tablespoon of flavored olive oil, I’m using a Tuscan blend, is incorporated to the vegetable mixture.  Once this has cooked for a few minutes, I add the cup of ricotta cheese in dollops to the skillet.  Using my spatula, I break this down with the heat to provide a creamy consistency.  The creaminess of the ricotta will help balance the boldness of the smoke and aide all the flavors to mellow.  After 5 minutes of medium heat, this pan will be ready for a quick trip to the oven to finish everything off.

 

The Spectacular Finish

After taking the skillet from the stove top, I place it in a pr-heated 350°F oven to finish.   This will only take about 10 minutes.  Remember, if using cast iron, this material will hold a lot of heat, so once the pan is removed from the oven allow the dish to sit untouched for about 5 minutes.  Then plate to your favorite platter.

I like to add sliced fresh tomato and a sprinkle of fresh parsley to the top.  This is a perfect dish for any type of eggs or served an accompaniment to sausage.  Of course, it can stand alone as well so feel free to treat is as its own meal.

Smoked potato from the charcoal grill with a medley of vegetables gets you to the perfect Smoked Breakfast Potato!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

BEECH IS CERTAINLY “GRAND” IN EUROPEAN SMOKER WOODS

The grand ole tree beech adds a very European flavor to smoked foods, especially sausage style products.
With 10-13 Beech varieties available throughout the world, this is a hardwood tree that can age to some 300 years.  Visually, they are quite impressive often with distinct “root feet” and gray, smooth bark.  The scientific name is Fagus Grandifolia but in North America we know this as American Beech.

I’m With the White Oaks

Beech is a relative to the White Oak hardwood family.  However, there is some differences in its performance as a fuel wood and flavoring wood.  Beech tends to hold more water or moisture than white oak and for that reason, you need to be sure you are using this for cooking when the level is closer to 20-25% or lower.  Anything higher will produce a brown smoke as the energy generated is used to evaporate the water.  Using Beech with a higher moisture level could produce some off coloring to the foods.

Cooking Specifics

Beech is a very easy hardwood to burn and produces a nice bed of coals.  It does not throw spark when it combusts so it is ideal for all types of equipment including fire pits and camp pits.  It has minimal aroma when burned but produces a balanced flavor profile to foods.

The MBTU level is considered high so know you will get a long cook time from this wood.

Neutral Ways

In my opinion, Beech is one of those hardwoods that is neutral when it comes to food pairing.  I have found the ability to cook vegetables, fish, meats, poultry, and even flavor seasonings and herbs with its flavonoids.  You really can’t miss with this choice.  Knowing it is a hot burning wood and makes a great bed of coals, you should attempt to get all the wood can give from a heat point of view.  Think about raking hot coals to one side of your equipment and cooking foods directly in the coals while the remaining fire cooks more traditional foods on the grate.   Remember, there is value in the wood through the entire stages of combustion.

My Tan Skin

Coloring to foods tends to be on the earthy palette side giving a very pleasant appearance.  Because this wood is so well balanced, you can select both sweet and savory ingredients without causing any muted flavoring.  This is true whether the wood is in chunk, chip or dust form.

This can be a harder hardwood to locate since it is more prevalent in the Northeast, especially New York State but if you can locate it, pick some up and enjoy the many benefits of this grand tree.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

STRAWBERRIES GET SMOKY FOR AN AQUA FRESCA COCKTAIL

The process of smoking strawberries for your summer cocktail is very easy. Merely cut your strawberries and place them on your grill to enhance their flavor than process into flavorful drink.
If you enjoy fruity drinks or smoothies, then the Smoked Strawberry Aqua Fresca is perfect!  Using seasonal fresh strawberries will bring this to the ultimate flavor height but any store purchased variety will work as well.  This is the perfect cocktail for a summer event or as a non-alcoholic refresher on an exceptionally warm summer day.  Get ready as we tell you how to do the smoking technique then construct this fabulous drink.

Strawberries Love Smoke

Start with strawberries that are at their peak.  Gently wash them and then trim the stem end.  I cut smaller strawberries in half and larger in quarters to ensure the smoke vapor can penetrate easily but you certainly can leave them whole.  In addition to the strawberries – at least one quart to produce enough liquid for a few drinks – you’ll need the following ingredients and materials

Ingredients & Materials:

  • 4 tablespoons sugar – reserve some extra in case you want to make this sweeter
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of fine or coarse sea salt
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • Handful of fresh basil or mint
  • Ice cubes
  • Blender
  • Mixing bowl
  • Mortar & pestle (optional)
  • Sheet pan lined with parchment paper
  • 2 double filet wood chunks from SmokinLicious®
While you are getting the strawberries ready you can have your grill warming up.  Set all burners to medium-low and close the lid.

Gas Grilling With Wood Chunks

Cooking with wood chunks can be done on the LP Gas Grill by using the heat shields or diffusers, whose purpose is to ensure even heat output over the grill grate.  By keeping a medium-low heat on the burner containing 2 wood chunks from SmokinLicious®I’m using 1 ash and 1 cherry – you won’t get the wood erupting in flames but rather a slow combustion that releases plenty of wood-fired flavor.  While the wood heats up, I combine my strawberries with 2 tablespoons of sugar, 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract, and a pinch of sea salt.

Get Ready For Juicy Bubbles

When you smoke strawberries on the grill, all the locked in pectin water will be released by the heat.  That’s why it’s so important that you line your sheet pan with parchment paper so you don’t end up with a hard to clean mess.

After mixing in the vanilla extract, sugar, and salt it’s time to spread the strawberries onto the lined sheet pan and place on the grill.  Once the pan is in place, turn off all the burners except for the one that has the wood chunks on the diffuser. Cooking time will be about 40 minutes with a grill heat of 300°F maintained with the lid closed and 1 burner lit.

Taste Is The Sweet Aroma

Whenever I smoke fresh strawberries, it brings the memory of my Mom making strawberry jam.  As the strawberries react to the smoke vapor, you will see the pectin release and a beautiful, thick glaze will form around them.  This is the stuff that will make an exceptional aqua fresca so be sure you don’t lose any when removing the pan from the heat.  You’ll see the finished strawberries take on a much darker coloring and reduce size slightly from the water loss.  Now get ready for the fun part – getting our drink together.

Strawberry Base

To start our drink creation, you will need a blender and I prefer a mortar and pestle for combining citrus and fresh herbs.  Add the smoked strawberries to the blender and the remaining sugar. You can add the lime juice and fresh basil or mint right to the blender or add to a pestle and combine with the mortar. Once combined, add to the blender. Process the mixture.  Add a few ice cubes and process again until a smooth mixture is revealed.  You may add lime juice, sugar and ice as you see fit at this point – the recommended amounts are merely a guide.

Creating the Ultimate Aqua Fresca

With our strawberry mixture completed, it’s time to combine everything into a refreshing drink or cocktail.  If making a cocktail, select your spirit of choice.  I recommend tequila, vodka, or rum.  Add some ice cubes to a glass.  If making the alcoholic version, add an ounce of alcohol to the glass. Pour in the strawberry mixture and stir.  Add a sprig of basil or mint to the glass and serve.

If you are a frozen drink person, add more ice during the blending stage to thicken this up and make a milkshake like consistency.  This is so refreshing and so fitting for the warmer months.  Enjoy the Smoked Strawberry Aqua Fresca your way as you stay cool this summer season!