Thursday, December 6, 2018

SMOKED STRAWBERRY HAND PIE

SMOKED STRAWBERRY HAND PIE being filled with the Stawberry mixture with the final result in the middle! yummy
SMOKED STRAWBERRY HAND PIE is a great recipe for fresh or frozen Strawberries. The smokiness will add a special twist

It’s one of my favorite times of year – strawberry picking season!  As my area of Western New York State has such a short strawberry season, I literally am consuming strawberries for three weeks straight.

Good thing they are packed with vitamins and minerals like Vitamin C and K, folate, potassium, magnesium, as well as being low in calories and fiber-rich.  They sure are great at filling you up which makes you eat less.

This season, I’ve got a trio of recipes all using the smoked strawberries that I’ve done on my charcoal grill.  Get yourself a flat of strawberries, follow our easy smoking technique (we do have 3 to choose from that offer various levels of smoke flavor), and prepare to make simple hand pies, perfect for the hot days of summer or frankly anytime you can find strawberries.

Grill and Strawberry Prep

As I’m using a charcoal grill, I get that started first as I want a temperature of about 300°F or slightly more when the strawberries are placed on the grill.  My grill has an insert system making it a bit easier to light my fuel.  I place my Firestarter at the base of my chimney starter in the charcoal pan that has been filled with SmokinLicious® Charwood.  I’ve also foil covered a brick to radiate additional heat to the strawberries, and placed that on one side of the charcoal area.  I will use a two-zone set-up so I don’t burn the sugars in the strawberries.  I light the Firestarter, place the chimney of charwood on top, and go to the kitchen to prepare the strawberries.

I’ll be preparing about 6 quarts for all three recipes I plan to make.  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.  Tiny ones, I leave whole.  I place my clean, trimmed strawberries into a disposable foil pan for the actual cooking on the grill, which makes clean up so easy.

Smoking

pan of strawberries on the grill with CharwoodOnce the strawberries are ready for the grill, I place one chunk of hardwood on the charwood coals.  This will add smoke flavor.  I’ve used a double filet wood chunk to control the boldness of the smoke.  The actual smoking process will only take about 15 minutes to know about halfway through, you will want to rotate your foil pan to prevent the pectin from burning.  I’ll be collecting all that thicken juice after the cook and save it for a cocktail I’m making.  Be sure to keep in mind that you’ll still have hot coals left when the smoked strawberries are done so use them for another cooking: maybe some charred peppers or onions, or even cook some meats as you’ll have plenty of heat left.

The Recipe

ingredients for our recipeWith the strawberries all smoky good, the juices thickened and rendered, it’s time to take these to the kitchen and make our hand pies.  First, drain off as much of the juice as possible and capture in a container to use for other recipes.  We have a great one for a strawberry marinade you should check out.


The dough cut outs ready for the filingNext, you’ll need about 1 cup of the smoked strawberries, pie dough either homemade or store bought; 1 tablespoon cornstarch, 2 tablespoons sugar, sanding or turbinado sugar, and one egg plus 1 teaspoon of water.  You’ll also need a rolling pin if making your own dough and flour for rolling out the dough, as well as 4-5-inch round cookie cutter.  Cut 10 rounds from your dough and refrigerate them on a parchment lined sheet pan while you prepare the filling.

The Filing

filing and closing up the doughTake the cup of smoked strawberries and add the tablespoon of cornstarch and the 2 tablespoons of sugar, mixing gently but well.  If additional juices have rendered, pour off.  Taking one dough round at a time while keeping the others refrigerated, add about 1-2 tablespoons of strawberries to one half of the round maintaining a dough border.  Brush egg “wash” around the edge of the filled side of the dough round.  Gently fold over the dough to make a crescent shape and seal the edges by pushing lightly with your fingertip to form a crimped edge.

Finishing

To finish the pies for cooking, after folding and crimping the edge, brush the surface with egg wash and sprinkle with coarse sugar.  Make a small slit in each hand pie top to allow the steam to release during cooking.  Make sure the hand pies are spaced out on the sheet pan to allow for juice spillage.  Bake in a 400° F oven for 20-25 minutes or until crust browns.  Remove from oven and allow to rest on the sheet pan for 5 minutes, then remove to a cooling rack.

Super Outcome


close up of the final baked hand pieAfter a simple smoking of 15 minutes on a charcoal grill using a two-zone cooking method, pouring off the beautiful juice, and producing a pie filling, we stuffed 4-inch dough rounds with our smoked mixture producing the perfect size hand pie.  After baking in the oven for about 25 minutes, although you can do that step as well on your grill of choice, we let them rest and then served them up a-la-natural though these are fabulous with a bit of fresh whipped cream or even a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.  Smoked Strawberry Hand Pie will be your easy dessert or snack recipe to whip up when those short-lived fresh strawberries come to town!

Tasting Notes: 

The equipment you use will reflect the boldness of the smoke.  If you want a mild smoke flavor infusion, use a handheld food smoker.  Medium boldness will be produced on the gas/LP grill, and Bold will be produced on the Charcoal grill.

We hope this recipe inspires you to try wood-fired grilling techniques with your favorite foods.  Tells us what is your favorite fruit to smoke or grill with wood and what kind of recipe do you make? 

Bringing innovation to wood-fired cooking with recipes, techniques and the science behind the fire, smoke, and flavor. That’s SmokinLicious®. Please try and leave a comment on our Smoked Strawberry Hand Pie recipe!

Thursday, November 29, 2018

BREAKFAST PIZZA PRETZEL- OVER THE FIRE!


Our Breakfast Pizza Pretzel served with Eggs!
Our Breakfast Pizza Pretzel served with Eggs
We’ve all heard the reasons why breakfast is so important – it boosts your metabolism for the day, helps curb cravings that could lead to poor food choices, helps improve memory and concentration, and can set your mood for the day.  Let’s face it.  Not all breakfast items make you leap to the table.


slice of the breakfast pizza pretzelI’m going to give you a ready-to-take-on-the-day breakfast recipe that is cooked on the grill.  The name alone is likely to bring your kids to the table easily too.  Combine the versatility of a pizza with the shape, texture, and saltiness of a pretzel, I’m making my version of a breakfast pizza pretzel featuring Mediterranean flavors you’re going to love.

Ideal Ingredients

This is one of those fun recipes where you really can’t go wrong with the ingredients you select.  Just keep in mind, that raw egg won’t necessarily be the best choice since we don’t have the same amount of dough surface to hold the raw egg until cooked.  If you want to incorporate egg, do a boiled, fried, or scrambled egg.  For my Mediterranean feature, gather the following ingredients:
  • ½ cup of basil pesto sauce (homemade or store-bought)
  • ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 3 roasted sweet peppers, sliced (I prefer to wood fire the peppers first)
  • 2 medium tomatoes sliced, with the slices cut in 1/2
  • 6 large eggs, steamed for 13 minutes
  • 5 slices of provolone cheese, cut into quarters
  • 20 basil leaves
  • 1lb. store-bought frozen bread or pizza dough, thawed and left to rise according to package directions
  • fresh ground pepper
  • coarse salt for the top of the pretzel
  • 1 egg and 1 teaspoon water for the egg wash
  • flour for rolling the dough

Our simple ingredients for this recipe eggs, tomatoes, parmessan cheese, pesto, bread or Pizza doughFirst step is to let your dough rise so make sure you either do this step a few hours before making the recipe or let the dough rise the night before.  Follow the directions on the dough packaging.

If you want to include egg in your recipe, you’ll need to steam the 6 large eggs.  I use a deep pot with a steamer insert, placing about two inches of water in the pot.  Place the eggs in the steamer basket, put the lid on the pot, put the heat to high, and set a timer for 13 minutes.  Prepare a bowl of ice water to immerse the eggs in once the timer goes off, which will halt the cooking process.  When cool, peel the eggs and slice.

After the dough has risen, you’ll need to get a couple of items ready before starting the recipe.  First, decide what type of grill you’re going to use for cooking.  A gas grill will not take as much set up time as a charcoal unit.  Either grill, you want to do a two-zone setup.  For the gas grill, that means turning on only the burners on one half of the grill.  Those lit burners will also hold the wood chunks for adding the wood flavor.  For the charcoal grill, get a chimney starter of charcoal going.  Once the embers are hot, pour into one half of the charcoal area and add a few wood chunks directly on the hot coals.  I recommend starting the grill just before you assemble the pretzel.

A Tasty Trough

With our grill heating, our dough has risen, and our ingredients at the ready, it’s time to assemble the breakfast pizza and form into our pretzel.  First, roll the dough into a 30-inch long rope.  Roll the width to where the rolling pin can sit in the center of the dough and still have an inch of dough on each side of the pin.  Taking the rolling pin, press it down the center of the dough forming a trough.  Starting with the pesto, spread a thin layer down the dough trough.  Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over the pesto, then layer the quartered tomato.  The wood-fired pepper slices are next, followed by the basil leaves, egg slices, and provolone cheese quarters.  Put a final sprinkle of Parmesan cheese to the inside and then we will seal the filling inside the dough.


Thje ingredients on the dough prior to rolling.Here comes the messy part!  Carefully, bring the two sides of the dough together pinching off where the dough meets.  Continue to seal the mixture contents all the way down the dough.  At this stage, I like to move the filled dough to my parchment lined sheet pan or pizza stone to make shaping into the pretzel shape easier.  Make your pretzel shape – make an upside down “U”; twist the ends over each other, then twist again and bring the ends up to center, pushing the holes open while you press the ends into the dough.  Once shaped, brush the surface of the dough with egg wash and then sprinkle coarse salt and Parmesan cheese over the top.  Note: you can make pretzel rods versus a traditional pretzel shape by rolling out 3-4 dough sections into 10-inch lengths, following the same directions as above on assembling.

Fire Cooking

With the pretzel on a parchment lined sheet pan or placed on a pizza stone, place on the unlit side of the grill, with a temperature of about 300°F.  Close the lid and allow to cook for 15 minutes before checking.  If you notice the side closest to the heat turning brown faster than the other side, simply rotate your sheet pan or stone.   Total cooking time will be about 25 minutes until golden brown.  Keep in mind, pretzel rods will likely cook a bit faster.

A Breakfast to Savor


Our finished doughOnce cooked through, remove from the grill and allow the pizza pretzel to rest for 5 minutes.  Cut pretzel rods on the diagonal and the twisted pretzel like you would a bundt cake; into slices.  With the freshness of the pesto and basil, the sweetness of the tomato, and salty cheese, this is a substantial breakfast that will get you full of energy for the day.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

THE ULTIMATE WOOD-FIRED CLAMS CASINO



Our wood-fired clams casino on the offset grill with brick and the finished product
Our wood-fired clams casino on the offset grill with brick and the finished product

Have you ever noticed how many ingredients go with clams?  This low fat, high protein seafood also has many beneficial minerals.  They are also one of the most sustainable seafood resources.
I thought I would provide an easy wood-fired cooking method that can be done on your charcoal grill (you certainly can modify a few setup items and do this on the gas grill as well using wood) and produce the most flavorful clams casino out there.

Go find some similarly sized clams, fire up the grill, and get ready for this recipe and technique to become your favorite.

Hot Coal Grilling

Our recipe is quite simple: gather together

    our ingredient table with everything ready for the stuffing!
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 oz. sliced pancetta or bacon, finely chopped
  • 1 cup finely diced red bell pepper
  • 1/3 cup chopped shallots
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced (you can use pre-minced garlic)
  • ¼ teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs
  • salt & fresh ground pepper
  • 18 medium clams, shucked, bottom shells reserved

Before starting on the casino filling, it’s important that you get the grill ready.  First, you’ll want to get a chimney starter of charcoal going.  I’m using SmokinLicious® charwood in place of traditional charcoal as this is a partially charred product that will also provide for some hardwood flavor infusion.  Once lit, the chimney starter needs to burn down the charwood to hot coals – no flame should be visible when you dump this into the grill.

our wire mesh on the charcoal rack to retain all the small and hot pieces
For my charcoal grill, I’ve set a mesh screen at the base of my kettle grill to allow me to retain as many hot coals as possible.  The screen helps to prevent small coals from falling through the charcoal area.   I’ve also covered brick with heavy-duty foil to act as a heat conductor and radiator.  This will help to keep a constant temperature during the actual cooking process.  The brick will also separate the cooking area from the fuel area.  A bit of unlit charwood is also added to the charcoal half of the grill so these bits can ignite from the hot coals and sustain the heat level more evenly.

Casino Mixture

With the charwood burning in the chimney starter, I can now start on the casino filling.  After adding a tablespoon of oil and cooking the pancetta or bacon in a skillet, I’ve put that aside on a paper towel lined dish and added the diced red pepper to the fat drippings in my pan.  After cooking a few minutes, I had the shallots, garlic, and parsley to the same skillet and sauté until the shallots are tender and translucent, which is about 5 minutes.  Add the white wine and simmer until it is almost evaporated.  Remove the skillet from the heat and cool completely.

our ingredients in the mixing bowl with cheese addedAssembling the Casinos

While the casino mixture is cooling, I prepare my clams.  Here you have a couple of options depending on your skill level and time management.  You can shuck the clams as normal and reserve the bottom shell with the clam, or you can steam the clams until just open, separate the top from the bottom shell, reserving the bottom shell.  I loosen the clam from the shell so it’s easier to consume with the casino mixture.  After the clams are readied, I take the cooled casino mixture and add the previously cooked pancetta or bacon, 2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan, and fresh pepper mixing well.  I then take a tablespoon of the mixture and mound it over the clam in the shell.  The finished clams are placed in a grill-proof pan.

Wood Firing Brings Depth of Flavor

With all my top neck clams stuffed with casino filling, I sprinkle the remaining Parmesan and the 2 tablespoons of panko bread crumbs over each clam.  I am now ready to place the tray on the grill.  Since I’m using a two-zone cooking method, I can safely put the lid on the grill without concern for charring these clams too far.  With a steady temperature of about 300°F, these will take between 15-20 minutes.  You can rotate the tray if you feel the heat level in your grill is not even or steady.  For those that like a crunchy outside to the clam feel free to place these under the broiler for a few minutes.  The clams pick up the wood flavor in a very balanced way, giving just hints of charry goodness with each bit.  Super easy, super flavorful, and super fun to make.  Take your clams to the wood fire for your next event.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

WHY CHAR-WOOD IS THE BETTER OPTION OVER CHARCOAL

Our Char-wood is produced by Direct firing our North American hardwood blocks until the right amount of Carbonization is achieved!
Our Char-wood is produced by Direct firing our North American hardwood blocks until the right amount of Carbonization is achieved!

Frankly, the term “charwood” may be a new one for you.  Although its function is like charcoal, the benefits clearly outweigh those of charcoal.  Let’s examine the key reasons why charwood may be the better option for outdoor cooking over standard charcoal.

 

Carbonization

Hopefully, if you’ve been engaging in outdoor grilling and/or smoking for some time. You’ve understood the need for a fuel material that burns evenly and hot.  You’ve likely also heard the controversy that’s brewed for years about what is the best product to use for the fuel.  Products range from briquets, lump hardwood charcoal, specialty wood charcoal, and compressed woods like pellets and compressed wood blocks.  The key is to understand that some of these products could contain binding agents as well as accelerants to make for easy lighting.

Carbonization is the conversion of an organic matter into carbon.  Carbon is an element that forms when the organic matter is heated to a high level without oxygen, burning off the volatile gases, leaving the pure carbon behind.   Although commercial material production, whether briquet, hardwood charcoal, or standard charcoal have different percentages of carbonization in the outcome, most are above 90%.  That high level of carbonization is what allows for heat to be produced for outdoor cooking.

 

Flavor

When you use straight charcoal briquets, you are getting heat only with no flavor as that is a fully carbonized or charred product.  Many prefer to use briquets because they are uniform in size and give the same outcome every time they are used.  Fill a chimney starter with briquets, and you’ll have the same number of briquets fit in the chimney every time.

When you use lump hardwood charcoal, you will get variation in sizing from small, chip-like pieces to half-log size pieces.  Here’s information you need to know.  Although the label may read “hardwood”, there is no information on where that hardwood derived from.  Often, manufacturers of lump hardwood charcoal produce their product from recycled materials such as old pallets, lumber scraps from flooring, cabinet, and furniture makers.  They may take in scraps from lumber mills. 

When this material is carbonized, it will do so at various levels due to the variation in material sizing.
That means when you cook with it or for that matter when you lite it, expect great variation from use to use due to all the inconsistency in sizing.  The inconsistency will produce a lower percentage of carbonized material than briquets.  So know you may get some minimal flavor from lump hardwood due to poorly carbonized larger pieces of product.  This is the reason there is more ash production with lump hardwood charcoals.

Specialty charcoals, generally made in other countries, are a particularly hard substance, light in weight product, that can be a challenge to lite.  Once they are ignited, however, they produce a lot of heat – often more than the standard briquet.  Very little ash is produced and there is no flavor from this product.

 

Benefits of SmokinLicious® Charwood

When SmokinLicious® made the decision to manufacture a charwood product, we researched extensively why the Japanese binchotan charcoal, also called white charcoal, was so popular and expensive.  We found that though it could be a challenge to lite, it burned extremely hot, clean, leaving little to no ash, produced no smoke and no flavor.  We produced a similar set up to the Japanese direct-fire method with our charwood production.  Instead of using miniature branches, we use consistently sized wood blocks.  Unlike the binchotan, we do not do a complete carbonization.  The result is you get the ease of lighting like a lump hardwood charcoal, the flavor of premium hardwood.  Plus, the reduced ash production of a briquet, and reduced smoke output than burning wood alone.  We see this as the best of all the options out there.

Now, instead of viewing your charcoal as just a heat generator, when you use SmokinLicious® charwood you have one product that can be used as fuel for temperature while the reduced carbonized center portion produces the flavor.  A premium product that gives premium results!

Friday, November 9, 2018

SNAPPER GETS WRAPPED IN CORN HUSK & COAL FIRED

Snapper Gets Wrapped in Corn Husk and is now ready to rest on our bed of coals to get roasted!
Snapper Gets Wrapped in Corn Husk and is now ready to rest on our bed of coals to get roasted!



When fresh fish comes in season, whether you catch it yourself or find your perfect catch at the seafood market or store, there is no better way to release the flavor than on the charcoal grill.  I found some splendid snapper fillets that I plan to marinate, wrap in a corn husk, and cook on the coals of my charcoal grill.  Let’s get started!

The Perfect Marinade


Fish does not require a lot of marination time so know in the time it takes the fish to absorb the marinade’s great flavors, you can set up the charcoal grill.  I like to lite the chimney starters while I make the marinade.  For that, you’ll need:
    The final blended ingredients for this tasty marinade!
  • 6 white fish fillets (tilapia, branzino, snapper)
  • ½ cup finely chopped scallion
  • 10 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup oil
  • ¼ cup lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • Salt – 1 teaspoon
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 12 pieces of soaked corn husks
Mix together the scallion, minced garlic, oil, lime juice, paprika, curry powder, salt and black pepper.  Place the fish in a baking dish or in a sealable storage bag and top with the marinade mixture.  Marinate the fish in the refrigerator for a minimum of 1 hour.

Wrapping the Snapper

It’s time to take our marinated fish and encase it in the corn husk.  If you have fish fillets that will fit in a single corn husk, then one will do.  However, if you are doing larger pieces of fish, usually over a few ounces in weight, you will need to place 2 corn husks on a work surface overlapping the husks.  Place one piece of fish on a pre-soaked corn husk wrapping the husk around the fish.  Tie the ends of the husk with meat twine noting that most of the fish is enclosed in the corn husk.  Repeat with the remaining pieces of fish.  You’ll see that what has been made is a steam packet for the fish.  The corn husk is strong enough to allow the extra marinade to stay within the husk and simply tenderize the fish.

Grill Setup


The grill has the Smokinlicious Smoker Wood Chunks around the brick and the snapper wrapped in corn husk on the grillI’m using a kettle grill with a wire mesh placed in the charcoal area to retain more of my hot coals.  Since I started the chimney starters while preparing the marinade, I pour these into the charcoal area that also holds some unlit charcoal.  On top of the hot coals, I place a couple of wood chunks which will add great flavor.   I’ve also included a foil-covered brick to act as a heat conductor and retention device.  This is a two-zone setup.  I’ll keep the hot coals and wood going on one side of the brick and place my corn husked fish on the other side of the brick.  In less than 20 minutes, these will be ready to go, fully cooked, and full of moisture.

Coal Fired to Perfection

Our finished Snapper wrapped in corn husk opened to show this wonderful method of cooking fishKnow that when you coal or ember cook foods, the temperature even from these small embers is high.  The grill will average between 300-350° F for the cooking.  There is no need to turn the corn husks, just simply monitor to ensure they don’t catch fire.  A spray bottle of water on hand is helpful at this stage.  In the end, the char flavor will penetrate the husk and produce the most fantastic flavor to the fish.  Simply cut the ties from the corn husk ends and enjoy the fish with your favorite sides.  There is nothing like natural fire cooking for fish.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

WHY WE WON’T SELL PRODUCT ON AMAZON ®

Our shopping cart full of products ready to be shipped to customers by FedEx. Shipping is included in our price which is why we won’t sell product on amazon
Our shopping cart full of products ready to be shipped to customers by FedEx. Shipping is included in our price which is why we won’t sell product on Amazon.

I won’t deny that I am just as guilty as the next person when it comes to wanting more out of every 24 hours I can get.  This is the main reason why I am an internet shopper.  I rarely frequent an actual retail store aside from a wholesale club to purchase office supplies and the occasional trip to the grocery store.

I also won’t deny that I am an avid Amazon.com shopper!  Just about everything you can think of, I have purchased: clothes, specialty paint, make-up, kitchen supplies, food products, small appliances, area rugs – like I said, just about every category they offer.

So why aren’t SmokinLicious® products offered for sale on Amazon.com?

“Negative” Feedback Services

Today, there is literally a service for anything and everything.  That includes services to pay individuals to post negative reviews on a seller’s product and services.  Let me be clear.  SmokinLicious® certainly has had negative issues arise from time to time in the past 13 years.  When they occur, we have our own procedure in place for remedying the situation which often results in great appreciation from the customer and a brand loyalty relationship developing.  However, when negative feedback occurs when selling on Amazon.com, it can take a little as .0008% reported issues of the total products sold to kick you out as a seller!  Kicking you out means you’ve lost all the inventory costs you started out with as Amazon.com ties up your account.

Open Market for Copy Cats

As anyone who has been in business for themselves can attest to, you spend months working on verbiage for your products, photo imagery for a gallery, and unique header descriptors to bring attention and get you sales.  The last thing you want is someone stealing your work and posting to a seller’s listing on Amazon.com.  That can and has happened!  When it does, you are obligated to show proof of ownership of all content if you want to bring issue against an Amazon.com seller.

Worse yet, the other seller may be allowed to continue to sell a product that looks exactly like yours but maybe lesser quality in similar packaging!  Plus, it is easy for your photo to be high-jacked and replaced with another image to cause high percentages of returns.  Remember, there is a return option that states the item “does not match description,” allowing the buyer to make the return easily while you get a demerit from Amazon.com.

Sinking Price Margin

By far this is the number one issue for my brand to use Amazon.com.  For a good majority of shoppers on this site, they are price driven in their choices.  Imagine SmokinLicious® Grande Sapore® wood chips going against the company that sweeps wood shavings off the floor from their flooring or cabinet making business, placing them in a cheap plastic bag, and slapping a simple label over the bag.  That company can afford to list the price at $3.99 a bag when they have no extra costs involved for the material, just the cheap packaging.  We are not in the market to compete on price.  We are in the market to compete on quality and purity of product.  That’s it!

For the brand SmokinLicious®, we are all about quality, safety, legitimacy, and value!  Our goal is to enable anyone around the globe who enjoys wood-fired cooking to do without having to think about the cleanliness and type of wood.  We’ve selected the safest hardwoods to cook with, stripped them of all the impure bark, reduced the wood to just heartwood so you have the fillet of the tree and dialed in the moisture so you have success at the grill, smoker or plancha every time.  You’ll find us online 24/7 to fill your needs in North America, the UK, and soon, in South Africa and New Zealand.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

FIRE ROASTED PEPPER MAKE THE PERFECT SALAD

Our fire Roasted Pepper make the perfect Salad with these white beans!
Our fire Roasted Pepper make the perfect Salad with these white beans!



If you are a follower or subscriber of ours, then you’ve likely seen our recommendations for charring peppers on the hot coals using an open pit, fireplace, charcoal grill or even gas grill.  It’s so easy yet gives such a flavorful outcome to use in all types of recipes.

I’m giving you a salad recipe that is hearty enough to be a salad entrée or the perfect side for your favorite protein.

Gather Simple Ingredients


Simple ingredients make this wonder salad

I truly believe anyone can do both the charred pepper technique and make this salad without any difficulty.  Here are the ingredients you’ll need to bring the salad to life:

  • 6 charred peppers, skinned, seeded, and quartered
  • 2 anchovy fillets packed in olive oil, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1 (15 oz.) can white beans, drained and rinsed
  • ¼ ounce Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 cup packed spicy baby greens like arugula or watercress

In addition to the ingredients, you’ll need salt, pepper, a bowl, and whisk.

Vinaigrette Is Key


Making the VinaigretteYou’ll want to get any larger pepper slices cut down into thinner slices.  Once the peppers are evenly sized, it’s time to season them with salt and fresh ground pepper.  Do this by laying them out on a platter.  Taking a small bowl, it’s time to make the vinaigrette. Start putting the anchovies, garlic, vinegar, oil, and parsley in the bowl and whisk together.  Add the beans and toss to coat with the vinaigrette.  Season the mixture with salt and fresh ground pepper.  You can taste and adjust the vinegar and seasonings until it fits your taste.  Now prepare the serving dish to assemble the salad.

Simple Layers of Flavor

With the peppers charred and vinaigrette made, it’s time to assemble the salad.  Start by laying out the peppers on a platter or serving dish.  Spoon the bean mixture over the top of the peppers and top with spicy greens like baby arugula or watercress.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.  That’s it!
our finished pepper and bean salad
This is a perfect side with a great steak, ribs, chicken or fish.  It’s hearty enough to use as a main entrée as well for those looking for a healthier meal.  It’s especially refreshing during the warmer seasons.  Remember, char extra peppers and freeze them so you can pull them out for this fabulous recipe any time of the year.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

WHY IS MY BARBECUE MEAT DRY??

Our suggestive tips to avoid WHY IS MY BARBECUE MEAT DRY
The best way to keep meat moist while smoking is to follow the recommended cooking temperatures for meats!


You thought you timed the meat perfectly on your smoker or grill.  When it came time to cut it, all you found was a gray, dry former piece of meat staring back at you.

 

What went wrong?

Don’t fall into your old habits when it comes to outdoor cooking, whether you’re using a traditional wood or electric smoker, charcoal grill or gas grill.  Learn some easy tips to keep your foods juicy and enticing this outdoor cooking season.

 

Tip #1: Own a Good Meat Thermometer

There is no way around it!  You need to own a good meat thermometer.  That is truly the only way to know when meats are done before you keep them on the grill or smoker too long.  There is no one internal temperature that is good for all meats either!  Don’t think because you cook chicken until 160°F that this is the ideal temperature for beef, lamb, fish, pork, and sausage.

 

Tip #2: Know Ideal Food Temperatures

It is vital that you know when to pull the meat off a grill or smoker.  All chicken and turkey need to cook until 160°F (71°C).  Ham, sausage and hot dogs should have a minimum temperature of 140°F (60°C).  Pork including ribs and shoulder need to register 145°F (63°C) while pork steak, chops, roasts can have a range based on doneness preference: 120-130°F (49-54°C) for rare, 130-135°F (54-57°C) for medium-rare/medium, 145-155°F (63-68°C) for medium-well, and 155°F (68°C) and above for well-done.  Beef, lamb, and venison range 120-130°F (49-54°C) for rare, 130-145°F (54-63°C) for medium, 145-155°F (63-68°C) for medium-well, and over 155°F (68°C) for well-done.

 

Tip #3: Flip, Flip, Flip

When you grill over high heat, it becomes vital that you learn to flip more often.  The results will be better flavor, better color to the food, even doneness and a quicker cooking time.  The flip ensures that only even heat levels get in instead of too high which results in a burnt, charred mess.

 

Tip #4: Moist Burgers Every Time

Burgers can become extremely dry due to the higher heat level they are cooked over.  To keep as much moisture into the meat, here are a couple of tricks.  The first is to add 1-2 tablespoons of either mayo or Greek yogurt to your ground meat or turkey.  Mix well then form into your burgers. I sometimes like to mix in ricotta cheese!  Or you can add an herb-butter patty to the center of the burger to add moisture.  Be sure to follow Tip #3 with burgers!

 

Tip #5: Consider Marinating

Although you can now purchase cuts of meat in most stores pre-marinated, I beg you to do this step yourself to control the additives and preservatives that are commonly found in the prepackaged items.  Marinating cuts of meats, especially thinner cuts, produces great flavors and can make for a moister experience as the liquid finds the cracks and crevices on the meat.  It helps to make small slices in the cut of meat to help with the marinade absorption.  There really is no need to marinate overnight though you can do that.  Just know that a couple of hours for meat in a marinade is enough to produce a great outcome.  Plus, marinated foods reduced the unhealthy chemical compounds that can form when you use a hot grilling technique.

 

Tip #6: Considering Brining

A brine is a wet, salty, slightly sweet mixture that you soak your meat in.  The salt and sugar react with the protein in meats to help retain moisture.  It’s like having a protective moisture-shield around the meat.

 

Tip #7: Use an Indirect Method of Cooking

An indirect or two-zone cooking method refers to using one side of your equipment for heat while the other side is used for the actual food placement.  By keeping the lid on the grill or smoker, you will retain the heat and radiate it throughout the grill.  If you want to produce a crust on your food, you can easily move it to the direct fireside for a few minutes to accomplish that.  On a gas grill, you would lite the burners on only one side of the grill.  On a charcoal grill or smoker, you would place and lite the charcoal on just one side of the charcoal area.

 

Tip #8: Foil Wrap

Aluminum foil, the heavy-duty kind, works wonders at keeping foods moist.  By adding 1-2 ounces of liquid to the foil with the meat placed inside and any other ingredients you want to incorporate flavors from, you allow steam to be produced inside the packet and keep everything super moist.   Just be sure you crimp the foil tightly around the food so nothing escapes.

 

Tip #9: Extend the Cooking Time

If you’re able to plan out your outdoor cooking event, then consider doing a combination of a two-zone cooking method with lower level temperature cooking.  Any time you can cook at a lower temperature for a longer time, you allow the collagen in meat to breakdown producing a gelatin that releases great flavor.  The two-zone cooking method will allow the meat to receive heat in every direction at an even level.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

SMOKED BONE BROTH FOR HEALTH & FLAVOR

Our Smoked Bone Broth starts with Great Beef bones trimmed on the gas grill
Our Smoked Bone Broth starts with Great Beef bones trimmed on the gas grill


Know up front, that making broth from bones has been in our human history for a very long time.  It’s not new but I will say that over the past several years, it has gained in popularity for its health benefits and ability to cleanse the body.

Here’s what has been reported to improve when you consume bone broth: ease joint pain, reduce or prevent degenerative joint disease, promote hair and nail growth, enrich the blood, aid in digestion, build muscle, boost the immune system, and improve memory.

Bone broth is all about depth of flavor.  I am going to dig deeper into the flavor option and smoke the bones rather than roast them to bring an umami-type flavor to my broth.  Warning: you will need about 12-14 hours for the entire process so be sure to plan for this timing.

 

Grill Set Up

The gas grill I’m using is equipped with 4 burners and heat shields over those burners.  I’ll be preheating my grill using all 4 burners then shutting off the two burners on the left side and reduce the heat level to medium-low on the right side.  I add two wood chunks to the heat shields on the lit side of the grill.  Then on to my bones on the left side grill grate, where the burners are turned off.  These will stay on the grill for about 3 hours, with one turning of the bones at the halfway point.  Then off the grill and into a stock pot go my smoked bones for the start of the broth.

 

Simmering We Go

Our Smoked beef bones in the pot simmering with vegetables!
The extra depth of the smoke flavor will be gently revealed in our broth and does not overpower or obsolete the benefits of the broth.  To start the broth process, place the bones in the pot and fill the stockpot with cold, clean water.  Be sure the water is about four inches above the bones.  Allow the bones and water to come to a rapid boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer.  The bones should simmer for a least 6 hours.  During that time, you can check and skim off any impurities from the top with a spoon.  While they are simmering you can prepare the vegetables, herbs, and spices that will be added to the mix.

 

Mirepoix and More

Now it’s time to add even more nutritional value to our broth.  Start by selecting the aromatic vegetables for your mirepoix.  I’ve taken leeks, carrot, celery, Napa cabbage, and a few broccoli stems.  To this, I’ve also included about 8 cloves of garlic, thyme, basil leaves, and a ¼ cup cider vinegar.  Place everything in the pot and stir to mix and submerge.  Cover the pot and allow this to simmer for about 8 hours.  Enjoy the great smell that will fill your home!

 

Strain and Portion

You’ve been smelling this awesome bone broth for nearly 14 hours so now it’s time to strain it and prepare to portion it out for future use.
Straining out the cooked vegetables leave a clear broth
If you’ve used a large stockpot, you may need a couple of additional pots for the straining as the contents get heavy to pour.  Once the clear broth is extracted with all the great nutritional value intact, remove the strainer and feel free to compost your vegetable/herb mixture.  Allow the broth to cool and skim off any settled fat from the top layer.  Then portion out the broth and get ready to enjoy its health benefits anytime.

This can be consumed as it for maximum detox benefit, in soups, or to make sauces – any way you can use broth.  I’m starting off by making a bowl of pho with sprouts, soba noodles, mushrooms, spring onion, and of course, my piping hot, flavorful, smoked bone broth.

Serving our smoked Bone Broth for a very satisfying meal!Stater Ingredients for Bone Broth

  • 6-8 lbs. of beef bones
  • 1 lb. celery
  • 2 lbs. onion
  • 1 lb. carrot
  • 4-6 bay leaves
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • ¼ bunch fresh thyme
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar

Thursday, October 4, 2018

YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT – APPLIES TO WOOD COOKING

"You are what you eatII" saying is more true today than it was years ago!
“You are what you eat” saying is truer today than it was years ago!



We’ve all heard it, likely from our mothers.  You are what you eat.  If you truly understand the meaning of the statement, you know that we extract necessary nutrients from the foods we ingest to energize and stabilize our bodies.  The nutritional content of what we eat determines the composition of our cell membranes, bone marrow, blood, and hormones.  Every day we lose cells which is why the foods we consume are so vital to our body’s health.

Like Any Other Food Choice

If you’ve been a follower of my writings then you are aware of the stress I put on recognizing the wood used to cook foods is just as important an ingredient as the cut of meat, choice of spices, quality of oil, etc.  There has been a lot of focus on the origin of food and how important it is to source locally both as a means of supporting local business and to control what you’re putting in your body. 

From our perspective, you want to know that the wood used for cooking is sourced close to the growing area.   This ensures that there is knowledge about how the wood is processed before it gets to you and it assures the freshest product.

Minimal Processing

Just as with the clean food concept which focuses on minimally processed foods and as direct from nature as possible, SmokinLicious® holds to the same approach.  Sourcing wood from forest regions (direct from nature) that are in close proximity to our manufacturing facility, provides us with the unique advantage to process into the various cooking products the hardwoods harvested that meet our strict criteria: 100% bark-free (we don’t allow any bark-on product to cross our threshold), 100% heartwood (no outer cores of the tree cross our threshold), harvested hardwood that is less than 6 months of age (ensures this is still a “green” product), chemical-free (no pesticide or growth enhancement techniques employed), and in raw state to allow us to process it into a suitable cooking wood size.

The Risks

If you love foods that are cooked with wood, then you should know a few specifics to keep you on the path to health and long life.

Hardwoods only!

  • Softwoods or coniferous woods should never be used for cooking as they have elevated sap levels and more air in their cell structure. This causes them to burn fast, produce lots of sparks, and unpleasant flavors that are not ideal for flavoring foods. These include pine, redwood, cedar, fir, spruce, hemlock, larch, cypress.

Toxicity Risks:

  • There are many known toxicities in certain species of wood with softwoods containing the highest risk. Other woods have the potential to cause sickness and in some cases death if a person’s system is already compromised. Most of the risks are associated with the cooking process rather than the ingestion of the actual wood-fired food. But know that if a balance of the wood-tar creosote is not found, then the ingestible risks of the food heighten.  One of the best means of obtaining a balance is by starting with hardwoods that are considered safe for cooking, are clean, are bark-free, and derive from the inner cores rather than outer of the wood, where more impurities lurk.

Cooking Technique Influence Risk:

  • At some point, I’m sure you’ve read about heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). These are the chemicals that form when meats, poultry, and fish are cooked using higher temperature methods like grilling. Why does this pose a health risk?  Because these chemicals cause changes in DNA and when you change DNA and they are metabolized by specific enzymes in the body, you can increase the risk of cancer associated with these compounds.  There is no definitive link between HCA and PAH exposure from cooked meats and cancer in humans.  There is no way to differentiate between other exposures to the chemicals from the food exposure.
HCAs are found to only be associated with meat cooked at high temperatures. While PAHs can be found in other smoked foods.  Remember, PAHs are also in cigarette smoke and fumes from car exhaust.  A recommendation is to remove any charred portions of meat, continuously turning meat over the high heat source, and avoiding direct exposure of meat to the open flame to reduce exposure.  Here’s a tip that can also reduce the risk of forming HCAs – marinate your foods for at least 10 minutes.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

SMOKED STRAWBERRY MARINADE

Our smoked strawberries work perfectly to make a smoked strawberry marinade for our pork or any other meat!
Our smoked strawberries work perfectly to make a smoked strawberry marinade for our pork or any other meat!



If you’re like me, you love strawberries for the incredible juice they contain.  One of my favorite ways to capture the essence of that juice is to smoke the strawberries on a grill.  Not only do you end up with phenomenal smoked strawberries but the juice the grilling/smoking process renders is a must-have ingredient for so many recipes.  I took a batch of the smoked juices and made a fabulous marinade for fish, chicken, turkey, pork, lamb, and goat.

 

The Simple Grilling Method

Strawberries on the gas grill with the double filet on the lite burnerWhether you elect to use a standard gas grill or a charcoal grill, you’ll want to use wood chunks from SmokinLicious® to bring clean smoke flavors to the strawberries.  You can visit our previous articles on smoking on a gas or charcoal grill in Dr. Smoke’s Tips and Technique.

For me, I’m using a gas grill equipped with single filet wood chunks.  I prefer to use more mild hardwoods when smoking fruits like Ash, Alder, Cherry, and Maple.
 
I simply lay out my fresh strawberries on a sheet pan or disposable foil tray after cleaning and trimming the stems.  I place the pan on the unlit side of my grill using a medium heat setting on the burners that are on the opposite side.  It will take less than 30 minutes to bring the strawberries to the smoky side.  After the strawberries are tenderly smoked and the juices have rendered, I carefully remove the tray and all the strawberries to cool slightly.  I then transfer the juice to a bowl to be used in my marinade.

 

The Smoked Strawberry Marinade Recipe

This marinade is so simple yet really packs great flavor.  Of course, the longer you marinate your protein, the better the outcome.  For one cup of marinade you’ll need:
  • 1 cup of smoked strawberry juice
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 2 tablespoons blueberry balsamic vinegar or similar fruity flavor
  • ¼ cup Cajun seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon ground chipotle pepper
In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients.  Select your protein: I recommend chicken, turkey, pork, lamb, or goat.  Place the protein in the bowl and coat completely with marinade.  Place the marinated protein in a resealable food storage bag, pouring the remaining marinade into the bag, and seal tightly.  Refrigerator for a minimum of 2 hours but preferably overnight


Our pork roast and smoked strawberry marinade
Now you can choose the cooking method to bring all the flavors together.  Grill, oven roasting or even smoking.  Once you’ve selected your cooking method, remove the marinated meat from the bag and cook until done.  Remember, the marinade has been used on raw meat so you cannot reuse it as it will contain some bacteria.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

WILDFIRE SMOKE TAINT IS THE BBQ COOK’S UMAMI

WILDFIRE SMOKE TAINT grapes may add some bold tastes
WILDFIRE SMOKE TAINT grapes may add some bold tastes


I came across a fascinating article in Wine Spectator (June 15, 2018) that made me salivate.  The article focused on the wildfires of California, specifically Northern California, in October 2017 that had vineyards struggling with grapes that had not yet been harvested for wine production and were exposed to the fire’s smoke.

Smoke taint.  That is the smoky flavors grapes will pick up from traveling smoke gases and particles
that become airborne with the wind.  Even if a vineyard did not experience the fire directly, it can be affected by the traveling smoke.  That is the key though: a vineyard may or may not contain smoke taint in the grapes.

 

Lab Research

There were many California wineries that sent grape and juice samples to labs for analysis to determine if compounds indicative of smoke exposure existed (probability is said to be 70% with testing).  Specifically, they test for the primary volatile phenols present in smoke.  This research and technique have its base in extensive research done in Australia who experience bushfires more commonly than Californians experience wildfires.

If these volatile phenols are found in the sample, this means the waxy cuticle of the grape skin absorbed the compounds forming glycosides.  At this stage, the phenols are not detectable by smell or taste.  Once the fermentation begins, the acids break down the bond making the phenols volatile again.  Additionally, our own mouths can breakdown remaining glycosides releasing the smoky flavors when the wines are consumed.

 

What to Do

Though there is a risk to white wines, these tend to be less susceptible to smoke taint since most are not fermented on their skins.   Wines fermenting in tanks and barrels during the fires also appear protected by the layer of carbon dioxide that forms.

For those wines found to have the smoke taint, the vineyard is faced with options:
  • minimize the skin contact by adjusting the grape press
  • use lighter toasted oak barrels for the fermentation
  • bottle the tainted wine under a different label
  • sell the wine on the bulk market to be blended into an inexpensive wine
  • sell the wine to distilleries

 

BBQ Umami

I have another idea!  Along the lines of selling the wine to another user, why not market this to Chefs, cooks, and barbecue enthusiasts who understand and desire those charry undertones.  Think about the sauces, marinades, glazes, and assorted other uses these tainted wines could be used in.

Think about how many people use handheld food smokers to get a smoky undertone to liquids, whether a cocktail, syrup, juice, even water.  With a bottle of this tainted wine, blooming with an ashy component, you have ready-made umami for those of us searching for the perfect ingredient to bring a balanced smoky undertone to a recipe.

Here’s my suggestion: think about contacting one of these vineyards to see if they would be willing to sell you some unmarked bottles.  They wouldn’t have to label them with their pristine brand, just sell it as is to those of us who love that undertone.

Some of the vineyards with tainted wine: The Hess Collection, Jackson Family Wines, Jarvis Wines.

I don’t know about you, but I’m sure going to try to get my hands on at least a couple of bottles of the smoke-tainted wine as my recipes are just waiting for this special ingredient!

Thursday, September 13, 2018

CHARRED PEPPER DIP

Our Ember roasted peppers make an awesome Charred Pepper Dip
Our Ember roasted peppers make an awesome Charred Pepper Dip


Peppers are one of those thick-skinned vegetables that release their ultimate flavor when they are introduced to hot coals.  Many people think that you need special equipment to cook foods in hot coals but really, it’s as easy as having a disposable pan available and a grill.  I’ll give you some options for roasting the peppers and then provide a great recipe to be used as a dip or topping that is quick and so easy.

 

Multiple Charring Methods


The ember cooking of our sweet peppersAlthough you will see me using an open pit method of charring my sweet peppers, you can do this on a gas grill set up with either a disposable foil pan or a cast iron pan or skillet.  You can also use a charcoal grill, lighting a fire and allowing it to reduce to simple hot embers.  A portable fire pit works if you clean out all previous ash and wood pieces to keep the final flavors clean.

Here’s the key to making perfect charred peppers, whether sweet or hot.  You must only use hot embers and you need to have additional hot embers available to keep a consistent temperature and a full bed of coals.

Because peppers are loaded with water, it is easiest to clean the skins and seeds from them once they are fire roasted.  If you cover the charred peppers placed in a bowl with plastic wrap, the skins will pull away easily.  Then you’re ready for your favorite recipes.

 

Fresh Ingredients Make This Dip

What makes this recipe so great is that there are only a few flavorful ingredients that balance out the charry, smoky flavor of the peppers.  For this recipe, you’ll need the following:

    the simple ingredients need
  • 6 charred peppers
  • 1 cup golden raisins, coarsely chopped (6 ounces)
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons salt-packed capers, rinsed and well drained
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons coarsely chopped fresh oregano
  • A coarse salt such as sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon Red-wine vinegar
Once the peppers are charred, I like to quarter them before placing in a food processor.  You can use a blender as well if you have a control to pulse the ingredients as you don’t want to thin them too much.  After pulsing the 6 charred peppers, add the raisins, oil, capers, and oregano.  Pulse to combine everything.  Season with salt and vinegar.  This dip can be refrigerated for one day prior to use.

 

Endless Uses

This dip/topping made from ember-roasted sweet pepper contains all vegan ingredients so its super flavorful while being healthy too.  Here’s the best part – it has so many uses and can be altered for a specific taste.  Use it as a topping for fish, chicken filet sandwiches, or sausage patties and links.  It can be heated providing an option to use it as a hot appetizer or cold.  I’ve served this will flatbread or Naan slices for a snack, appetizer, or lite lunch.  Want some kick to it?  You can add ember fired hot peppers as well or just add a few drops of hot sauce to the mix.  Because this is oil based, it is best to use up any leftovers within a few days, keeping it refrigerated until gone.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

WOOD FIRED GRILLED WATERMELON BECOMES A STAR

We do a summer favorite WOOD FIRED GRILLED WATERMELON!


You may have seen segments on grilling watermelon before which show slices of watermelon on a standard gas grill.  Although I agree that the heat generated from the grill will produce a sweet outcome, there is no comparison to doing a grilling technique that incorporates wood for added flavor.

In this segment, I’ll show you how to grill watermelon on a grill of your choice with wood chunks for the unique combination of sweet and char flavors that only comes from grilling with wood.

 

Easy Prep

I think this is by far, the easiest preparation for the grill.  All you need is a watermelon of your choosing and a grill; gas, electric or charcoal.  Just 2-3 wood chunks from SmokinLicious® and about 20 minutes once you have a lit grill, and this method of bringing flavor to the standard watermelon will be complete.

As watermelon contains a lot of water, it is essential that you work with a medium heat setting on your gas grill and hot coals with a moderate flame for the charcoal grill.  If using a gas grill, be sure to set up the wood chunks on just one side of the grill and allow the chunks to smolder first so there is plenty of smoke vapor.  Since watermelon grills in no time at all, you want to have enough smoke vapor produced to give a great tasty outcome for both a gas grill or charcoal grill method.  Electric smokers are self-contained allowing for simple dialing in about 15 minutes worth of smoking time.

our slices ready to be wood fired!
For the watermelon, cut lengthwise in half and cut each half into individual slices about 1-1/2 to 2” thick.  Or, you can remove all the rind and grill just the watermelon meat.  Keep fire safe tongs at the ready so you can turn the watermelon slices just once as they evaporate some water and sweeten up.  DO NOT leave the grill!  This fruit requires a careful watch so stay put and you’ll have every piece cooked to perfection.

 

So Many Uses

Our finished wood fired grilled watermelonYou’ll see how the watermelon darkens in color, get bits of char coloring to the skin, and is less water soluble.  That’s the perfect outcome.  Now it’s time to think about how to use your wood flavored melon.


First, you can enjoy it as is.  When I serve this naked, I just give one additional flavor such as fresh, chopped mint.   But if you’re looking for a lunch or lite dinner entrée, think salad by including some baby arugula, goat cheese and a splash of balsamic vinegar.  For a spicy version, sprinkle the wedges with red pepper flakes, a bit of granulated sugar, and lime zest.  Wood fired watermelon also works great with other summer favorites like grape and cherry tomato, pepper slices, sugar snow peas, and cucumber.  No matter how you choose to serve it, grilled watermelon with wood flavoring is going to top your list of grilled favorites.

Proving that there’s more to wood-fired cooking than just animal proteins, SmokinLicious® brings you great ideas for recipes featuring a wood-fired ingredient.  Bringing you tips, techniques, recipes and the science behind the fire and smoke.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

WOOD FIRED LEG OF LAMB

Our collage of cooking the leg of lamb, finished and cut leg of Lamb
Our Wood Fired Leg of Lamb


Lamb is one of those proteins that tend to be associated with special holidays and occasions rather than as a common animal protein to introduce to the grill.  Let’s change that with this easy and highly flavorful way to add wood flavoring to cuts of lamb on the charcoal grill.  Know this technique can easily be done on the gas grill as well so simply pick your equipment and follow the suggested technique to bring abundant flavor and juiciness to your favorite cut of lamb.

I’ll be doing a leg of lamb and rib loins of lamb on a charcoal grill using charcoal and wood chunks to bring the great smoke flavor.

 

Grill Set Up

For the charcoal grill, I like to have a fine mesh screen in place over the charcoal area to utilize even the smallest ember for the heat and temperature control of cooking on the grill.  I get two chimney starters of charcoal (I’m using lump hardwood) ready. My grill will have three rib loins plus a leg of lamb on it.  I also get about four wood chunks – I’m using Single Filet sizing from SmokinLicious® in ash, sugar maple, and wild cherry – ready to go on top of the hot coals once poured into the charcoal area.
Our red hot Charwood ready for cooking!For a gas grill set up, pre-heat the grill to maintain a cooking temperature of 275°-300°F.  Use only the heat of the burners on one side of the grill, while the other side remains off. The lamb will be placed on the grill with the burners in the “off” position.  This is the indirect method of cooking and is an easy way to ensure that the lamb cooks without burning the skin and that you don’t have to babysit the grill!  Wood chunks would be placed either directly on the heat shields of the lit burners or in a smoker box or disposable pan set on the lit burners.

 

A Flavorful Drip Pan

Before the fire is started, I’ve prepared a drip pan containing Syrah wine, rough cut onion, garlic, and mint leaves to catch the renderings from the meat and prevent flare-ups on my direct method charcoal grill.  If using a gas grill, this pan would go under the grill grate where the meat is placed.   Another benefit to the drip pan is it adds flavor to the cooking environment producing an aromatic convection steam.   Since the leg of lamb is thickest, it will go on the grill about 45 minutes ahead of the loins. The leg must maintain a temperature of 275° to 300°F on the grill.  I insert a temperature probe in the thickest portion of the leg to ensure internal temperature.

Our drip pan with Syrah wine, onions, garlic and fresh mint 

Flavorful, Easy Grilling

After 45 minutes of initial cooking to the leg of lamb only, it’s time to add the rib lions.  Since I have a total of three loins, it is a full grill.  The temperature probe will remain in the leg of lamb as this will determine when everything comes off the grill to rest.  It can be a challenge to add charcoal when the grill grate is full and your cooking on a kettle grill, but if you keep a helper nearby, and you have chimney starter ready with hot coal, this won’t be a huge issue.  Our lamb has been oiled and rubbed with fresh herbs, garlic, and seasoning.  Just a few hours of wood grilling to perfection in flavor.

 

The Finish

One of the tricks to grilling with wood on either a charcoal or gas grill is to have a plan on how to maintain the main protein while not depleting any of the moisture.  I love to use insulated blankets, the kind you purchase for a hot water tank.  They work perfectly at maintaining the meat’s temperature so you can be up to an hour away from serving.  I wrap the meat in foil and then in the insulated blanket.  Sometimes, I’ll use a cooler if I’ve run out of places to put foods for a big gathering.

The beautiful, flavorful skin on the lamb is a mahogany color providing just the right amount of bite to each piece, courtesy of cherry, maple and ash hardwoods.  We are serving our lamb with a Jasmine rice and wood-fired Brussels sprouts and carrot, along with a wood-fired Canadian salmon.  Remember, lamb doesn’t have to be reserved for the special occasion.  It’s readily available throughout the year and is a perfect protein to add to the grill.

The cut slice of our leg of lamb surrounded by our colorful wood fired finished product! 

Tasting Notes:

To tone down the boldness of the smoke, always reach for hardwoods that are lighter in flavor tones.  These would include Alder, Ash, and Wild Cherry.

Cooking the lamb on a charcoal grill will impart stronger wood flavorings than a gas grill. Especially if you use a direct method of cooking (food is placed directly over the charcoal and wood).

Thursday, August 23, 2018

SMOKED MAPLE SYRUP MARINADE

Smoke trapped in the bottle infusing the Smoked Maple Syrup Marinade
Smoke trapped in the bottle infusing the Smoked Maple Syrup Marinade
A point that I regularly try to drive home is that when it comes to smoking foods and ingredients, it doesn’t have to be the traditional items thought of.  A great example of this is our Dijon Maple Marinade recipe that is especially good with pork.

When you don’t want to smoke the actual protein, think about smoking another ingredient that will be married to the pork.  For me, that was the maple syrup I use in my marinade recipe.  I’ll review for you the cold smoking technique for this and then provide my recipe for this great marinade that can be used on fish, chicken, turkey, pork, and goat.

 

The Simple Cold Smoke Method

I’m sure you’ve read or seen some type of information for cold smoking cocktails, cheese, salt, and spices.  This technique is easiest when you use one of the many types of handheld food smokers on the market today.

For my method of smoking maple syrup, I’ve selected the Gourmia® Mini Smoker which works best with a very clean, dust-free micro wood chip to produce the smoke for infusion.  This is easily available from SmokinLicious®, offering a variety of sizing to fit your need in 8 hardwood species.  I’ll be using the Minuto® Wood Chip Size #8 for this smoking infusion.

I’ve found the easiest method of smoking and maintaining the maple syrup, is to use a glass container like a wine bottle.  Just be sure that the container is completely clean and dry.

I place about one cup of maple syrup in the glass bottle.  Taking the tubing of the Gourmia® Mini Smoker, I place the end in the glass bottle.  Taking just a finger size pinch or two of the wood chips, I place in the handheld food smoker’s chip bowl and then ignite the wood chips with a lighter while turning the unit’s fan on.  Once the smoke is generated, I turn the unit’s van off and allow the bottle to fill with smoke.  Save a cork as you can use it to plug the bottle allowing for maximum infusion of the smoke.  Be sure to rotate the bottle to allow for the smoke to travel completely within the maple syrup.

 

Look at how nicely the glaze colors our pork roast- the maple syrup adds a nice sweet touch

The Smoked Maple Syrup Marinade Recipe

Once the maple syrup has been smoked, it’s time to collect the other ingredients and make our marinade.  Using equal parts smoked NYS maple syrup Grade A and Dijon mustard, I add 3 tablespoons of lime juice and fresh ground pepper and whisk until just combined.  Taking a storage bag, I place a 4 lb. boneless pork roast inside, then pour in my Smoked Maple Syrup-Dijon Marinade.  Sealing the bag, I place the bag in the refrigerator for a least 4 hours though I prefer to marinate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 325° F.  Place the marinated roast in a roasting pan with rack.  This will take about 75 minutes to reach 145° F internal temperature.  About halfway through the cooking process, I rotate the cooking pan and spoon some of the pan juices back over the roast.  That will give it a beautiful bronze finish.  Remove from the oven and cut into ½” slices.  The Aroma-taste of pure maple joy with a smoky kick!

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