Thursday, January 17, 2019

Grilled Seafood Recipe: Simple but Exquisitely Mediterranean

The raw squid and mussels ready for our grilled seafood recipe
Our Grilled Seafood Recipe for Squid and Mussels

Over the past several weeks, my good friends at SmokinLicious® Gourmet Wood Products have allowed me to make their Tips & Techniques blog platform “my home away from culinary home” to highlight the cooking with wood style.  I hope you’ve enjoyed the articles as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them.  Before I begin an extended hiatus overseas, as my thanks, I thought I’d leave you with a pretty easy and flavorful recipe that showcases all the virtues of wood grilling with a couple of my favorite seafood- squid and mussels.  The cooking style is one that is very popular in the Mediterranean region.  Give it a try and let us know how it fared!

Let’s start out with squid or “calamari” as my Italian friends remind me.  Whether it’s squid or calamari, it’s got to be fresh!  Prepare first by thawing and rinsing thoroughly with cold water.  Drizzle with a good quality of EVOO.

Grilling the Squid

Chef Calle drizzling extra virgin olive oil over the squid and MusselsGrill over the hottest part of the wood fire, cover to get a shot of wood smoke flavor.  It’s important to not overcook the calamari.  If your grill is really hot (and it should be) cook just long enough to get a grill sear mark (30-40 seconds per side) Remove immediately when ready. Drizzle again with EVOO, season with salt and pepper.  Spritz with a squeezed fresh quartered lemon section and garnish with a sprig of fresh parsley.  Plate and serve right off the grill!

Mussel Preparation

Grilling over the hottest part of the fire and spritz with lemonNext, grilling the mussels in the shell!  Rinse the shelled mussels with cold water. Remove the beard with a quick, firm yank.  Working in batches, place shelled mussels directly on grill grate over the hottest part of the wood fire.  When shells just begin to open, cover to allow for a wood smoke infusion.   After a minute, uncover and remove with tongs.  Make sure you discard any unopened mussels.  Quickly but carefully, remove the mussel meat from the opened shells with a fork or spoon and collect the meat in a mixing bowl.

Finished grilling of mussels
After shelling out the mussels, drizzle with a good amount of EVOO (1/8 cup), season with salt and pepper and a hefty spritz of a squeezed whole fresh lemon.  Plate and serve right away.  For a flavor option, if desired, before grilling the mussels, prepare a mixture of clarified butter (about 2 tablespoons per 1 dozen mussels) with equal amounts (1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon) of finely chopped garlic, oregano, and parsley.  Season the grilled mussel meat with the mixture, plate and serve with wedges of fresh lemons.

I hope you enjoy these recipes.  Keep on cooking with wood!  Bon Appetite!
Grilled calamari and mussels- great side dishes!

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Grilling & Smoking Shallots a Finesse Technique

Chef Calle's finesse technique of Grilling & Smoking Shallots on the charcoal grill using Charwood for the smoky wood flavor
Chef Calle’s finesse technique of Grilling & Smoking Shallots on the charcoal grill using Charwood for the smoky wood flavor

For all my BBQ cooking friends who have been under the assumption that grilling is only for protein food groups, (beef, pork, fish etc.) boy do I have a taste revelation that could transform you into a disciple of the vegetable sections at local farmers marketsChar Grilled and Smoked Shallots!

Using chimney starter to ignite charwoodGrilling Process

The process is fairly straightforward but doesn’t get the impression that this food item is something that you can flop on the grill grate and walk away from for an extended period of time.  Finesse is the cooking standard that must be applied to enjoy the maximum flavor result rendered from this sweet cousin of the onion family.

You can tell by my strong friendship with the folks at SmokinLicious® Gourmet Wood Products, that I’m a big advocate of grilling with a hardwood fire.  It allows for uniform cooking temperatures while simultaneously infuses food items with a natural wood smoke flavor.
So, as we begin, go about preparing your grill with only the best hardwood cooking wood and remember- never, ever start your fire with a chemically based liquid starting fluid.  Use a chimney starter!

While your grill preheats to a medium temperature, prepare the whole shallots by cutting off the tips and drizzling them with skins on using the high-quality EVOO and a touch of Kosher salt. You can even season with fresh thyme or sage and let marinate for a few minutes.

Shallot Technique

Grilled shallots are a great side dish or garnish to prepare alongside your protein or immediately after you have removed your meat to let it rest.

Charring shallots on grill gratePlace the shallots on the grate directly over the outer fringes of the embers, ideally between the smoking wood chips and outer ring of embers.  Do not place them directly over the center most concentration of the embers.  If you want a slightly stronger smoky flavor, cover.  If not, leave uncovered.

Here’s where the finesse part comes in- over the next 3-10 minutes, (depending on the heat and size of the shallots) watch over the shallots like a hawk watches over hatchlings in a nest.  Turn often, get a good char on all sides but, for Heaven’s sake – don’t allow them to ignite into a raging conflagration!  If this happens, you will lose much of the smoky sweetness and be left with a bitter tasting, burnt onion.  You can best determine a great finish when the outer skins are charred nicely while the centers have a soft, moist feel when gently squeezed with cooking tongs or fingers.

Remove from the grill, let them cool a bit.  Once cooled for 2-5 minutes lightly squeeze the charred outer skin and out will come the sweet and delicious interior.

Finished dish with tasty grilled shallots
After you experience the fabulous smoky flavor of your grilled shallots, I’m sure you’ll have a greater appreciation for all the food flavor benefits that can be had from your backyard grill!

Thursday, January 3, 2019


I’ve worked on a trio of recipes to take full advantage of the short seasonal harvest of strawberries we have here in Western New York State.  I’ve already shared with you my Smoked Strawberry Hand Pie and my Creamy Smoked Strawberry Semifreddo.  Now, it’s time for a refreshing cocktail that also features smoked strawberry.

Just grab a couple of quarts of fresh strawberries or even store bought when they are out of season in your area and pick your smoke technique: we have three options – the charcoal grill which is how I did my strawberries, the gas grill or the handheld food smoker.  Then prepare to make our version of the strawberry Bellini which has a trademark smoked strawberry to balance the sweetness of simple syrup and Prosecco.

Simple Syrup

the pot of simple syrup ingredients blending over low temperaturesAfter smoking the strawberries using either a handheld food smoker, stovetop smoker, gas grill or charcoal smoker – we have instructional videos on all these techniques – the next step for our Bellini is to make the simple syrup.  Taking 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water, I add both to a saucepan set over medium heat and stir constantly until the sugar is dissolved.  Then I remove it from heat and allow to cool.  At this point, I like to pour the simple syrup into a liquid measuring cup to make adding to our cocktail easier.

Bellini Base

strawberries and simple syrup mixture in the blender adding ice to chillTime to start making the Bellini.  I add ice cubes to a blender and pulse them into crushed ice.  I then take my smoked strawberry juice which I reserved from my previous smoked strawberries and add about 1 cup to the crushed ice.  If you’re using whole smoked strawberries, you can pulse these into the crushed ice.  After adding my smoked strawberry juice, I add about 1 cup of simple syrup.  Pulse the mixture until blended and make any necessary adjustments to ice, strawberry or syrup flavors until you have the consistency and balance of sweet and smoky that you like.  Keep in mind, you will be pouring this mixture into the glass first, then adding the sparkling Prosecco so don’t over-sweeten.

Perfect Balance

Now it’s time to bring everything together for the final drink.  First, grab a bottle of Prosecco.  Take the glass of your choice and fill it about halfway with the smoked strawberry mixture.  Fill the rest of the glass with chilled Prosecco.  I like to top my glass off with some fresh mint.  Serve immediately.  Immensely refreshing on a hot day and festive looking too. The perfect way to use less than perfect strawberries.  Cheers from SmokinLicious®!

Tasting Notes

Now, this is a drink base that easily can be adapted for other liquor content.  Feel free to add tequila, rum, even vodka.  Just reduce the hard liquor amount to 2 ounces.