Where There’s Smoke, There’s Flavor

Photo Credit: Williams Sonoma.

Photo Credit: Williams Sonoma.

As the weather cools off, cravings for richer, more complex flavors supplant summer’s light and simple tastes. Smoke brings both complexity and depth of flavor to whatever ingredient it touches, and without a lot of fuss or extra fat. Consider culinary smoking the healthiest smoking you’ll ever take part in. Smoking food fast tracks the flavors and brings an intensity hard to duplicate with any other method or ingredient. All these culinary achievements don’t have to come with extensive effort or a heavy price tag. You can easily (though for a pretty penny- usually around $300 for a cheaper model) purchase a home smoker that will do most of the work for you, but there are ways around this expense. You can purchase the Camerons Products Stovetop Smoker for around $55, and imbue everything from salmon to pork shoulder to zucchini with that sought after authentic smokey flavor. It doubles as both a hot smoker and a steamer.

Another less involved option is a smoking gun. Not nearly as nefarious as you’d imagine, Williams Sonoma’s smoking gun puts the power of a smoker into a hand-held device about the size of a blow dryer, and for just under $100. You can customize the flavor of your wood chips (they’ve got a pack of applewood, cherrywood, hickory, and mesquite for $30), matching them to whatever dish you have at hand. The device comes with a long, thin hose attached, to direct the smoke exactly where you want it. Aim in into a tinfoil-tented container of roasted chicken, some caramelized onions for burgers, or even at your cheese plate or cocktail. The smoking gun omits no heat, so you can blast your Manchego or your gin & tonic without fear of a meltdown.

You can draw culinary inspiration from the growing league of chefs employing smoke in their cooking repertoires.The venerable Chef Dan Barber, of Blue Hill (both in the city and in Pocantico Hills, N.Y.), cooks on a custom 12-foot-wide grill set on the restaurant’s patio, using smoke in innovative and creative ways, on a full range of unexpected ingredients. He chars some ingredients past the point of recognition, only to peel away the blackened layers, revealing a gorgeously flavored, smokey and tender interior. He even makes coals out of the carcasses he butchers from, multiplying and amplifying the flavors in the process. Herbs, grape vines, and hay mix in with the charcoal, wood, and bones, creating a custom smoke for each ingredient at hand.

Ideas for Using Smoke in Your Own Kitchen

  • Smoke your cheese plate: Just tent it with foil and use your smoking gun to add another layer of flavor. This works especially deliciously on nutty cheeses like Manchego, and creamy, mild cheeses like Brie or Camenbert.
  • Smoke your cocktails: Smoke adds an unexpected twist on classic cocktails. Try a smokey version of a gin & tonic or old-fashioned. You can smoke individual components of the drink, or the finished cocktail.
  • Smoke your pork shoulder. Fire up your grill and smoke your pork shoulder, using the indirect heat of your charcoal, topped with wood chips, to render that meltingly delicious, smokey pulled pork. Perfect for tailgating recipes.
  • Smoke your vegetables: Add sturdy herbs to your wood chips (try thyme, rosemary, or sage) to give a more floral element to your smokey vegetables. Dress them simply with olive oil and garlic to highlight the flavors of your smoke.
  • Smoke your olive oil: Add a whole new level of flavor to your grilled romaine salad with a smoked olive oil. Just use the hose of your smoking gun to direct the smoke into your container.
  • Smoke your salmon: make this favorite easily at home with any of the methods suggested above. For a cold smoke, use the smoking gun.

For more ideas and the full post, visit Devil Gourmet.

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