Thursday, March 31, 2011

Smoking Convert

Smoked pork, shallot, garlic, squash.

I confess, I was never really big on smoked foods.  I'm not even a big smoked bacon fan.  And I'm not a fan of barbecue sauce.  Maybe I'm an American culture failure.  But now that I've smoked one spicy, dry rubbed pork loin, there's no stopping this smoking convert.

In the above photo, the spice rub looks much darker than what I see. Hmm, any photo hints?? This first photo also shows that I really went wild over the first time smoking as I also smoked shallots, garlic, and winter squash. The shallots and garlic need to be tended more carefully next time, but the winter squash had a slightly smokey flavor that combined well with the sweet carmelization and earthiness of the squash. Had I had more squash, I would have cooked it all for some great soups and raviolis!

For the pork loin, I followed the dry spicy rub from my curing bible, Charcuterie.  I also ground up some very fresh, dried herbs and spices from my favorite local Health Food Store, Mt. Mike's, in Bonners Ferry, Idaho.  After wrapping it in plastic wrap, it looked like this:

Red, wrapped, and ready to begin

I left it in the fridge for the required amount of time, then prepared myself for smoking.  We have a Brinkmann electric smoker.  We didn't use chips because they just burn too fast in this smoked; instead, we used larger, water-soaked hickory chunks.  We have some applewood, but it isn't chopped up yet and with our very wet winter, not really dry enough.  So, we used what we could find.

I thought I'd just follow the directions in Charcuterie for smoking but obviously different smokers require different timing, heat up at various rates, and have a high temperature limit.  I could not get our smoker hotter than 250F and that was with lots of wood.  So, I settled for a longer cooking time.  Also, the final temperature of the meat was a bit higher than what I really wanted, so next time I'll go for the lower, fully-cooked pork temperature.

Smoking away

On another occasion, I served the pork loin plain again, but this time with sauteed yellow peppers and onions and with saffron rice and dried tomatoes.  Loved it!

More spiced pork with peppers, onions, and rice.

I didn't have time to take a photo because we were late for our ten hour trek to the Oregon coast, but the pork also made into a delicious banh mi sandwich.  My son just cut slices and ate it plain because he liked it so much.  We have a bit left and that will become some other dish when we return to Bonners Ferry tomorrow.

The smoking bug did not stop at the pork.  I also smoked a curry rubbed, butterflied leg of lamb.  The yearly lamb comes from my friend, Annie, who raises the sheep for wool.  It's usually smaller and our local USDA butcher cuts it.  I always get the leg bone in, so I had an opportunity to try out my "butchering" skills in order to have the butterfly cut.  I felt good about how it went.  I also made some freshly chopped curry spices but followed too closely a recipe I once found on the web and ended up with a bit too much coriander, which didn't allow the cardamom to come through as much as I wanted.  But it was still good!

Curry crusted butterflied lamb leg

Again, the photo makes it appear darker than it is.  It's pretty good.  I think I'll mix it with some lentils and spinach for soup.  And make more sandwiches out of it, maybe something in a homemade pita with yoghurt raita, tzatziki, raita*, and dal.  There's just no end to it....  Now what shall I smoke next?

*linguistic and cultural confusion....


MrsWheelbarrow said...

I have a leg of lamb in the freezer - was wondering what to do with it and now I'm SURE I'll be smoking it! Great idea.

Linda/IdahoRocks said...

Oh, Cathy, do write and let me know how it turns out and how you did it. We just ate more of ours tonight, and, wouldn't you know it, I forgot to take photos....grrr.

My turned out pretty well except that I wasn't crazy about the spice mixture and I should have taken it out at 130-135 because it kept cooking for a while.

Good luck!

Auburn Meadow Farm said...

I'm reformed too! Now, all I see around me are things that must be smoked, lol.

Craig Faustus Buck said...

I've been smoking lamb shanks lately, with a traditional Texas BBQ brisket style rub and then mopped with a Tennessee red sauce about an hour in. I try to keep the temp around 200 and smoke them for 6-7 hours. At 200 it's hard to overcook them, so you just need to make sure they're tender enough.

The same is true of ribs (he said, referring to another of your posts altogether). Keep the temp between 180-200 and they'll never dry out. I couldn't do that with my electric smoker, so I went back to my trusty Weber for control. A lot more babysitting, but worth it.

Linda/IdahoRocks said...

Auburn Meadow Farm: I agree. I cannot wait to smoke some sausage...

Craig: Thanks for all the great advise. After reading my new "Taming the Flame" by Elizabeth Karmel, and watching the Smoking on the FoodNetwork, I've finally realized some of those problems I had. You have reinforced my new way of thinking about smoking time and temperature.