Friday, April 15, 2011

Smoked Out

Smoked, Moroccan spiced pork loin with olives/lemon.
 I finished up my brief, albeit somewhat obsessive, Charcutepalooza smoking challenge. I learned a lot about smoking. I learned that a smoker with an attached thermometer is much better than one without. I own the one without. Not being able to really know the temperature of the smoking chamber, except in approximates, makes smoking much more of a challenge than a pleasure. Greatly reinforced during this challenge is the knowledge that I should always, always check the meat's doneness with a thermometer. I use an instant read thermometer.  I learned that I much prefer brining over dry rubs, because the dry rubs become too cooked or too dry.  Then again, I've been brining for so long that perhaps that taken-for-granted knowledge helps me to produce a better product.  Maybe I could learn to love dry rubs too, but I'd have to use them more often. I learned that I like some foods smoked, but it's not fun to smoke everything in sight because not everything tastes better smoked. I am looking forward, however, to a smoked wild turkey next Fall.   We always have many winter squash in the garden each year and I did love the smoked flavor in the squash.  Smoked bacon has never been high on my list of cravings, and now that I've made pancetta, I'll take that first any day. Finally, I learned that after smoking I not only need a shower but my hair needs big-time scrubbing.  Maybe that's an indication that I'm doing something wrong???

Smoked pork loin with Moroccan spices
I think this was my favorite smoked meat: pork loin with Moroccan spices.  I know, that is so NOT Moroccan.  I mean pork???  But I did it anyway.  I didn't have a local beef or lamb loin, but I did have pork.  My friend, Mark, gave me "his" Moroccan spice mix recipe.  It's not really his because he found it many, many years ago in some magazine.  But it's certainly yummy!  It contains  coriander, cumin, smoked Spanish paprika, salt, cinnamon, and cayenne. 

The pork loin tasted really good just plain.  The second time we had it with some sauteed vegetables with a Mediterranean twist.  I finished off the veggie saute with a splash of water so that I could add some leftover rice to the pot and have it be soft and fluffy .  Finally, I added the slices of the pork loin to the top of the veggie/rice mix just to steam the meat slightly for warmth.

But my favorite dish appears in the photo that begins this blog.  I cooked up some diced onion with a pinch of saffron.  Then I added some chopped, green French olives and the sliced rind of one of my salt cure, preserved lemons, and some water.  I salted to taste; obviously, it didn't take much.  Finally, I added several slices of the smoked, Moroccan spiced pork loin to the pot just to warm the meat.  I served it all with my combo tzatzakis/raita yogurt mix: Greek yogurt; cumin; fresh cilantro; seeded, chopped cucumber; a dash of hot pepper; and salt to taste.  It was so tasty that I started eating before remembering to take a photo; thus, the utensil accompaniment.

Spicy, smoked pork with pear chutney, aioli, and gouda cheese.
 Another favorite dish was the sandwich I made with the spicy, smoked pork loin.  Last fall I had made some pear chutney with our own Bosc pears.  On several occasions, Serious Eats has featured sandwiches, in New York and Los Angeles.  One of those sandwiches had a pairing of pork and pear, or maybe it was apple, and cheese.  Taking my cue from that, I bought a "ciabatta" (it came close in appearance but lacked a bit in flavor), spread some of my own aioli mayo on the bread for moisture, added some gouda, the sliced pork loin, and my pear chutney.  Now that was good!  I loved how I could taste each flavor but not one overpowered the other.  Now that's a keeper!

Smoked pork hocks
The pork hocks became the item that finally made me realize that I should have smoked them longer in order to bring the meat up to temp, but, I should also have kept the interior of the smoker cooler so that the smoke didn't brown the meat too much.  I wrapped and froze these to use with beans as a future soup.

Smoked baby back ribs
 The ribs were my most disappointing dish.  They were obviously smoked too long.  The rub overcooked.  The smoker's internal temperature was too high.  And yet they held such promise!  I rubbed them with a dry rub from Anne Burrell's Crispy Mustard Braised Pork Belly.  Then, after sitting in the fridge for 24 hours, I didn't wash the rub off.  Needless to say the ribs are a bit salty.  Because the herbs were overcooked in the smoker, I ended up throwing the ribs in boiling water.  That improved the flavor.  But they were still a bit salty.  I think the best thing to do with them now is throw them out - oh no, I cannot waste food! - or, cook them with some beans or cabbage or something.  I know an idea is brewing, but it has not yet come to fruition.

This post is a bit late because it is April 15th already, and Mrs. Wheelbarrow has just announced the new Charcutepalooza challenge: Grinding!  I am ready for this one.  Meguez sausage, bratwurst, Thuringer Bratwurst, Spanish chorizo, maybe even "Rotwurst," the speciality hot dog like wurst from Swabia where I once lived for a year.  Sausage is my junk food.  And now that I've finished with my temporary, 8-week substitute position, and no longer have six college classes upon my own three, I'm going to throw myself into, overindulge in, satiate myself with, and completely succumb to the joy of making sausage.  Caul fat, sheep casings, hog casings, weisswurst, chorizo, saucissons sec, kielbasa, andouille, oh, it will be heaven on earth.


Craig Faustus Buck said...

Dry rubs are fantastic for smoking, but you need to mop the meat after the first hour or so to keep the rub from getting that consistency you don't like. I'm partial to vinegar mops with a bit of honey or molasses to create a faint (not thick and sticky) mahogany glaze to seal in the flavor of your rub.

Linda/IdahoRocks said...

Thanks! I kind of thought one should be doing that but I was following the directions in "Charcuterie." I usually follow the directions first time through but later, innovation reigns.