Hello, my name is Christine. And I have a problem. I will smoke anything.
But I wound up smoking so much in the last 30 days that my kids no longer blink an eyelash at the slightly grayish tinge to the air that greets them as they arrived home from school.
I smoked so much that I smelled. One day the chiropractor noticed. “Oh I love your perfume! What is it?” she asked. Um, eau de oak chips?
But ironically I did not hot smoke salmon as Mrs. Wheelbarrow suggested when she pointed to my recipe for Hot Smoke Salmon, Soba and Asian greens that was pitted against her recipe in a Food52 contest for your best salmon dish (her recipe for Salmon with Sorrel sauce won, but who’s keeping track?). I have a sentimental attachment to my maiden voyage into the world of smoke when I jerry rigged my cast-iron wok, a bunch of tin foil and the lid of my lobster pot into a stovetop smoker. I didn’t want to taint my romantic memories of my first rough and tumble time.
But with my new purpose-built smoker, I did smoke chickpeas. They are great for hummus, but you need to hold back a little of the tahini or the dip can be a bit too bitter.
And I hot smoked fresh mozzarella (Duh! It melts!).
And I smoked coconut. OH MY GOD!! This is really tasty when you slice off thin pieces to eat plain as a snack –or put it on the vegan club sandwich like they do at The Memphis Taproom in the Kensington neighborhood of Philly.
But it goes all soapy tasting if you add vinegar to it, like I did when I ruined the carrot, radish and smoked coconut relish I was hoping to put on my Banh Mi sandwich that night for dinner. Mr. McGee, care to weigh in on the science behind that one?
I also smoked beets (don’t bother, they are better roasted) and a chicken breast (make sure you brine those so there is a pellicle for the smoke to stick to or you just get plain old boring breast meat).
And I over smoked a pork loin for Canadian bacon. I neglected to turn down the flame under the smoker and got the loin to a blistering 200 degrees internal temperature.
The only thing that saved that loin from being the tightest protein this side of the Mr. Universe pageant was Mr. Ruhlman’s lemon and herby brine. I still can’t believe that juice flowed from that sucker when I sliced into it.
But the two substances I got the biggest buzz from were little neck clams and asparagus that met up with each other in one very interesting chowder. After about 12-14 minutes in the smoker, the clams popped open and even the pesky posterior abductor muscle of the clam released itself from the shell.
The asparagus took a couple tries to get right. I started with a 20-minute smoke time as suggested in the Burton-user’s manual. But at that smoking time I got Army green, mushy, stringy spears like the kind you get out of a can. It was when I rolled back the smoke time to 10 minutes and put the flame really low that I got the bright green, still kind of crisp asparagus with a tangy, smoky flavor. It was, well, it was ….. smokin’!
Smoked Clam and Asparagus Chowder
Served 2-4 depending on the size of the bowl
Two dozen smoked littleneck clams
½ pound smoked asparagus spears
1 Tablespoon butter
1 small sweet onion, small dice
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 large red potato, large dice
1 bottle clam juice
1 cup of milk
½ cup of cream
Salt and pepper to taste
Remove clams from their shells and set them aside. Reserve 12 shells. Discard 12 shells.
Cut asparagus spears into 1 ½ inch pieces and set aside.
In a large pot, melt butter and slowly sauté onions with the thyme leaves. When the onions are soft, add potatoes, clam juice, milk and reserved clam shells (they have quite a bit of smoky flavor to impart to the broth). Simmer the broth until the potatoes are fork tender. Remove clam shells. Add clams, asparagus and cream. Bring the mixture back to a simmer. Season the chowder with salt and pepper. Serve hot.