Smoking foods has changed the way I cook. Several weeks after the Smokeout I wanted to make sure that I wouldn't forget all the tips and techniques I'd learned. So, I fired up the grill again. This time I checked out some websites that taught me how to use newspaper sprayed with Pam or vegetable oil, rolled into a "snake" and used with a charcoal chimney starter to get the coals going. It took only 15 minutes to get the coals ignited.
Once I got the coals to the white ash stage and piled it with both 'ohia and kiawe woods, I smoked red bell peppers, guava jam-honey candied pecans, plus cream and cheddar cheeses, for half an hour each. I then smoked raw pork butt in chunks and five pounds of chicken thighs for several hours. I used only salt, pepper and garlic powder on the meats. The whole smoking process and alternating the dishes took about four hours. This bounty is enough to provide you with an array of dishes for several weeks, if not months, once you freeze part of whatever you smoke.
The cheeses were eaten first at two gatherings with Ritz crackers, smoked crab dip and kiwi pico de gallo. I must say they were a hit at both parties. Some of the pecans were given away while the remainder is in the refrigerator and to be snacked on. Chopped, the pecans can elevate almost any baked good (imagine cinnamon rolls, brownies, frosting topping) to a whole other level.
I removed the skins from the smoked peppers and added balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Smoked peppers can be kept in a jar for weeks to be used in pastas, subs, soups and sauces.
The smoked pork butt added a delicious addition to saimin, fried rice and fried noodles, just as one would use char siu. You can also slice it thinly, quickly saute it with onions, remove the meat and make a gravy for the pork slices with the grillettes, the browned bits in the pan.
My favorite has to be the smoked chicken. It has a depth of complex flavors which enhances any dish. A decent chicken stock normally requires, at the very least, an hour of slow simmering and alot of skimming. With smoked chicken as a base, a complete and flavorful soup can be served in half an hour!
Simple Smoked Chicken and Green Papaya Soup
I used Edna Lewis' trick of coddling a couple of the smoked chicken thighs in an inch of water for 20 minutes in a covered saucepan. Much of the juice (Edna calls it the "essence"which gives you an idea of how tasty it is) is extracted from the chicken. Cut the chicken into cubes and add back into the broth. Then add a cup and a half of water and large cubes of green papaya. Simmer until the green papaya is barely cooked. This is a simple rendition of Chicken and Papaya Soup. If you do not have green papaya, a Chinese squash can be substituted. If neither of those are available, you could add in any of your favorite soup vegetables.
Now that I know how to smoke I've started to notice how many other products there are on the market: smoked almonds, potato chips, paprika and cayenne spices, ancho peppers (chipotle), deli meats, pork belly for bacon, ham shanks and hocks. It will be interesting to continue to experiment with other foods in the near future. David Izumi has hinted that the response to the Smokeout was good so Hope Chapel Kaneohe Bay may be sponsoring another class soon.