Best Damn Smoked Chicken Recipe, period

Mon, Jan 9 • 0

This may be the best thing that could ever happen to a chicken.

I get a whole lot of compliments on this one. There are some members of my extended family who insist I bring this to any family gathering, regardless of the time of year. The technique of putting lit coals over top of unlit coals ensures a nice, long burn, and will provide enough heat for the 2-hour long cooking time. This recipe specifically relies on using a Webber kettle grill. You’ll need to further experiment in order to come up with the proper technique for a different kind of grill.

2 whole chickens, 3 to 4 pounds each
2 fist-sized lumps of chunk fruit wood
1 aluminium drip pan, 10×14
20 – 30 charcoal briquettes
cooking spray
1 cup salt
1 cup sugar
7 quarts of water

Take two chickens and cut them each into 8 pieces — 2 breasts, 2 wings, 2 drumsticks, and 2 thighs. Save the rest for chicken stock. Brine the chicken in 6 quarts of water that you’ve dissolved a cup of sugar and a cup of salt for 30 minutes to an hour. Remove the chicken from the brine and dry with paper towel. Season it with pepper, and spray both sides with cooking spray.

Soak wood in water for 15 minutes. (I’ve tried both apple and cherry wood, and can’t detect any difference in flavor, but do avoid mesquite because it’s just too strong a flavor.)

Light half a chimney full of briquettes and let burn in chimney until the top is white with ash. In your kettle grill, put an aluminum pan on one side and fill it with a quart of water. On the other side, put in 20 unlit briquettes, and nestle the wood chunks in it. Close the top and bottom vents of the grill to the halfway point. Pour the lit charcoal over top of the wood and the unlit charcoal, and put on the grill, and let it heat for 5 minutes with the lid on, then clean the grill and put on the chicken, skin side up, and putting the breasts around the outside, over top of the pan of water, furthest from the heat. Put the cover back on, and let the chicken cook undisturbed for 90 to 120 minutes.

Smoked Eel

Sun, Aug 17 • 0

“Out in the wild, they are slippery slimy creatures… On the plate, though, it’s a different story.”

On my recent trip to visit family, we had lunch at a german restaurant called the Hofbrauhaus — as close to an authentic german beer garden as I’ve seen since my summer in Europe, 20 years ago. Over a lunch of grilled sausage, mashed potatoes, and sauerkraut, my father-in-law described a vivid memory from his youth, where his German grandfather would keep a piece of smoked eel wrapped in wax paper on the window sill. He told me that he hadn’t had it in years, but had scoured the authentic delicatessens in Cincinnati to no avail. He did say that he had managed to find some at a delicatessen here in Northern Virginia, upwards of 30 years ago, and he wondered if the place was still in business. I told him that I knew of one in the area that he was talking about, but wasn’t sure if it was the exact same place. I promised that I would stop in the next time I was in the neighborhood and see if they had any eel for sale.

Well, I sort of forgot about it. Then I called him to talk about something else, and he said “you found it!” After I got over my confusion, he said he was sure I was calling him to tell him I had found some smoked eel for him. I decided that my priority project for the next day was to make a trip out to the German deli and confirm if it was even available. Sure enough, they had some — though it was from a Canadian company, in a vacuum sealed package, and frozen. I bought the two larger of the four pieced they had, put it all in an insulated envelope, picked up a slab of dry ice, and headed off to Fedex.

Admitting that I was shipping something with dry ice was probably my first mistake. I couldn’t use their white overnight boxes, but had to purchase a box, and I paid a small fortune in shipping fees. It arrived the next day, and my father-in-law was thrilled.

I sent him an email to find out how it was, and if it was everything he remembered. He reported that he recalled being able to flake it off to eat on a cracker, and what I sent was much firmer than he remembered, but that the smell, and the flavor was perfect. And now, he’s looking for more. So I did a little google searching to see what’s out there. Most companies that sell it are in the UK.

Globe and Mail : “Serving up a slithery, dwindling delicacy,” a news story (6/17/07) about how the Canadian eel population is in decline, down 90% from 30 years ago.

Brown & Forrest, U.K. Purveyors of the smoked eel, salmon and other smoked foods.

Medallion Smoked Salmon, based in Prince Edward Isle, Canada, 1 888 448-3001

Ummera (Ireland) offers smoked silver eel and will lets you subscribe to a mailing list that will alert you when they have product to ship.

Blog : confessions of a food nazi : smoked eel recipes “I don’t know what the prejudice is about eels. Sure out in the wild they are slippery slimy creatures, things you wouldn’t want to feel brush your leg while swimming in a lake. On the plate, though, is a different story.”

I decided to do a search for the german name (Aal Filet geräuchert), and came up with a german company that appears to be willing to ship it. The site is in German, and the prices are given in euros.


Smoke in the Night

Sun, Dec 23 • 2

ovenThe other night, I had a bit of a harrowing experience.

I woke up in the middle of the night to the smell of smoke in my apartment. When I got out to the living room, I could tell that I wasn’t dreaming and the whole place really was filled with acrid, chemically smoke. I quickly tracked it down to the new Black & Decker InfraWave Speed Cooking Countertop Oven I bought less than a month ago. It had somehow turned itself on in the middle of the night and was efficiently cooking the aluminum foil covered sheet pan that I’d left in there from several days before, as well as scorching the plate I’d left sitting on top of the oven. The front door to the oven was scorched black, and though I didn’t wait and observe if the infrared light was cycling on and off like it does in normal operation, I can only guess that it wasn’t. It was easy enough to unplug the unit, though it took a couple hours for my heart to stop racing and for the acrid smoke that had filled the living room and kitchen to dissipate. Even now, I still get the whiff of the burnt aluminum foil, especially when we come back into the apartment.

When I first got the oven, a month or so ago, I was pretty impressed with it. It cooks with a combination of conventional heated coils and with intense white light. As a result, it doesn’t need to be pre-heated, and offers cooking times comparable to a microwave oven, but with the browning of a regular oven/broiler. I’d even given the oven a 4 star review on Amazon.

But the other night, I have no idea what happened. I’m certain that the oven wasn’t accidentally turned on by someone brushing up against it or anything. (The way the control panel is configured, it requires you to press several buttons to actually turn the thing on.) It had been several days since I’d used the oven. I do recall that when I did last use it, I had been broiling a couple pieces of bacon, and since I still hadn’t used the oven enough to get the cook times down, I turned the oven off by simply opening the door. Even still, I had set the oven to cook for merely 10 minutes, and it had gone through most of that on the bacon. So what it was doing, all by itself, in the middle of the night the other night, I’m not sure.

It looks like there was a recall on the ovens in the beginning of December due to the circuit board overheating and fire hazard. (It should also come as no surprise that according to that linked article, these ovens are made in China.) Also, according to their website, despite the name “Black & Decker” on the appliance, it’s actually a product of a company called Applica Consumer Products Incorporated. Black & Decker sold their household product line in June, 1998, along with the right to continue to use their name.

So, lessons learned — unplug appliances that can burn down your house when you’re not using them; keep the smoke alarm installed, even if it does go off every freaking time you grill a steak; and don’t buy the Black and Decker Infrawave Speed Cooking Countertop Oven, at least not until they’ve worked the bugs out.

Update: It looks like the recall I mentioned above was not for the model of oven I have. It was for the 2-slice bread toaster. At this time, B&D / Applica is offering no remedy for the problem I experienced.

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