Dreamy's Delights

It's all about the food!

Vibrant Chicken in Spicy Tomato Sauce

I think it’s safe to say that Thanksgiving wore me out given how long it’s been since I posted. Mostly I just haven’t been doing much cooking. I made a curry last week that was ok but nothing worth writing about. I made a Mexican Corn Pudding, again, nothing spectacular. However, tonight I made a curry that is VERY worth writing about. This recipe comes from 660 Curries by Raghavan Iyer (2008, pg 137-138). My friend Cat turned me on to this cookbook for which I am eternally grateful.

Recipe

1/4 cup ginger paste (from a tube I bought at the store. you can make it at home but I’m lazy)

2 TB garlic paste (also from a tube, also used out of laziness)

1 chicken (3 1/2 lbs) cut into pieces (I used boneless skinless thighs. cutting up a chicken  takes work!)

1 TB canola oil

1 can (14.5 oz) tomato sauce

1/2 cup Fried Onion Paste (see recipe at the end of this)

1 TB coriander seeds, ground

2 tsp sweet paprika

1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp cumin seeds, ground

1/2 tsp ground tumeric

1/2 tsp cayenne (i used half this amount cause I’m a wimp)

Combine the ginger and garlic pastes in a medium bow and mix well. Add the chicken and smear them all over with the paste.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add the chicken pieces, meat side down, in a single layer and cook until they are lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Turn the pieces over and cook on the other side until lightly browned about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Add the tomato sauce, onion paste, coriander, salt, paprika, cumin, tumeric and cayenne to the skillet. The sauce will immediately start to bubble and boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally until a thin layer of oil separates from the sauce, about 20-25 minutes.

Return the chicken to the skillet and coat them with the sauce. Cook, covered, turning the chicken occasionally, until  the meat in the thickest parts is no longer pink, about 20-25 minutes.

Since I used boneless thighs I cut the cooking by about half since they cooked quicker.

This really is an awesome curry. It’s quick to make and has a nice rich flavor. The Fried Onion paste is a very nice addition.

Fried Onion Paste

2 lbs red onions (I used yellow since that’s what i had), halved lengthwise and thinly sliced

1/4 cup canola oil

Heat a pan over medium heat without the oil in it yet. When it’s hot, add the oil Which will immediately start to shimmer. Add the onions and cook them stirring occasionally until they are caramel brown in color. 25-30 minutes (or even longer) you want a long slow caramelization process to bring out all the flavor without the onions turning bitter.

Pour 1 cup of water into a blender. Add the onions and puree to make a smooth paste. Leftovers will keep in the fridge for up to 1 week.

vibrantchickencurry

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Chichen Pot Pie

My friend Cat suggested that I make the Chicken Pot Pie recipe in the Joy of Cooking. So I broke out my edition from 1997 to make the recipe. It’s on pages 604-605. The first step is to make the Creamed Chicken recipe, then the pie.

Recipe – Creamed Chicken

The recipe calls for cooking chicken. I bought two rotisserie chickens at Costco today, let Jene eat what he wanted and used the rest for this. So about 2 lb of shredded chicken meat.

4 TB unsalted butter, melted in a large sauce pan over medium-low heat.

Whisk in 1/2 cup all-purpose flour until smooth. Continue to cook, whisking constantly, for another minute. Remove the pan from the heat.

Slowly whisk in 2 cups of chicken broth until smooth.

Then whisk in 1 1/2 cups heavy cream.

Increase the heat to medium and bring the mixture to a simmer, whisking constantly. (I did not whisk constantly, as long as you whisk it every 60-90 seconds or so, you should be fine.) Make sure there aren’t any lumps or stuck bits on the bottom of your pan and stir in the shredded chicken meat. I added a splash of white wine (the recipe calls for 2-3 TB of sherry). Cook for 1 more minute.

Remove from heat and season to taste with a few drops of lemon juice, ground black or white pepper and fresh grated or ground nutmeg. I used some of each.

Recipe – Chicken Pot Pie

This recipe only has a top crust which makes it really easy to make. I used pre-made puff pastry dough. Cat says she used phyllo dough. I was going to use phyllo but the store didn’t have any lol.

So once you have your creamed chicken made, position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 400F. Grease a 9×13 baking dish.

Heat 2 TB of unsalted butter in a large skillet over medium high heat until the foam begins to subside.

Add and cook, stirring often until just barely tender, about 5 minutes:

1 medium onion, chopped

3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick (I used baby carrots because they’re the perfect size)

2 small celery stalks, cut 1/4 inch thick (I used 3 stalks)

I also cooked these until they started to caramelize because it deepens the flavor. Then I deglazed the pan with a bit of lemon juice and white wine and added that to the mix. Mix the veggies in with the creamed chicken.

The original recipe calls for adding 3/4 cup of frozen peas, thawed and 3 TB of fresh minced parsley. I left both of these out because I don’t like peas and didn’t have parsley.

Once everything is mixed together, taste for seasoning. I added a bit more black pepper and salt.

Now you can put it all in the baking dish. Lay the pastry dough over the top and tuck the edges down into sides of the pan. If you want a really pretty crust, brush it with some beaten egg. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbling.

 

 

 

And here it is in all it’s golden glory. I immediately dished some up and started eating it before finishing this post lol. VERY good and I think this will be a standard in our house, especially once it gets colder.

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A video game recipe…

Those of you who know me, know I play stupid games on facebook. One of those I’m currently playing is called Chefville. Surprisingly, it actually gives out real recipes from time to time. This is one I got this week and decided to try out tonight. I did make one change to the recipe. I did not dredge the chicken in flour and fry it. I prefer my chicken without the breading. Other than that, I followed the recipe.

ChefVille by Zynga
Follow us.
Tangy Orange Chicken
Zynga Executive Chef
Matthew DuTrumble
INGREDIENTS (serves 2)
2 tablespoons orange juice, concentrate
1/2 cup (120 milliliters) rice vinegar
1 1/2 cups (350 milliliters) mirin (rice wine)
2 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 cup (220 grams) brown sugar
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger root
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons water

Chicken

2 boneless, skinless free-range chicken breasts cut into ½ inch (13 millimeters) pieces
1 cup (140 grams) all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper ground
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped green onion (for garnish)

DIRECTIONS
  1. Pour mirin, orange juice, rice vinegar, and soy sauce into a saucepan and set over medium-high heat. Stir in the orange zest, brown sugar, ginger, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, and cool for 15 minutes.
  2. To marinate, place the chicken into a sealable plastic container. When contents of saucepan have cooled, pour 1 cup of sauce into the container and reserve the remaining sauce. Seal the container and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. You can refrigerate this for up to 6 hours. The longer you marinate the chicken, the more flavor it will absorb.
  3. Mix the flour, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Toss the marinated chicken in the seasoned flour to coat. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add chicken and brown on both sides. Remove and place on a plate with paper towels to let it rest.
  4. Bring the remaining sauce to a boil over medium-high heat. Mix the cornstarch and water together thoroughly and stir this into the sauce. Reduce heat to medium low, add the chicken pieces, and simmer, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add green onions to serve.
Play ChefVille Now
 

 

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Baked Chicken Breasts with Garlic and Onion

First, let me apologize for not posting last night. I was so tired by the time I got home from physical therapy that I pretty much crawled into bed. That being said, I did manage to cook dinner tonight, albeit a simple dinner.

My friend Ellisha was trying to figure out what to fix for dinner on Saturday night. She had some chicken breasts and was bemoaning the fact that her daughter didn’t like the chicken. I told her to bring the chicken over to my house and I’d cook up something they’d both enjoy. Thus the birth of this recipe.

Recipe

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts

1/4 cup onion, sliced very thinly into rings

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 TB butter

1/4 cup white wine

salt to taste

Penzeys Mural of Flavor to taste

Preheat the oven to 350F. Spray a baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Rinse and dry the chicken then place in the baking dish. Split the onion slices, the garlic and the butter between the four breasts. Splash about 1T of white wine over each breast then sprinkle with salt and Mural of Flavor. Bake for about 30 minutes or until an instant read thermometer shows 150-160 degrees F. Experts vary between saying a safe temperature is 160 or 170. I take my chicken out at 150 and let it rest to come up to 160-165.

By removing the chicken when it’s still at 150 the meat stays much more moist. Just remember to let the chicken rest to finish cooking.

So to explain the reasoning behind these flavors… Onions and garlic go with almost anything. It’s a simple way to kick up the flavor of any type of meat. The butter helps add some moisture and fat back into the chicken breasts which are painfully lean. (Yes, I know that’s why people eat them but it’s so BORING without fat.) The white wine also helps add a bit of extra moisture and flavor. It’s just a splash so if you don’t like wine, leave it out. Finally, the Mural of Flavor is one of my favorite all purpose seasoning blends.  I basically tried thinking about what I would want my chicken breasts to taste like if I was a 12 year old girl lol. This was what I came up with.

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Almost Home-made chicken noodle soup

So of all the stupid ways to get sick, I have an ear infection. As far as I know it’s the first one I’ve ever had too.  So in “celebration” of being sick, I thought I’d share my favorite imitation scratch made chicken noodle soup. I make this when I’m too sick to really make it from scratch or too lazy 😉

Recipe

1 rotisserie chicken – deboned

4 quarts chicken broth or stock (I like the stuff in the soft sided cartons)

8 oz dried fettuccine noodles (I use the herby flavored ones)

1 large onion – chopped

4 large celery ribs – chopped

4 large carrots – peeled and chopped

herb seasoning (I use Penzeys Bavarian blend)

salt & pepper to taste

Bring  the chicken broth/stock to a boil in a large pot. Add the chicken meat, onions, carrots, celery, herbs, salt and pepper. Let simmer for about ten minutes or until the celery and carrots are just starting to soften up. Add the noodles and cook for another 8 minutes or until the pasta is al dente.

That’s it! Put some in a bowl and feed it to yourself and anyone else around you who’s ailing.

I apologize for not having any pictures again tonight but I didn’t actually make soup. I bought soup at Panera today lol. I love their cream of chicken and wild rice soup. 😀

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Chicken and Broccoli Casserole

Growing up in a large, financially challenged family, we ate a lot of casseroles. One of my favorites is Chicken and Broccoli. It’s simple, healthy(ish), and very tasty. It combines the rich protein of chicken with the luscious fattiness of cheese sauce and the nutrition of broccoli. You can’t really ask for more in a one dish meal.

This picture below shows the beautiful strata before it goes into the oven.

Recipe

1 whole chicken, cooked and deboned (I use 2 rotisserie chickens because they’re smaller but already cooked. You can also buy a large, raw chicken and boil it until the meat is falling off the bones. This is a good way to make some chicken broth for later use.)

2 16oz packages of frozen broccoli (I like using the blend of broccoli and cauliflower.) Cook it for about 3-5 minutes to release some of the water, drain it well.

2 cans cream of chicken soup (I now make my own and linked the recipe)

1 cup of mayonnaise (use real mayo, not miracle whip)

2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9×13 pan.

In a saucepan, combine cream of chicken soup, mayonnaise and cheddar cheese. Stir until the cheese melts and the sauce becomes smooth and creamy.

Layer the broccoli in the bottom of the baking dish. Layer the chicken on top and cover with the cheese sauce. Sprinkle the bread crumbs across the top and bake for 30-45 minutes or until everything is hot and bubbling.

Notes: I like a lot of cheese and usually make 1 1/2 recipes of sauce. This makes sure there’s enough sauce for a good thick layer.

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Greek-Style Chicken

Last night Jene and I were watching Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. We hate that show because it always makes us hungry. Yet I love that show because I get some great food ideas.

There was a diner in Philadelphia (I think) called The Dining Car. They did a greek-style baked half chicken that sounded fantastic. I have unabashedly stolen the recipe for dinner tonight.

Recipe

3 chicken leg/thigh quarter pieces

4 bone in chicken breasts

Shallot salt (available from Penzeys Spices. The restaurant used onion salt.)

Garlic powder

ground pepper (the restaurant uses white pepper, I used a blend of white and black.)

dried oregano

dried marjoram (my own addition. marjoram adds an extra depth to the oregano. they’re related but distinct herbs)

olive oil

lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350F.

Place the chicken, skin side up in a roasting pan or on a rimmed baking sheet. (I didn’t have a big enough roasting pan so I used a baking sheet. I’ll have to watch to make sure the juices aren’t bubbling over as it bakes.)

I cut three lemons in half and squeezed the juice over the chicken. I tossed the squeezed halves into the pan around the chicken pieces.

Sprinkle with the seasonings. I don’t have measurements but it’s really kind of to your particular taste.

Drizzle with a little bit of olive oil. This just adds a little extra flavor and helps the skin brown up. It’s only a little bit. Don’t drown the chicken, it’s dead already 😉

Place the pan in the oven and bake for about 1.5 hours.

While at the farmer’s market this morning I also found some beautiful purple and orange cauliflowers. So as the side for tonight’s chicken I’m roasting the cauliflower. I posted the recipe earlier in this blog but you can find it again here. I just could not resist the beautiful colors. 🙂 One of the biggest benefits of roasting the cauliflower is that the deep colors don’t fade. They come out just as bright as when they went in the oven

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The finished product was fabulous!

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Chicken Tikka Masala

The first thing I need to do is thank the author of 660 Curries by Raghavan Iyer. This recipe is straight from his cookbook and I have yet to find a way to improve on it. I recommend buying this book if you like Indian food. The recipes are easy to follow and relatively easy to make once you have your kitchen stocked with the correct spices.

The second thing I need to do is warn you that this is NOT a simple recipe. It is easy to make once you have all the ingredients but there is quite a list of things to assemble.

The first step of making this recipe is making a spice blend called Punjabi Garam Masala. It’s also referred to as Punjabi-style Warming Spice Blend.

Recipe

1 T coriander seeds

1 t cumin seeds

1 t whole cloves

1/2 t black peppercorns

1/2 t black cardamom seeds

3 cinnamon sticks (each stick should be 3″ long) broken into smaller pieces (a meat hammer works great for this)

3 fresh or dried bay leaves

Preheat a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add all the spices and the bay leaves. Toast, shaking the pan every few seconds until the coriander and cumin turn a reddish brown, the cloves, peppercorns and cardamom turn an ashy black, and the cinnamon and bay leaves appear brittle and crinkly. The mixture will smell highly fragrant. This process is FAST and only takes 1-2 minutes. This is not something to stick in the pan and do something else lol.

Once the spices are toasted transfer them to a bowl. You don’t want the heat of the skillet to keep cooking them. Burnt spices are pretty icky. Once the spices are cool to the touch you can run them through a spice grinder. (If you don’t have a spice grinder you can buy an electric coffee grinder for about $20 and use that to grind the spices. DO NOT use it for anything else! I have a Cuisinart Spice Grinder that I love. The bowl is dishwasher safe, unlike a coffee grinder.) The reason for waiting until the spices are cool to grind them is that grinding them hot can create condensation and cause the spices to get clumpy. Anyway, you grind the spices until they resemble finely ground black pepper.

Now that you’ve made that spice blend you can store it in an air tight container in a cool dark place and move on to other recipes that use this blend. 🙂

So on to the Chicken Tikka Masala!

This dish has a decidedly British influence. It is also called “Marinated Chicken with an Onion-Pepper-Almond Sauce.” Chicken Tikka Masala sounds much more exotic and interesting lol.

Without further ado, here’s the recipe

Recipe

Marinade:

1/2 cup plain yogurt (I like to use the thick greek yogurt)

2 T Ginger Paste (I buy it pre-made in a tube at Safeway.)

2 T Garlic Paste (Also available in a tube at Safeway.)

2 T finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and stems

2 t coriander seeds, freshly ground

1 t cumin seeds, freshly ground

2 t ground Kashmiri chiles or 1/2 t cayenne pepper mixed with 1 1/2 t sweet paprika

1 1/2 t coarse kosher or sea salt

1/2 t punjabi garam masala (that yummy blend you made)

1/2 t ground tumeric (it’s what gives that amazing yellow color)

1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut lengthwise into 1″ strips. (I prefer chicken thighs and will even cook them whole under the broiler)

Mix all the marinade ingredients together and dump in the chicken. Let it sit in the fridge at least 30 minutes but as long as over night.

Sauce:

This sauce is what you serve with the chicken. The flavors just keep layering.

2 T Ghee or canola oil

1 small red onion, coarsely chopped (I use yellow onion if I don’t have red on hand.)

1 small red bell pepper (I used a yellow bell tonight because I didn’t have red.)

1/4 c blanched, slivered almonds (I leave them out.)

1/4 c golden raisins

1 cup diced tomatoes (You can use fresh or canned. If using canned you don’t need to drain them. I used canned, diced tomatoes tonight.)

1/4 c heavy whipping cream

1/2 t coarse kosher or sea salt

1/4 t cayenne pepper

1/4 t punjabi garam masala

2 T finely chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems. (I canNOT stand cilantro. I never use it. But go ahead and use it if you like that nasty stuff lol)

Heat the ghee in a medium-high small saucepan. You want to use a small pan because it will crowd the ingredients and the moisture that sweats out will help prevent them from sticking and burning. Once the ghee is shimmering hot add the onion, bell pepper, raisins and almonds. Let them brown in the pan until you see golden brown spots appearing on them. This takes about 10-12 minutes. Stir the pot every 3-4 minutes.

Once you have that beautiful caramelization going on, add the tomatoes. Use the liquid to help deglaze the pan. Then dump all the hot ingredients into a blender (no, don’t use a food processor, it will leak all over the place.) Add the cream, salt, cayenne, and punjabi garam masala. Run the blender until you have a smooth, creamy sauce. Dump it all back into a sauce pan and simmer over low heat while you cook the chicken.

Thread the marinated chicken on the skewers and grill or broil on high. Once the chicken is cooked through, take it off the skewers and dump it into the pot of sauce. Give it a stir and serve sprinkled with the cilantro. Can be served over rice.

So that’s the basic recipe. Here are the adjustments that I’ve made….

I always cut the amount of cayenne in half. I do not like spicy hot food because I’m a wimp.

I always use twice the amount of yogurt called for.

I doubled the recipe except for the yogurt which was doubled first and then doubled again. (in other words, I used 2 cups instead of 1 cup)

I also used four times the amount of chicken called for (6 lbs). I doubled the recipe because that’s all you need to do for the extra chicken.

Finally, I left the chicken thighs whole and just tossed them under the broiler.

A note of warning. Don’t get too involved in watching the Food Network while you’re cooking the chicken. You’ll burn it lol.

And here’s the finished product!

Edit: You can use pre-ground spices but only use 3/4 t of ground to replace 1 t of whole spices that you grind after measuring. (This only applies to the cumin/coriander in the main recipe. The Punjabi Garam Masala still needs to be made with whole spices.)

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I’m Smokin!

Before I talk about the food, I need to mention that I completely blame Cat Quirion for the fact that I’m a smoker. If she hadn’t forced me to eat that tri tip at her house I would have never started smoking. Now that you’re all wondering what the heck I’m talking about… I’m talking about using wood smoke to flavor/cook food.

Cat and her husband Brian invited us over about two years ago and served this amazing smoked tri tip as part of the meal. They took us outside and showed us this cool looking stainless steel box. Jene, being the amazing husband proceeded to get me one for Christmas. You can get one from Sausage Maker for a few hundred dollars. It’s super easy to use and smoke gives a new level of flavor to food.

Now, you WILL smell like smoke but instead of “Oh ick!” you’ll hear “Oh wow, what smells so GOOD?”

One of the benefits of smoking food is that it uses low heat. This means that foods, especially meats, stay super moist and juicy. It can take a long time (plan on at least 12 hours for an 8 lb pork shoulder or a 13 lb turkey) but it is WELL worth the wait. I refuse to cook Thanksgiving turkey any other way! To give you an idea of how amazing it can be… I don’t like white meat because it gets dry so easily. The white meat of a smoked turkey is so moist you can see the liquid oozing out of it. I still prefer the dark meat but I’ll at least eat the white meat this way lol.

The pictures above show the smoker, finished pork shoulder, and the smoker loaded with two chickens and two pork shoulders. One of the things smoking does is give the food a beautiful mahogany crust, called “bark”. It’s one of the best parts of the food because it’s got the heaviest layer of seasoning and the most smoke. It’s caramelized and just generally yummy.

So now I’ll explain how I get this result! First, have a smoker. It’s possible to smoke on a grill but that takes a lot more work and I’m too lazy to explain it in this post.

Next, choose what you want to smoke. I’ve smoked chicken, pork, beef, onions, mushrooms, and grits to name a few. Today I’m smoking some chicken legs.

The ideal seasoning happens the day before you smoke. Seasoning your meat the day before allows the flavors to soak into the fibers of the meat overnight and permeate the whole thing. About 4am this morning, when I couldn’t sleep I seasoned the chicken legs with Tandoori Seasoning from Penzeys Spices. The easiest type of seasoning is a dry rub. It’s a blend of dried herbs and spices that is just rubbed into the meat. This works well for the smaller cuts of meat such as chicken legs, tri tips, and fish. Another method of seasoning is the marinade. This is a liquid blend that can include dried or fresh herbs, spices, oil and some sort of acid. The point of the acid is to start breaking down the meat fibers and make them more juicy and tender. Acids include vinegars, buttermilk, and citrus juices. One of my most recent marinades is the following:

2 shallots, minced (I used my dried shallots again)
2 tablespoons chopped garlic2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
2 tablespoons chopped fresh lemon thyme
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons Brazilian rum or tequila (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Mix everything together in a gallon zippy bag and add your meat. I’ve done this with chicken breasts and tilapia fillets. Both came out excellent. A quick note about marinading fish… Fish only needs to sit for a few hours. If you leave it sitting too long you have ceviche! (That’s fish cooked in acid liquids rather than with heat and a post for another day.)

Before I wrap up the section on seasoning I want to mention injecting of liquids. This basically involves a giant hypodermic needle.

This is the The SpitJack Magnum Meat Injector Gun (with 4 needles) that  I found on amazon.com and thought looked all kinds of cool and slightly sinister. Basically you load it up with liquid and inject that into the meat. This is an excellent way to get flavor all the way through large cuts such as pork shoulder or a whole turkey. The larger bore needles allow you to inject chunkier mixes so that you can get things like chunks of garlic into the meat. The smaller needles are for either purely liquid mixtures or smaller pieces of food. I could have (in a perfect world that didn’t happen at 4am) injected each of the chicken legs I’m smoking today. However, since my world is not perfect and I’m working with a couple dozen chicken legs, I did NOT painstakingly inject each one lol.

After everything is seasoned and sitting in the fridge over night, pull it out about an hour before you plan on smoking. The meat needs to warm up a bit before going in the smoker so that it 1. doesn’t drop the temperature in the smoker too much and 2. smoke faster.

While the meat is warming up start the wood chips soaking. (You can’t smoke food without the wood chips!) There are several flavors of wood to choose from… apple, cherry, hickory (very traditional), mesquite, alder and maple. There are more than that but that’s what I could remember for now. 🙂 Today’s wood of choice is cherry. Cherry wood is sweet and light and goes with pretty much everything. A good choice when mixing poultry and beef. This list at about.com is a great resource for learning about the various types of wood. The purpose of soaking the wood in water is to allow the wood to burn very smokily and sl0w. The minimum soaking time is about half an hour. Longer is nicer but not required. Oh… I almost forgot, you don’t have to use water, you can soak the wood in beer, whine, fruit juice etc and give extra flavor to the smoke. However, water is cheap and easy so that’s what I use.

The next step is determining what to put in the water bowl. This is a large bowl that goes in the smoker below the meat and above the smoker box. It accomplishes a couple of things. It helps catch the juices dripping from the food and it helps add extra moisture to the smoker and keep the meat nice and juicy. There is the option of plain old water, which is just fine. However, this is a spot where you can get creative. Today we’re using beer in the bowl. It will simmer and the steam will rise and add another layer of flavor to the meat. In the past I’ve used white wine too. You can also toss in a chopped up onion and some garlic if you want. It’s something that can be played with to your own preferences.

Finally, you can put the meat in the smoker. For small cuts like thin fish, chicken wings, chicken legs, mushrooms, etc. a grill basket is a wonderful thing.

It will look something like this and should have removable handles. Why removable handles? Because it won’t fit in the smoker otherwise 🙂  Load it up and put it in the smoker.

Next is the question of temperature. This is something that is debated by pit masters. I personally, prefer the  very low and slow method. I try not to get my heat over 220F. My husband tends to smoke things a bit hotter at 225-250. I think he’s impatient to taste the food. There are even people out there who smoke at over 300F. I’d rather wait and have the luscious, melt in your mouth texture from the super low heat.

Now you put some wood in the wood box, close the door and wait. For the chicken legs and tri tip today (hah! snuck that one in there) it should take 2-3 hours, maybe less. We’ll add wood to the smoker box roughly once an hour. For longer cooking cuts, probably once every hour and a half to two hours. I like my smokey flavor to be mild. The more often you add wood, the smokier the meat gets. Again, this is personal preference. One of the things I love about smoking is how versatile it is. You can tweak it in so many ways to suit personal preference.

I’m away from home now and will post the pictures later. I’m going to have to disinfect myself after using Darren’s laptop 😉

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