Barbecue guru Steven Raichlen takes smoking to a whole new level.
With the release of his 30th cookbook, Project Smoke, expert in all things barbecue, Steven Raichlen turns his attention to the latest in live-fire cooking: smoking. Here, Raichlen offers a few of his inventive dishes from the book.
Smoked Planked Trout
The mildly earthy flavor of trout makes it a staple on the world’s smoked fish trail. When I smoke trout, I like to incorporate a popular grilling technique: planking. The plank — cedar, alder, hickory, your choice — adds a haunting wood flavor that’s lighter and different from smoke. It also makes a convenient and handsome presentation for serving — you don’t even need a plate. There’s an added advantage: This method works equally well on a grill as in a smoker. Note: I work at a higher temperature than traditional low and slow smoking to crisp the bacon. — Steven Raichlen
4 whole trout (12 – 16 ounces each), cleaned
Freshly ground black pepper
8 – 12 sprigs fresh dill
3 lemons, 1 thinly sliced and seeded, 2 halved crosswise
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, thinly sliced
8 strips thinly sliced artisanal bacon
Set up your grill for direct grilling and preheat to high (450 degrees). Lay the planks on the grill, and grill until the underside is charred, 2 to 4 minutes. Let cool. If working on an offset barrel smoker, hold the planks with tongs over the fire in the firebox to singe them.
Rinse the trout inside and out under cold running water, and then blot dry inside and out with paper towels. Make 3 diagonal slashes in each side of the trout with a single-edge razor blade or sharp paring knife. (This looks cool and helps the fish cook more evenly.) Generously season the trout inside and out with salt and pepper. Place a couple dill sprigs, lemon slices, and butter slices in the cavity of each trout.
Tie 2 bacon strips to each trout, one on top, one on the bottom, using 4 pieces of butcher’s string to secure them. Arrange the trout on the charred side of the grilling planks (align them on the diagonal) and place a lemon half on each plank.
Set up your smoker following the manufacturer’s instructions and preheat to medium (350 degrees — or as hot as it will go). Add the wood as specified by the manufacturer.
Smoke-roast the trout until the bacon is sizzling and crisp and the trout is cooked through (140 – 145 degrees in the center), 20 – 30 minutes at 350 degrees, 40 – 60 minutes if your smoker runs cooler. Alternatively, direct grill the trout over a medium flame (this will take about 10 minutes). If the edges start to burn, spray with a squirt gun.
Serve the trout on the plank with the smoked lemon halves for squeezing.
Smoked Bacon-Bourbon Apple Crisp
Here’s a smoked version of an American classic — apple pie — and it was inspired by a restaurant at The Outermost Inn on Martha’s Vineyard. “[A]pple pie should step on the dark side,” says its one-time chef and the recipe’s creator, Michael Winkelman. “Give me bacon. Give me whiskey. Give me smoke. Give me a dessert that means business.” I give you Winkelman’s smoked apple crisp. — S.R.
2 strips artisanal bacon, cut crosswise into ¼-inch slivers
3 pounds crisp, sweet apples, like Galas
⅓ cup light or dark brown sugar
1½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons bourbon
Set up your grill for indirect grilling and preheat to 400 degrees.
While the butter for the topping is getting icy cold, make the filling. Fry the bacon in the skillet over medium heat, stirring with a slotted spoon, until crisp and golden brown, about 4 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a large bowl. Pour off and reserve the bacon fat. Remove skillet from heat, but do not wipe it out or wash it.
Peel and core the apples and cut them into 1-inch pieces. Add them to the bacon. Stir in the sugar, flour, lemon zest, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in the bourbon. Taste the mixture for sweetness, adding sugar as needed. Spoon the filling into the skillet.
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch
pieces and placed in the freezer until icy cold
½ cup crushed gingersnap cookies, or granola
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup light or dark brown sugar
Pinch of salt
Vanilla ice cream, for serving (optional)
Place the butter, cookie crumbs, flour, sugars, and salt in a food processor. Grind to a coarse powder, running the processor in short bursts. The mixture should remain loose and crumbly, like sand. Sprinkle the topping over the apples.
Place the crisp on the grill or smoker rack away from the heat. Toss the wood on the coals and cover the grill. Smoke-roast the crisp until the topping is browned and bubbling, the apples are soft (and easy to pierce with a skewer), and the filling is thick, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Serve the crisp hot off the grill or smoker. Top with vanilla ice cream.
Cross a margarita with a mojito, and you get a mezcalini. Add smoke, and you achieve nirvana, not to mention notoriety. It may also be the most refreshing cocktail ever to slake your thirst. I discovered it at the rooftop dining room of the sophisticated Casa Oaxaca Hotel in Mexico. Smoked salt works fine for rimming the glass in the United States. — S.R.
1 cup mezcal
1 cup fresh lime juice (it must be fresh)
¾ cup simple syrup or smoked simple syrup
2 tablespoons Cointreau (or other orange-flavored liqueur)
1 medium-size cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into ¼-inch dice (about 1 cup)
1 bunch fresh yerba buena, spearmint, or peppermint, rinsed, shaken dry, and separated into sprigs
½ cup smoked salt or kosher salt
1 lime wedge, for moistening the glass rims
6 jumbo ice cubes or 18 regular or smoked ice cubes
Combine the mezcal, lime juice, simple syrup, and Cointreau in a pitcher, cover, and refrigerate until serving.
Just before serving, place the cucumber and yerba buena in a mortar or bowl and lightly crush them with a pestle or muddler. Stir this mixture into the pitcher. If you make the mezcalini right before serving, you can muddle the cucumber and yerba buena right in the pitcher using a long-handled wooden spoon.
Optional — for even more smoke flavor, smoke the mezcalini with a handheld smoker. Cover the pitcher with plastic wrap, leaving one edge open for the smoker tube. Just before serving, load the smoker with sawdust following the manufacturer’s instructions. Insert the tube and fill the pitcher with smoke. Quickly remove the tube, seal the pitcher with plastic wrap, and let stand for 3 – 4 minutes. Stir well with a bar spoon and repeat once more.
To serve, spread out the smoked salt in a shallow bowl. Moisten the rims of 6 large martini glasses with the lime wedge, then dip them in the salt. Shake off the excess.
Place 1 jumbo or 3 regular-size ice cubes in each glass. Pour the mezcalini into the glasses. Spoon some of the cucumber and yerba buena into each glass, taking care not to drip on the salt.
Recipes excerpted and adapted with permission from Project Smoke by Steven Raichlen (Workman Publishing, 2016).
From the May/June 2016 issue.