My trusty weber kettle recently started to rust in several spots because a subcontractor* dropped a hammer on it last year. I was the next person in line at work to get free swag from our U-Line order so I got a new weber kettle (!). I spent a lot of time on the interwebs looking for ideas on how to modify my old kettle before settling on making a DIY electric smoker. Why electric you ask? Because it's a hell of a lot easier than setting up and babysitting a charcoal smoker. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I've heard all the complaints about how smoking shouldn't be easy, and that half the fun is tweaking the vents, and how it's cheating, and how / and how / and how. ... pfffffffffft. After testing this unit out and dialing in 225 and 250 on the thermostat I can say that this is pretty close to set it and forget it. I bought a replacement electric smoker element from amazon with an adjustable thermostat. The I used a dremel with a metal cut off wheel to cut the opening for the electric element, and then had to bend some parts into submission with brute force. The electric element has a set of mounting holes, and I drilled through the kettle and set the element in place with some stainless bolts. Figuring out how high to place the element was the only bit of struggle I had with this build. I removed the charcoal grate and made sure that the ash sweeps / vent covers weren't impeded and set about cutting open the grill. I bought two stainless steel chafing pans, the smaller one to act as a water pan / dripping catcher, and the other to hold wood chips.
The first run featured perfectly cooked salmon and pulled pork, but the smoke flavor was definitely lacking . After looking into the ash tray I discovered that most the wood chips hadn't really caught fire. I figured out that the pan gets hot enough to make some of the chips smolder, but not hot enough to foster minion method burning. Some further inter-webbing solved that problem. Enter the a-maze-n pellet smoking tube. While I haven't actually used the pellet smoker yet, but i found that the wood pellets** produce a ton of smoke just laying on the bottom of the larger chafing pan. I also started a few of the pellets in one corner to ensure smoke production The second run produced excellent , smokey results. I ran at 245˚ ish degrees and successfully smoked a boston butt, a chicken carcass, and some pink salt. When the a-maze-n shows up I fully indent to cold smoke cheese, tofu, and nuts (and anything else I can think of), and I'll update on how it works.
**There is a mountain of information and opinion on pellet smoking / pellet composition / binders / ////// The conclusion I came to was to use 100% hardwood pellets, and what I found in my area was traeger branded pellets. The flavor was excellent. One other note on the traeger grills, I've had "smoked" meats from pellet grills that were excellently cooked with no smoke flavor. What I've read now makes sense, the pellet grills get to temperature and then maintain temperature without actually burning that much fuel. No burning = no smoke flavor. I feel pretty great that I've made something out of a rusting kettle that makes food better than the 1000$ pellet grills...
As I said last night I'm not really a soup kind of person. Though, now that I think about it I actually have become more of a soup person over the years. We make a green chili stew when it's not hotter'n the blazes - which here is like 2 months of the year - and I'll order pho over bun every day ... and we've been making this white bean and corn soup ... and we've been making crab and corn bisque ... I'm a soup guy? That doesn't line up with my self image. anywho ...
This is lifted from America's Test Kitchen
4lbs onion - yeah, seems like a lot ... it isn't
3 tbs butter cut into three slices
1/2 cup dry sherry
2 cups of water plus additional for deglazing
4 cups of chicken broth
2 cups of beef broth - I used better than broth - its my secret weapon for beefy magic flavor
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
Cut onions in half through the roots, and slice pole to pole in 1/4 inch slices. Preheat oven to 400˚. Put onions into a well oiled dutch oven, top with butter and a 1/4 tsp salt. Put dutch oven in oven covered for an hour. (their method has you then take the pot out of the oven and stir the onions, replace the pot in the oven with the lid cracked for another 1.5 to 1.75 hours- I just cranked up the heat on the burner and stirred the onions to keep them from burning. You're looking for the liquid to evaporate and for the pot to run dry. When a dark crust begins to form on the bottom of the pan add a quarter cup of water to deglaze the pan. Continue to run the pot dry several times until the onions are dark brown - but not burnt! - and are beginning to break apart. the last time you deglaze the pot use the 1/2 cup of dry sherry and cook until the liquid evaporates. Add the water, stock beef broth (or better than broth), bay leaf, and thyme stir to combine, and then bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Slice the baguette into thick slices and bake dry in the oven - drying these out will improve the crunchy texture of the crust when they're submerged into the soup - once dry top with shredded gruyere and broil until the cheese is bubbly and golden brown on top. Serve in a deep bowl with cheesy bread dunked into the bowl.
This was phenomenal. The hardest part is standing over the pot making sure the onions don't burn.
By popular demand, here is an improvised version of curry chicken pot pie.
The good doctor requested fall food because the outside air temp dropped below boiling. We had a curry in London that resembled super smooth butternut squash soup with chicken bits, and decided that we could make that happen at home. After several attempts we discovered that we were missing some fat source be it cream / butter / ???. We shelved the recipe in favor of a Korma recipe that is always solid only to return to the idea when the weather turned cool(ish). To do this you'll need:
cubed butternut squash
cubed sweet potato
a toe of garlic smashed
a small hand full of raisins
diced chicken parts (we used breasts, though thighs would def. amp up the flavor values)
curry seasoning (make your own if you feel sassy)
a bay leaf
salt and pepper
pie crust (if you make your own then you win) (trader joes is pretty alright, pilsbury is more than alright)
pyrex or similar oven safe bowls (though some consumer groups say that pyrex aint what it used to be... so be careful when dealing with wild temp swings and glass cookware)
The ratios of this are really not hard math, I used a bag of butternut squash cubes from trader joes (because lazy), 4 carrots, two small sweet potatoes from my garden. I roasted half the veg to roast, and half the veg for the sauce. I ended up with thee of the 2 cup pyrex individual pot pies. I used the left over crust to make a flower top for decorative / more pie crust goodness
I roasted half the sweet potato and butternut squash along with the carrots to add flavor / texture dimension to the final product. I tossed the veg with a little olive oil, salt, pepper and curry powder prior to roasting in a 450 degree oven. I removed the veg when brown / starting to blacken on the edges (about 25 minutes). I dumped a handful plus of frozen peas onto the roasting pan after I removed it from the oven (both arrests the cooking of the veg and thaws the peas). While the veg is roasting I add the remaining butternut squash and sweet potato (you can also add some carrot / parsnips) to a 2 quart sauce pan with just enough water to cover, plus salt and pepper and a dose of curry seasoning, and bring to a roiling boil. Boil this mixture until the veg falls apart, and mash in the pan. At this point the liquid in the pan should be fairly runny. Add the diced chicken parts to the pan with another dose of curry seasoning, the bay leaf, a pinch of nutmeg (my secret weapon...) and the smashed garlic toe. Simmer until the chicken in cooked through and the sauce is thickened to your desired taste. Add the roasted veg + peas + a handful of raisins to the pot and simmer out any additional liquid. As this happens have your oven preheated to 425 (YMMV). Portion out your sauce / chicken / veg mix into your baking dish(s), and cut your pie crusts to hang over the edges. Cut some vents and bake until the crust is golden brown. (an egg wash will help with browning, but isn't necessary for flavors). Basically this is a boiler plate for seasoned chicken pot pie with no dairy. You could use (gasp) tofu, ginger, lemongrass, green thai curry etc etc etc etc as flavor enhancers.
I changed my mind, and decided this fit my mood better. I'm not sure what that means, and really I didn't have a plan for this week, but the blues seems to fit just right. This song has a way of haunting me round and round, so I figured I should share it with y'all.
one more cut, not live, but great.
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