Sometimes its not about what you cook, its about how and where and with what challenges.  Well today, much like cooking breakfast on an open fire, the challenge was not in what I was cooking or how I was cooking, it was the element of nature that produced the biggest source of problem in my cook.  In the midst of a blizzard warning this morning I fired up the smoker to smoke up some rosemary and brown sugar rubbed Boston butts (3) for some pulled pork.

Smoking in a blizzard

In spite of the snow and the massive drifts and the sometimes strong winds, I prevailed the smoked stayed going and the pork is now ready for some pulling.  Its not new, its not special but it was a challenge.  And if I do say the results look, smell and taste fantastic.

My apologies for the picture quality, they came from my phone. 🙁

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A week and a half ago we had a successful fishing adventure, we went up to Half Moon Lake here in Michigan and fished for Rainbow Trout.  As luck would have it we got one, a hair over legal size, yes merely one but it was a successful trip none the less.  Because of other things going on I had to wait to smoke him until today so he took up residence in my freezer until I took him out to thaw.  Today was the day, I brined him this morning for about an hour and a half in my standard fish brine, why change a good thing right?

Previously I had not smoked a whole fish, and that was the plan to smoke the whole gutted fish, but I decided since I had forgotten to remove his gills when I cleaned him and he still looked rather surprised I had to smoke him without his head.  In reality there is nothing edible in there anyways.

After his stint in the brine, I pulled him out, did not rinse him and stuffed him with some lemon wedges and onions and tossed him on an oiled smoker grate.  I then smoked him at 190°F over some apple wood, I usually smoke fish over alder, but had heard that trout was excellent over apple wood and I was not disappointed.  Using my PID controller for my electric smoker it was easy/effortless to maintain temperature and once the smoke was rolling it was time to sit back and let him cook.

After about 2 hours I retrieved him from the smoker and using a technique I had recently learned I grabbed the spine with on hand and the fish with the other and gently removed the spine and all the bones from the fish, it worked great.

Smoked Rainbow Trout on Rice

As if smelling the sweet smell of the apple wood smoke all morning wasn’t good enough, eating it was incredible.  It was done just right, flaky.  It was smoky but not too smoke and the apple wood complimented the lemon well and trout well, it was not fishing but it was fish.  It was in a word awesome, so trout beware I am coming for you.  If I only fish for one thing for the rest of the year it will be trout.

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In perhaps the best smoking day so far in 2010 I smoked some bbq chicken quarters this afternoon.  The weather was perfect, cloudy with a ever so subtle breeze and that was it, no sun, no gales to contend with just cloudy skies and a faint breeze, made smoking so very effortless.  So here is how it went down, chicken was on sale this week and I have been itching to do some bbq chicken on the smoker, so on the way home last night I picked up a pack of chicken quarters, this would work with a whole bird, but I like the dark meat and the smoke seems to too.

I mixed up a batch of my legendary poultry brine I discovered last fall when I smoked my turkey breast, however, this time I did not include the celery seed and cajun spice rather I added 3/4 tsp per quart onion powder and 1 tsp per quart Bad Byron’s Butt Rub and of course a little cayenne and sage.  I let that sit by itself in the fridge over night.

How much brine should I make?  If you are struggling with how much brine to make, put your meat in the container you will be brining it, add enough water to cover the meat completely and then remove the meat.  Once the meat is removed measure the amount of water that is left in the container.  Be sure to discard this water and start with fresh water when making any brine.

Back to the bbq chicken, this morning I trimmed the excess fat from and brined my chicken for about 3 hours, you will notice in the picture some of the chicken is not covered in water, I had to use a plate to hold the chicken below the water line, it was a tight fit.

Chicken in brineOne the chicken was done brining I pulled it from the brine and brushed it with olive oil and then rub it liberally with BBQ 3000 from Penzey’s, at this point I let the chicken sit and got the smoker ready to cook at a temperature of 225°F.

Chicken rubbed with BBQ 3000

Once the smoker was up to temperature, I added a handful of apple chips and a hickory chunk to the chip can and then put the chicken on and let the apple and hickory do its magic.  I was using my Brinkmann Gourmet with the Afterburner Propane burner today, so once the temperature stabilized all I had to do was check the meat temperature and the smoke.  It was a pretty easy smoke.  I arranged the chicken so the smoke could easily flow between all of the pieces.  Be sure to lube your rack with oil or cooking spray for easy meat removal and clean up, but make sure you do it before it is over the fire.

Raw Chicken on the Smoker

In a rare stoke of brilliance today I took a picture of the meat right before I sauced it, the water pan is gross I know, but ignore it look at the shrink.  Look how much the meat has shrunk throughout this cook, this is at about 175°F, right before I smothered it in some bbq sauce.

Cooked BBQ Chicken on the Smoker

At an internal temperature of 180°F I pulled the chicken and let it rest for about 15 minutes.  On the bounds of bragging you know you have done well cooking your chicken when as you pick up the quarters with a tongs the drumstick bone just falls out of the meat.  I was excited!

Smoked BBQ Chicken Quarters

At this point it was all I could to do keep from eating it, we ate it with some corn and a chunk of stone ground wheat bread (thanks Lohn this stuff is great).  The chicken was awesome, better than even the cajun whole smoked chicken, which was really really good.  What was really surprising is I have never used apple as a dominant wood in my smoking and it imparts well an apple like taste to the meat, which just blew my mind.

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If you haven’t heard the iPad is a new device from Apple due out in March that is like a giant iPhone or iPod touch, on steroids.  Its like a laptop with no keyboard or mouse, just a touch screen.  You can look at it here.

The iPad looks great, in fact, I want one and will be buying one as soon as it is feasible.  In the mean time I am left to wonder, as a foodie-geek or geek-foodie or food nerd or whatever I am, how will this work as a cookbook?  Will the screen stand up to some abuse?  Can I wipe it off with a rag when I get oil, grease and juices on it?

Starting at $499 it is a rather expensive toy and an even more expensive cookbook but it holds promise if it will stand up to the abuse of living in a kitchen.  In the mean time I have downloaded the SDK and hope to begin plugging away shortly to hook the iPad into my existing recipe database.

Time will tell whether or not the iPad will catch on but with Apple’s cult following surely they will sell millions of these devices in its first year of availability, however, with a  built in stand by battery time of a month it seems that Apple has already counted on these devices not being used daily.  Perhaps CraigsList will end up flooded the used iPads for cheap.

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Sometimes I wonder if we take the time to consider the cost of what we are eating, I mean for a lot of people go to the grocery store, pick out their food and run.  If you do take the time to consider the cost you probably focus on getting a good deal or think that you are doing well to support the employees of the store and the people who took a part in getting the food to the store.  However there are some people who do not have any idea where their food came from or that it was once living.  Well the turkey we smoked, I know was once living, in the wild and was shot by a friend of mine during turkey season here in Michigan.

So with all that in mind, it was my goal to cook up one heck of a turkey and not let the story of this bird end with a bad plate of turkey.  With the exception of the legs it turned out great, it was unlike any turkey I have ever eaten before.  Each bite was a bit different than the last and all of them were pretty incredible.

I used the same brine as I had used when I smoked my turkey breast for our Thanksgiving potluck and brined it overnight in a 5 gallon bucket overnight in the garage, it was colder than the fridge.  We were forced to remove its legs to fit it into the brining bucket and the smoker.  This morning after a hasty breakfast of eggs, bacon and sausage we pulled the turkey out of the brine, brushed it with cajun butter and rubbed it with cajun spice.

We then loaded the smoker and set it up to smoke over hickory and apple wood and smoked it for 6 hours, basting with apple juice and white wine about every half hour.  After a days work and about 30 games of Halo, the turkey was done and resting on the counter covered by a thick blanket.  After allowing the juices to redistribute, we began to carve and eat.  It was worth the effort.

Carved smoked wild turkey

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