Friday, April 15, 2011

Smoked Meat

I had a great time last Sunday smoking meat and watching the final round of the Masters.  This month's Charcutepalooza challenge was to smoke either a pork loin to make canadian bacon or pork shoulder to make Tasso ham.  The week prior I smoked up a pork tenderloin in the style of canadian bacon and it was terrific -- but I didn't take any photos.  So I figured if I was going to set up the smoker again, I would take full advantage -- so I prepared some pork shoulder for Tasso, a tri-tip for sandwiches, and a hunk of leftover pork shoulder for South Carolina Barbecue.

This past summer I splurged and bought a Webber Smoky Mountain Cooker.  I love this smoker.  Using a technique I learned from The Virtual Weber Bullet website, I can maintain a temperature of around 200° for as long as I want.  I like to hot smoke at this temp because it's low enough to get good smoke flavor on sausage and smaller pieces of meat before they are fully cooked.

The first item to go into the smoker on Sunday was the pork shoulder for my South Carolina Barbecue.  I was born in California, but my parents and sister are from South Carolina.  I've spent a fair amount of time in the Low Country and have a well formed opinion of what I like in Barbecue...and I don't like mustard.  Salt, pepper, red pepper, and vinegar--that's barbecue sauce.  So on Saturday night, I covered a couple pound chunk of pork shoulder with a dry rub of salt, pepper and mild chili powder and left it in the fridge overnight. On Sunday, I placed it in the smoker and left it for a good 8 hours, then finished it in a low oven until it was fall apart tender.

Next up was the Tasso Ham and the Tri-Tip.  On Saturday, I  bought a piece of pork shoulder from John Bledsoe and the Davis Farmers Market.  When I opened up the cryovac package, I was pretty disappointed by the butchering job.  Cutting steaks from this mangled piece of meat was a challenge.  But I ended up with three steaks and on Sunday I used the recipe in Charcuterie to cure the meat for 4 hours.  I put it in the smoker in the afternoon and it came out about 2 hours later after reaching an internal temperature of 147°.

Tasso Ham

The Mustards Grill cookbook has a recipe for Smoked Tri-Tip sandwiches with Horseradish Cream.  It's the spice rub on the tri-tip and the horseradish cream that make these sandwiches really special.  My local grocer, Nugget Market, had tri-tip on sale last week so this was a no-brainer.  I rubbed the spice into the meat on Saturday, then on Sunday, the Tri-Tip went into the smoker until it reached an internal temperature of 137°.

Smoked Tri-Tip

Once the South Carolina barbeque was cool enough to handle, I shredded it as finely as my attention span would allow.  Then I added a fair amount of a vinegar, salt, pepper and red pepper sauce.  This wasn't dinner, so it went into the refrigerator.

Say what you will about Tiger Woods, but his front nine at Augusta was as exciting as when Jack Nickluas won his last green jacket 25 years ago.  If anyone other than Charl Schwartzel won the tournament by birdying the last four holes it would have been a satisfying tournament.  But I had a hard time getting over the tournament being won by someone named Charl.  

Dinner on Sunday was Smoked Tri-Tip Sandwiches.  I bought some good sourdough rolls from Village Bakery, sliced the tri-tip thin, spread a layer of horseradish cream on the bottom of the roll, added the meat, then topped it with arugula and thinly sliced red onions.  These sandwiches are incredible, there's some heat from the horseradish and the rub, a nice crunch from the onions, some pepperiness from the arugula....

On Monday, I racked my brain trying to figure out a use for the Tasso.  I made gumbo last week, so I need to come up with something else.  I decided on a Cauliflower and Tasso Gratin inspired by a recipe in Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table.  She uses bacon in her recipe, but I substituted the Tasso for kind of a Creole version.  I was pleasantly surprised by the Tasso--nice and spicy, but tasting very much like a traditional smoked ham.

All in all, this was a pretty successful month of Charcuetepalloza.  Tonight is clean out the fridge night and we're finishing up the last of the well-preserved smoky bits of meat.  Tomorrow...a Whole Hog Butchery Class at the Fatted Calf in Napa...