America, baking, chicken, cooking, dessert, entrees, recipes

A Fowl Habit

10.03.08 | 3 Comments

I am going to take up smoking. I tried it for the first time this past weekend, and let me tell you it is cool. I know, I know. A lot of naysayers out there will try to talk me out of it, but there’s not much you can tell me that I don’t already know. Smoke is a carcinogen and may cause cancer; it’s smelly and the stench clings to your clothes and hair; it’s expensive. But I have a provider (enabler?) and if I stay on his good side, I can just bum off him. I know, JUST SAY NO. I get it. But here’s the thing:

YOU try saying no to this:

13 pounds

of fatty



You wave a slab of meat under my nose like that, and I’ll say yes to just about anything.

I really had you going, there. I can tell.

Remember Dave? Well he has a smoker and a carnivorous flair, so when it was his turn to host the dinner club my parents and their friends have going, he hired me a sous chef. Dave and I also share a malicious steak—I mean streak: 8 people for dinner? Sure, 13 pounds of brisket would be sufficient.

But where’s the fun in sufficiency? An 8-person dinner party calls not just for a slab of meat as big as my torso, but also for two pounds of smoked shrimp with remoulade sauce, vegetables and dip, two whole chickens stuffed with a spinach onion matzoh meal stuffing, Dave’s homemade barbeque sauce, cactus salad, coleslaw, cornbread and honey butter, sangria, and a milk tart for dessert.

Remember the mantra: There is no such thing as too much food. Namaste.

The brisket was the headliner of the event. Many years ago, Dave made a brisket that predates my memory. In my mom’s view, it was one of meals that remains seared in her memory. While we were in Flagstaff, she was STILL talking about the dozen-year old brisket. Dave had a lot to live up to.

Brisket of this magnitude is a commitment. It isn’t something you just throw in the oven an hour beforehand while you have a glass of wine and some crudités. Brisket takes planning, patience, and lots of salivating. This is a marriage, people, not a one night stand.

Dinner was at 7, so Dave and I met at ten that morning to start smoking. First we rubbed the meat all over with Dave’s spice rub. I didn’t catch what was in it, but it was mostly red. And very aromatic.

Next we lit the smoker and plopped in the brisket and about 60 shrimp sprinkled with Cajun seasoning.

Then we moved on to the chickens. Dave is not one to do things the easy or traditional way. Dave had a vision. Dave had a dream. Dave was going to the mountaintop. He wasn’t just going to stuff a chicken—he was going to de-bone the chicken, season the insides, put in some stuffing, layer on an additional boneless thigh, add more stuffing, and then reconstruct the chicken and truss it up so that it looked like it still had a skeleton. This way when Dave carves the finished product, he doesn’t have to cut around the bone, he just slices right through.

Can you imagine his Thanksgiving turkeys? Talk about having a dream.

Dave showed me how to de-bone the chickens.

Cut down the back

and then keep the blade close to the bone.

Then it was my turn to get intimate with fowl. To de-bone, stuff, and reconstruct both chickens took almost an hour, the duration of which my hands were radiating with salmonella-carrying viscera. Here’s the stuffing–spinach, onion, and matzoh meal.

Then I lifted the sides of the chicken together and Dave trussed it together with wooden skewers.

And onto the smoker they go!

Washing my hands (multiple times) never felt so good.

Then we moved on to the remoulade sauce.

Easy. Just dump the ingredients in the blender.

Then the cactus salad, which had pickled cactus slices, corn, tomatoes, lime juice and such.

After a little break, Dave and I returned to the kitchen and I made my milk tart. (Disclaimer: all the pictures taken in the evening look a little weird–the lighting in the kitchen is strange, so I did the best I could to make the light look passable. )

Meanwhile, people munched on shrimp.

And then came the unveiling.

Torture. Pure torture, working with meat and spice all day long and knowing that unless you wanted to get all caveman and play Russian Roulette with a variety of bacteria, you had to forgo instant gratification.

Like butter.

Look at that juice.

And all that fat!

I just wanted to stick my face in it. Taking pictures and getting that close before ingestion is masochism.

Next up was the chicken.

At last, it was time to feast. The table practically sagged beneath all that meat. One of the standouts was Dave’s barbeque sauce. I don’t think anyone would have objected if it had been served instead of the sangria. The secret? Coffee.

The brisket, true to my mother’s memory, was smoky, tender, juicy, and flavorful. It puts all other dry, stringy briskets to shame. Shame! I really enjoyed the texture of the chicken; it was so soft and moist, but I thought that the stuffing could have used some salt.

By dessert time, everyone had made good use of their canines and I had to cajole them into dessert. But I had anticipated this reluctance when I agonized over what dessert to make and thus selected the milk tart because it is much lighter than a cake or pie alternative. And it’s different.

And very tasty.

Eleven hours after Dave and I started, I and the other guests waddled home, having consumed our monthly quota of red meat and protein.

I guess I’ll just have to become a social smoker.

Dave’s Barbeque Sauce

Makes about 4 cups

1 tablespoon canola or corn oil
2 cups chopped onions
2 to 3 minced fresh jalapenos
2 to 3 minced fresh serranos (or less if you don’t want the heat)
8 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup ketchup
¾ cup Worcestershire sauce
¾ cup strong black coffee
1/3 cup unsulphured dark molasses
¼ cup cider vinegar
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
¼ cup chili powder
2 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
1 ½ teaspoons salt

In saucepan, warm oil over medium heat. Add onions, chiles, and garlic, and sauté over medium heat until everything is softened. Mix in the remaining ingredients and bring the sauce to a simmer. Cover and cook 35-40 minutes. Allow sauce to cool briefly.

Strain the sauce and puree the solids in a food processor. Return pureed mix to the sauce, stirring thoroughly. Refrigerate the sauce overnight to allow the flavors to meld.

Use the sauce warm or chilled, or just drink it out of a jug.

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