28 October 2010

Bánh Mi Saigon Bakery

Bánh Mi Saigon Bakery, formerly a sandwich shop in the back of a jewelry shop, now a sandwich shop with a jewelry counter in the front, is pretty much exactly what I'm looking for in terms of Bánh Mi. Bread has a good crust on it but also chewy inside, with just-enough-but-not-too-much shredded carrots, vermicelli, sliced cucumber and jalapeños. And then there's the pork: delicious, candy-tasting wonderful pork, crystallized almost. Just perfect, and at $3.75 a helluva deal for a great lunch. Iced coffee was nice enough but not the best.

24 October 2010

Smoked Fish

By far the most exciting new part of the smoker has been my experiments with fish. Each has been instructive, and mostly delicious. And as good as the mackerel was the other week, this past weekend bluefish provided new highs. Not to be overlooked, however, a nice brine for the tuna delivered superior results – fuller description below.


Background: Bluefish was the cheapest but also tasty-looking at the fishmongers so I decided to give it a go. Good choice.

  1. Prepare brine:
    • 4 c. water
    • 1/4 c. soy sauce
    • 1/4 c. kosher salt
    • 1/4 c. sugar
    • 4 bay leaves, crushed
    • 1 tbs. whole peppercorns
  2. Dissolve all elements and combine
  3. Put fish in pan and cover with brine; refrigerate for 4 hours
  4. Remove, rinse, and put on rack to let drain and dry for 2 hours 
  5. Smoke for 3 hrs. on aluminum foil (less for smaller filets)
  6. Enjoy!

Verdict: Just great. Best fish so far, and not even expensive – already becoming a household standard.

Albacore Tuna

Background: In addition to the huge filet of bluefish, there was a lonely little hunk of albacore tuna that was the last the fishmongers had today, so I decided to give it another go and am glad I did.

Preparation: The brine I found was a lovely little ginger brine (I went pretty heavy on it):

  1. Prepare brine:
    • 2/3 c. water
    • 2" inch piece of ginger, sliced
    • 1 tbs. honey
    • 1 tbs. balsamic vinegar
    • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  2. Dissolve all elements and combine
  3. Put fish in plastic bag with brine; chill in fridge for 1 hour
  4. Remove, rinse, and place on rack to dry and drain for 2 hours
  5. Smoke for 2 hrs. on aluminum foil
  6. Enjoy!

Verdict: The result is not overly dry, very flavorful and meaty. Looking forward to having some sandwiches this week.

11 October 2010

Smoking Meat

One of my first priorities after moving to Brooklyn (yeah, yeah, we'll see whether the blog title stays put) in a house with a yard was getting myself a smoker. After two years of delicious smokery courtesy the Wolf-Ferrari house, a change of location demanded that I get my own carcinogenic deliciousness up and running. So it was that, for my birthday, I bought myself a Brinkmann Gourmet Electric Smoker– very basic, no temperature gauge or even on/off switch, but electric, two big racks and only $70.

After assembling and curing it, I determined that yesterday would be the first trial-run of the big red beast, and so assembled a range of meats and preparations to see how it all went.

Long story short: super-awesome.

Long story slightly longer: preparations and results for each given meat, below, in order of awesomeness.

1) Spanish Mackerel

Background: I'd had it in my mind to smoke some fish, and so stopped by the fishmongers at the Ft. Greene Farmer's Market on Saturday looking for a likely victim. The lovely, greasy Spanish Mackerel was a perfect prospect, and so I picked up three filets.

Preparation: To start with, I went just with a super-simple fish smoking technique –

  1. Liberally sprinkle kosher salt onto plate
  2. Place filets on plate
  3. Liberally sprinkle kosher salt on filets
  4. Let sit for 10-15 minutes
  5. Wash off salt with cold water, transfer to dry plate and pat dry
  6. When ready to smoke, transfer to large sheet of aluminum foil
  7. Place aluminum foil on grate of smoker, and smoke for ~2 hrs.
  8. Enjoy!
Verdict: Hot out of the smoker, the mackerel was simply divine – no longer greasy, the fat had kept the fish moist and tender, the smoke providing a lovely counterpoint to the salt and sweetness of the fish. And then today, chunked out and eaten on top of a poppy-seed bagel with cream cheese, the fish was just about as good a bagel-topping as I've ever had. Highly, highly recommended

2) Whole Chicken

Background: No picture, because we demolished the bird entirely. I got a nice, free-range, small (~3 lbs.) bird, because who doesn't love a chicken?

Preparation: Super-basic. Covered in olive oil, salt, pepper, and smoked for four (4) hours right on the grate. 

Verdict: It only misses first prize because the mackerel was so transcendent, but this was basically a perfect bird. The skin was a deep golden brown, crispy but not overly so, and the meat inside was just outrageously juicy and tender. I am very, very much looking forward to cooking down this carcass for stock, and to repeat performances smoking birds.

3) (tie) Pepper-rubbed Turkey Thighs 

Background: Also from the bounty of the Farmer's Market, these big ol' turkey thighs (3+ lbs.' worth) were meant as an experiment in de-boned poultry, and also as fodder for tacos and sandwiches for the week.

Preparation: I went with a (mostly) dry rub for these, made of

  • 1 tbs. chili powder
  • 1 tbs. paprika
  • 1 tbs. cayenne pepper
  • 1 tbs. cumin powder
  • 1/2 tbs. cinnamon powder
  • 1 tbs. maple whiskey
  • 2 tbs. apple cider vinegar
coated them, placed them in a Ziploc, and marinated overnight. Put them on the rack and smoked for four (4) hours as well.

Verdict: Very nice, though room for improvement – maybe more of a marinade and a little oil will help hold more moisture in (not really much in the way of skin on these guys). Great smokiness comes through in the meat, and the rub firmed up nicely into a spicy and flavorful crust all around.

3) (tie) Chicken Liver Pâté

Background: After once accidentally discovering how awesome smoked liver is, I've become an enormous fan of this mostly-overlooked-currently-in-this-country-among-some-audiences organ. At least when it comes from birds.

Preparation: Having had great success with making a pâté with sherry after the fact, I decided to go traditional and soak the livers in booze (ha!) the night before –

  1. Wash 1 lb. livers, and transfer to glass bowl
  2. Pour four (4) oz. sherry over them, and mix gently
  3. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight
  4. When ready to smoke, drain livers in colander (but don't rinse – just let excess liquid off)
  5. Get a large sheet of aluminum foil (or aluminum pie plate), and create circular ridge
  6. Place livers in pie plate or foil approximation thereof
  7. Put container on rack of smoker, and smoke for ~3 hours
  8. Let cool, and transfer to bowl; mash thoroughly with fork
  9. Cover, and transfer to fridge
  10. Serve chilled or room temperature
  11. Enjoy on bread or crackers! 

Verdict: Very flavorful, and a great success. Also nice to make ~12 oz. of pâté with ~$3 of ingredients.

5) Tuna

Background: Figured I'd use one of the more-traditional smoked fishes as well, so picked up a small steak.

Preparation: I sliced the steak in half, for smaller pieces, and used the same prep as the mackerel –
  1. Liberally sprinkle kosher salt onto plate
  2. Place steaks on plate
  3. Liberally sprinkle kosher salt on filets
  4. Let sit for 10-15 minutes
  5. Wash off salt with cold water, transfer to dry plate and pat dry
  6. When ready to smoke, transfer to large sheet of aluminum foil
  7. Place aluminum foil on grate of smoker, and smoke for ~2 hrs.
  8. Enjoy!
Verdict: Not bad, but not a runaway success. Came out a little dry – could definitely use a nice marinade to keep moisture in and add some other flavors.

6) Chicken Heart

Background: Well, there were giblets with the chicken, and I'm not one to waste food.

Preparation: Just put it on the aluminum foil, similar to the livers.

Verdict: Smoky! Very, very meaty and chewy. But, there's a reason you don't really see chicken hearts on menus most places.


So, all in all, an excellent start. Stay tuned for additional adventures in smoking, and if you've got wood or meat to devote to the cause, let me know!