Still Smoking

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This is not the blog post I thought I would be writing this
morning.

Last
night we went on another smoking binge. We smoked two pounds of fat beautiful shrimp, which I had marinated in
olive oil, lemon juice and chopped garlic, and a block of Monterey Jack cheese and a block of pepper
jack, for good measure.

So,
that was the plan for dinner.  I made a
spicy barbecue sauce for the shrimp, and we sat down to a plate of gorgeous
food (the shrimp) and not so gorgeous (the cheese) right out of the
smoker. We also had a crisp and spicy
vegetable/fruit salad that I had made earlier in the day and left to marinate
in lime juice.

To
my real regret, I did not love the smoked shrimp. Jerry thought they were great but I could
barely eat them. The smoky taste of the
hickory wood was so strong and the shrimp, while thoroughly cooked, had the
texture of raw shrimp. I even seared
them for a second in a hot pan which firmed them up a little, but still the
smoke flavor was overwhelming. The
cheese was good, but kind of oily and melty since it was still warm. The pepper jack didn’t turn me on – again,
the strong smoke didn’t enhance the spicy cheese.

I
was seriously bummed.  Smoking food is so much fun and smoked fish is
so good that I wanted to love smoked shrimp too. Maybe it was the hickory wood chips we used,
I speculated – maybe a milder smoke would be better. Still, I went to bed planning a blog post filled with culinary dismay.

Well,
there’s an obvious moral here, if you are the type that looks for them. I got up today and while prowling for
breakfast, gave the cheese, now thoroughly cold and solid, another try. Fabulous. Pepper jack? Delish.

Hmmm….

I
got out the leftover shrimp and barbecue sauce and gave them another
try too. The smoky taste was still
there, but it had somehow mellowed overnight. Now it wasn’t overbearing, and with a squirt of lemon, the shrimp were
fantastic. Add the barbecue sauce and my mouth was awake and singing.

I
am still not sure they are breakfast material, but I definitely know what we’re
having for lunch!

Smoked_cheese_025

I
didn’t keep great notes while I cooked, but here’s roughly what went into what.

Smoked shrimp. I marinated two pounds of shelled and
deveined gulf shrimp for about an hour in a minimal amount of olive oil, two
lemons worth of juice, and a large clove of garlic, chopped. Smoked them for about half an hour, until
they had lost their transparency and looked like cooked shrimp. Since longer smoking makes them smokier, you
might want to do what I did and finish them off on the stove or grill if you
want them to have a firmer texture. I
will be interested in experimenting with different kinds of wood for this
too. If anyone has any advice on this,
let me know!! I think these are better
cold (which also firms them a bit), the next day.

Smoked cheese. As far as I know (which isn’t all that
far) cheese for smoking —
unless you are cold smoking it, which we were not — should be in the Monterey Jack family as most other cheeses will melt and separate into a greasy mess.  In the past we have just put a block of cheese into a loaf pan and put
it in the smoker for maybe half an hour. No loaf pans in our baby kitchen here in Apalach, so we sliced the cheese into
smaller blocks and put it into ramekins. Made nice little rounds of smoked cheese. Chill it before you remove from whatever container you smoke it in. Great with triscuits.

Smoked_cheese_007

Barbecue sauce. Wish I could give you precise amounts here,
but I made it up as I went along. It’s
all a matter of taste anyway, so just play with it. I am pretty sure you can’t go wrong. I sautéed a red onion and a large clove of
garlic, both chopped, in a small bit of olive oil until soft. Added a can of diced tomatoes and a can of
Rotel (Rotel is tomatoes with chilies. If
you don’t want spice you can make this two cans of plain tomatoes. If you want spice and can’t find Rotel, just
add some chopped jalapenos to the sautéing onions and garlic.) Then I added a couple tablespoons of brown
sugar and some Worcestershire sauce and a few splashes of white balsamic
vinegar. Salt and pepper. Let it cook down, taste and adjust
flavors. This is chunky as is; I put ¾
of it through the blender and made a smoother, though still textured dip. Like the shrimp, it’s better the next day.

Chopped Vegetable Fruit
Salad.
Dice one or two ripe tomatoes, two red or
yellow bell peppers, one Vidalia or red onion, two seeded cucumbers. Add a clove of garlic, finely chopped, and a
couple of cups of chopped pineapple (fresh or canned in its own juice), ripe
peaches, or watermelon (or a combination.) Salt and pepper to taste. Add the
juice of two limes and adjust for seasonings. I like this with a bite, so I add a chopped jalapeño, or a couple
squirts of Sriracha sauce. It’s also
good with some chopped herbs – cilantro or mint is best, but yield very
different salads. Use what suits your
mood. This salad is better after it sits
a bit and the vegetables and fruit give up their juice.

Smoked_shrimp_002

10 Comments Add yours

  1. kevin says:

    Well, I’ve heard people say that everything tastes better after a smoking binge.
    Oh wait, that’s something else.
    I wish I were joining you for those shrimp, your sauce, your cheese, and that lovely veggie fruit salad. Eaten on vacation, by the ocean, with your loved ones — nothing could be better. Have a great holiday weekend!

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  2. Lydia says:

    One thing about marinating seafood in lemon juice is that it starts to “cook” immediately. I know smoking is a low and slow process, and I’ve never tried smoking shrimp, so I can’t advise on the wood or the timing, but maybe a different type of marinade (something sweet?) would counteract the smoky flavor. Interesting that they mellowed the next day, too.

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  3. Freya says:

    OH boy, that smoked shrimp looks so good and I adore smoked cheese – it’s so great in toasted sandwiches! You are putting the smoker to great use!

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  4. Well you are welcome to join us anytime, Kevin. You and Ed have a great holiday weekend too.
    I’ll try a sweeter marinade next time, Lydia, though I liked that it started to cook a bit with the lemon since that meant we could smoke it for a shorter time. I guess I just need to play around with all the variables — type of wood, marinade, smoking time, etc. and see what tastes good. A project for another vacation!
    Hadn’t thought about making toasted sandwiches with the smoked cheese, Freya. We usually just eat it on crackers — silly us! I’ll get on this one right away.

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  5. Rebecca says:

    Recently when I had marinated chicken in fresh lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, and fresh herbs, my husband grilled it with wood chips on the Weber and they gave the chicken such a strong smoky flavor that I thought the marinade had been a complete wasted effort; all I could taste was the flavor of the smoke, so I know what you mean here. Shrimp has a delicate flavor that may not lend itself to smoking the way some of the oilier fish does, with its stronger flavors.

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  6. Alanna says:

    Don’t give up on the shrimp!! I did my own (first) batch, along with scallops, tonight and they were delicious! I didn’t really know how much wood to use, used maybe a tablespoon, think I had the stove too hot, they cooked zip-zip.
    My chef friend only cooks shrimp/scallops to an internal temp of 120 — that was a little low for me on the shrimp so tonight I did them to 130. For me, they were perfect.
    Come on over, I’ll give you a lesson! 🙂 (That, friends, from someone who five days ago never imagined owning a smoker but thanks to Christine, not only imagines but owns one.)
    Tomorrow: trout.

    Like

  7. Cynthia says:

    Everything looks great, Christine. I have no experience with smoking but have had smoked fish before and it was soooo good.
    I’m glad things tasted better though it was the next day. I can only imagine your dismay the on the first day.

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  8. Rebecca, you might be right — the smoke flavor certainly overrode the marinade. I have had smoked shrimp before that didn’t seem as strong as this, though.
    Alanna, I wonder if the difference is in the type of smoker. Are you using a stove top smoker or a stand-alone grill type?
    I know, Cynthia — smoked fish is sooooo good! Been looking at the smoked trout over on Alanna’s site and it’s making me drool.

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  9. I’m so pleased to hear you like fruits and veggies in the same salad. I’m always surprised (and a little saddened) by people who say they hate fruit in their salad. Yours sounds so cool and refreshing and must complement the smoky shrimp nicely.

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  10. Susan says:

    An enviable and endless bounty of Gulf shrimp. Perhaps a shorter smoking session next time. They sure look good from here.

    Like

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