Feb 21, 2010

Second Time Smoking

Last weekend was, for us, a Valentine's weekend. And my genius wife surprised me with a gift any man would love to receive... meat from McGonigle's! And beer!!!

These weren't just any meats or beers, though. They had meaning.

The beer was Anchor Steam. My favorite in the world. It's very good but I admit my lofty opinion of it comes from the fact that the first time I ever had it was on day one of our honeymoon, sitting on the rocks in Sausalito, California, looking out over the San Francisco Bay under a warm, orange, September afternoon sun.

The setting was picture-perfect. We'd landed in San Francisco, taken a cab to Sausalito, over the Golden Gate Bridge, off Redwood Highway, down the incredibly steep, winding roads that dropped into our honeymooners' refuge. We dropped our bags at Casa Madrona and immediately set out on food to find food and drink. Only a five minute walk down the street, we walked into a friendly little deli, selling everything from Italian meats to Dom Perignon. We grabbed a fresh and particularly tasty looking antipasto bean and olive salad - lightly dressed with olive oil and vinegar - and our Anchor Steam suds, and started off our vacation in what was, to us, the perfect way. I tell you all these things just to relay a piece of the wonderful thoughts and feelings that flooded my senses when I opened the fridge and saw that beer sitting there, waiting to be found.

My two meat gifts were a small piece of brisket (2.5 lbs) and a beautifully filleted rainbow trout.

Minutes after finding them, I emerged from the basement, grunting and groaning as I singlehandedly carried up my red Brinkmann smoker. This would be only the second time it had been used since being purchased. Its first use - smoked  pork shoulder for pulled pork sandwiches - was lackluster at best, so I was appreciative that Elizabeth wanted me to make another attempt.

The brisket took some preparation. I rubbed it in Koop's yellow mustard and then doused it with all-purpose dry rub; wrapped it tightly in plastic wrap and let it sit for several hours. Later in the day I got the smoke going, brought the temp up to about 235, dropped the brisket on the lower rack and the trout on the top.

When the trout came off, it looked perfect. A light crust on the surface, but moist and tender underneath. We flaked the fish off its skin with a fork, made a quick dill sour cream sauce and enjoyed an appetizer of smoked trout on crackers with big cool dollops of the dill sour cream sauce.

The brisket tasted pretty amateurish. It lacked the smoky flavor I'm used to and didn't seem to be as tender as it should have been. Once sliced and piled on a bun with Gate's barbecue sauce, we were fine with the results, but had a hard time not being a little disappointed since we couldn't keep from comparing it, mentally, to the great brisket we're used to getting in this city. I guess I'll have to keep working at it.

Theories on the sub-par brisket:

  • New smoker - hasn't built up enough use to impart super-smoky flavor
  • Low-grade hickory (Best Choice chunks from a bag I got at Sun Fresh)
  • Small piece of meat = shorter cooking time. Less time to impart smoky flavor
  • Large opening around the lid of the smoker letting out too much smoke. Need to try sealing it off with foil
To me, this is what the art of smoking is all about, though. The act of smoking meat takes a lot of time, but perfecting the whole process takes trial and error experience spanning months, if not years, and many, many pounds of meat. I got a smoker for a reason, so I'll have to stick with it.

Or, I can just stick to trout.

Thanks, B, for the wonderful gifts. You are gift enough.

1 comment:

PV Pathfinder said...

That's a pretty small piece of brisket. As a result, you probably won't pick up a lot of smoke. If you over cook it, you will end up w/ beef jerky. You can get a small brisket flat @ Costco (a shade over 5 pounds) and it will have plenty of fat on it. About an hour a pound and the fat will render off and you will be good to go! For the butt, you really can't over cook it. So just let that baby ride! As long as you are using hardwood, you should be in good shape. Have fun!

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