Smoke has been an integral part of our cooking since we opened in 1998. At our original location we had an inexpensive charcoal / wood fueled smoker just outside of the restaurant’s back door. We smoked all sorts of meat, fish and vegetables, we used the shit out of that smoker. In our new (2010) location we didn’t have the option of putting a smoker out back, a city sidewalk was not going to work. We needed to continue smoking food, it had become part of who we are. After looking at many options and speaking with equipment specialists we went with an electric heat controlled floor model that the specialist insisted was big enough.
We quickly realized the smoker was too small and that the the initial heat is way too high. I think it’s programmed so that we to get the smoke going quickly. The electric heat regulation is convenient, we just add smoke using wood chips and chunks; we have also smoked with different teas, coffee, dried herbs and spices. I sometimes hope the smoker we have will shit-the-bed so we can get a bigger one. Other times I think the smoker has been a work horse; most days it’s full of something, be it pig parts, pastrami, bluefish, salmon or veggies.
EVOO’s little smoker – filled with Hoosier’s bones.
After a few days in brine the thinner pieces of pig are ready for smoking. The skin is first, filling the smoker racks, adding a few chunks of hickory every hour or so, maintaining a temperature of just under 200 degrees for 6 to 8 hours. We end up with some beautiful mahogany hued smoke bombs that we have used several ways in the past. We have often braised it and used it to flavor risotto, at times we have made a stew with the smoked skin and beans. Hoosiers skin was braised, cut into strips and served with cavatelli and seared sea scallops.
Here is the finished dish Seared Sea Scallops with Cavatelli and Backroom Smoked Pig’s Skin
A video of Fredy our amazing prep cook making the cavatelli
We will progress through all of the bits that need smoking, three to four batches of skin. A 200 lb pig has a lot of skin, this will take at least two days. Then we will smoke bones another 1 – 2 days, after that the heart and a few pieces of tasso ham, followed by the head and eventually the American style hams. I will post about each of them as we work our way through this beautiful pig.
I think the next post will be about the belly, followed by more smoke and possibly saucisson sec.