Well, sometimes you have to dig out the grill first.
In preparation for pizza night this weekend (I used the basic 5-3 Ratio pizza dough, subbing in 20% whole wheat flour and a touch more water than 3 parts just to keep the dough a little softer), I decided to dig the grill out of the snow to smoke-roast a few garlic sausages and some duck cracklings. The garlic sausages were the main reason. But if you’re going to fire up the smoker, you might as well look for some more things to throw on there. Plus, my sister-in-law has a pork allergy, and after enjoying the duck crackings from the cassoulet on Christmas Eve, I thought that they might make a good pizza topping. And since it’s basically crispy fat, why wouldn‘t it benefit from a little hickory smoke? Turns out it’s a great idea; it was a huge hit, one of the favorite toppings of the night. We made 8 pizzas in all, and there wasn’t much evidence left of any of it, just a few slices of the final pie (and the only reason that any of that one was left was because we had just eaten 7 pizzas): smoked garlic sausage, venison-beef-bacon meatballs, caramelized onions, and garlic.
But back to the smoker. Since I had some free grill space, I was also thinking about something I had just read in Ideas in Food (which I’m really enjoying, by the way): smoked pasta. Alex and Aki write about roasted pasta first, and how that brings a richness of flavor to even the simplest pasta dishes, and then they explain how it was a short leap from there to the smoker. So I had to try it.
Okay, so the pizza turned out great, and we weren’t going to need any pasta, so I saved that for Sunday. The other idea that Alex and Aki explain is a cold water soak of the pasta before you cook it (separate hydration from cooking, if you’ve got the time). More on that (and roasting and smoking pasta) from their blog here. After a few hour soak and a drain, the hydrated pasta took just 3 minutes to cook. Planning on the smokiness of the pasta, I made a basic caponata with eggplant, onions, garlic, and capers. A few shakes of pepper flakes at the end gave it some heat, and I was pretty happy with the balance of subtle hickory smoke (which was hard to place), the acid from the capers and red wine vinegar, and the creaminess of the eggplant and olive oil.
All in all it was a pretty tasty weekend.