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Cooking is something I have always enjoyed. I learned to cook at the apron strings of my mother and grandmother. The experience of cooking brings me both pleasure and peace of mind.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Oak Smoked Chicken Breast, Pre-soaked in a Vinegar Brine Solution

Tried my hand at 'hot smoking' yesteday on the Weber Gas Grill. Not exactly a smoker but it worked fine. I soaked the whole skinless, boneless breast in a brine solution for a couple of hours. I also was fortunate to have a newly fell oak limb in my drive that I had just cut up for firewood. Even though the wod was partially green I soaked it in warm water while the chicken was in the brine solution. To my surprise my wife, who does not like smokey meats, really loved the flavors. The key to 'hot smoking' is to keep the steam and smoke from the wood to be constant while maintaining the temperature close to 300 to 350 degrees F. This allows the meat to cook slowly and to be infused with the smokey flavors. Oak has a mild flavor and burns slowly since it is so dense.

Ingredients for brine solution
  • 1 Whole, skinless, boneless chicken breast (both halves)
  • 2 six inch sprigs of rosemary
  • 2 Cloves of garlic
  • Small handful of peppercorns
  • Small handful of sea salt
  • Approx. 4 scallions
  • Approx. 1 - 2 cups Vinegar - I used two vinegars (50/50) that I had available from previous travels. Any aged vinegar should be fine and let your taste preferences be your guide I use Aged Sherry vinegar from Fortnum & Mason, London, England and Vinaigre De Vin Vieux aromatic a' la Noix from Marcel Recorbet, France - simply an Old wine vinegar with walnut flavor
Preparation of brine solution
  • Finely chop the rosemary, garlic, and scallions.

  • In a medium sized bowl combine the dry ingredients with the vinegar

  • Place the chicken breast into the solution ensuring that the ingredients are mixed and rubbed onto the breast. The solution should cover the breast.

  • Cover and let set in the refrigerator for at least 2 - 3 hours.

    Preparation of smoker

  • Heat the grill normally but be aware of your set-up ahead of time so that you don't have to work too much with a hot grill or heat source. Read below before starting.

  • Arrange or set-up the heat source (the flame) so that the heat source will be under the smoking wood but not under the meat. On my gas grill I turned off the back burners, turned the middle burners to low and the front burners to medium heat.

  • Place the soaked smoking wood over the heat source. The set-up I used allowed the wood to be exposed to the front burner flames while it left the rear area with no flames. This is where I placed the meat.

  • Allow the wood to start to smoke. Depending on how dry the wood is it may take some time for the wood to heat enough to start smoking. It took about 30 minutes on my grill.

  • Once you have the wood smoking place the meat onto the grill without any direct flames. I let my senses let me know when the grill was ready. I did not see alot of smoke but could defintely smell the oaky aroma.

  • Close the lid but make sure there is adequate ventilation so that the wood will continue to burn and smoke.

  • Allow two to three hours for the meat to cook. You should check on the progress and turn the meat but try to keep your curiosity in check. You are using time, heat and smoke to do your cooking - opening and closing the smoker too often just delays the process.

    Plating suggestions I tasted the meat when it came off of the grill and instantly thought of mustard and a hearty sandwich. I toasted two slices of multigrain bread, spread a small amount of German mustard on each slice, placed a generous heap of sliced chicken on top of the bread then sprinkled with a blend of shredded cheeses. I used a Trader Joe's (Giotto's) Quattro Formaggio, a blend of Parmesan, Asiago, Fontina, and Provolone. I served the sandwiches open faced.  
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