Spring is officially upon us, although you would never know it by the gray, cool and rainy weather we have had recently. Nonetheless, it’s time to shift culinary gears and move to a springtime menu.
The first change that I make is to get out the grill and smoker, dust them off and start looking for the hickory wood that I prefer. I have about half a stump of hickory left over from Hurricane Katrina, but I ration it as it seems extra special.
The bags of chunks you can buy at the big box store work just fine, and I am not opposed to mixing in some mesquite wood as well. If it is a big, long burning fire I am after, I start with a bed of hard wood charcoal. Once it has burned down to white hot coals, add larger chunks of wood, and if it is smoke you are after, soak the wood chunks in water for a few minutes first. If it is a shorter burning fire, you are after, just use wood.
Start with small pieces (being very careful with the fire starting liquid), once it gets going good, add larger chunks. It’s better to have a fire that is larger and burns longer than one that burns out before the meal is cooked. Remember to let the flames die down, so that you are cooking over a bed of white hot coals, other wise your food with burn and not be cooked through. Flames are OK for roasting marshmallows, but not cooking meat.
I have a home-made smoker (see attached) that works just fine as a smoker and grill. I put it together for less than $100 and if you have seen the price of smokers at the store, or even on amazon, you know what a deal that is.
There are lots of things you can cook on the smoker/grill, but my favorite is pork tenderloin. It really is not that expensive, and if you treat it with care, it is a showstopper. My favorite recipe has Greek influence and is as easy as it gets.
Give the loins a good olive oil rub down, then season heavily with oregano. That’s it. Please do not overcook pork of any cut, but especially loins. Long gone are the days of having to worry about trichinosis, so just a tad pink in the center is exactly what you are looking for.
Serve by cutting into rounds and topping with a healthy scoop of goats cheese. This grilled pork recipe goes amazingly well with a Greek salad (tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, feta cheese, olives and olive oil and a sprinkling of oregano). Pair with a good Beaujolais or pinot noirs, and you will blow your guests away.