According to Smoky
Welcome to According to Smoky. Here you will find the latest and greatest from C. Clark "Smoky" Hale notable 'baster', author, publisher, television star in both the barbecue and 'the real' world. And yes, he is a real person and not the webmaster.
Smoky will be offering his talents, techniques and secrets discovered over the last 150 years, or so. He will be to the point, pull no punches and if you suffer through the process, you will become a much better outdoor cook, turning out masterpiece meals for friends and family alike.
In this column, Smoky discussing some of the questions you must ask yourself the essence of Smokin . . . . . take notes!
So, with no further adieu, we turn the mike to Smoky. You're on Smoky . . . . .
C. Clark Smoky Hale
Let's Get Started...
It is truly amazing how many folk think recipes are divinely inspired holy scripture, cut-in-stone, not to be deviated from without infinite suffering. Actually, that is not even close to the truth. A written recipe is the best estimate of what went into something that turned out pretty good for the way it was done, at that time, with the ingredients used. Recipes are created to be tinkered with.
The exception is if you are a "Kraft" and have a resident genius creating a fool-proof concoction that can be accurately reproduced in tons per day. But, that is a formula, not a recipe.
But, a little warning here: If you can't really taste, stick with written recipes until you awaken your palate and nose and become familiar, intimate even, with fresh herbs and spices. We have differing talents in varying degrees. Those who hone their nose and palate to be able to taste a sauce or a dish and divine its constituents are better equipped to conceive of a final taste/texture and create it from scratch. But, muddling through works for most of us.
Recipes have a simple structure:
1. The main ingredient(s), meat, seafood, etc.
2. Supporting cast of vegetables, stock, etc.
4. Preparation and the cooking technique.
5. Finishing or final sauces.
Each of these may vary from the simple to the ridiculously complex. Let us concern ourselves with the simpler.
You may find a recipe that you really like, except, What if I substitute fresh celery for celery seed? Or, Suppose I add a little more lemon zest or ground cayenne? Lightening will not strike if you use 1/2 tsp. of ground cloves instead of 1/4 tsp, because you know that yours has been on the shelf for two years and probably has less than 20% of its original strength. Recipes are a beginning which, by the way, are not copyrighted. Experimentation with or deviation from a known recipe is a good way to begin. As you grow more confident, you can roll your own.
My recipes are usually created to use whatever is fresh. Initially, I review the available inventory or say, Hmmm. What would be good for tonight. which then generates a review of the available. This follows into, Which of the meats or sea foods, vegetables, pastas, grains available on site perks my interest. The next question is, What style? Italian, Chinese, Tex-Mex, Southwestern, Southern, Greek, Cajun, Indian, Thai, French?" And "should it be cooked on a grill on inside? So you narrow down the field to a couple of possibilities that interest your palate at the moment.
Suppose you have several egg plants fresh from the garden, plenty of tomatoes and a good supply of mild to hot chiles and a pile of zucchinis . Egg plant and tomatoes suggest an Italian treatment. Chiles offer a wild card, you can go torrid Italian or veer to the Southwest. Okay, supposing you don't intend this to be vegetarian, what will be the main ingredient. Hmm, if you break out some crab meat or shrimp, you can go Mediterranean. But, if you saute up some ground beef, you are back in the Southwest direction. Or, if you decide, to make the veggies a side dish, there is always Middle Eastern egg plant, tomatoes, zucchinis with garlic and onions for an excellent accompaniment.
What to do? Time for research.
Choose four or five of your tried and true cook books, pick up a drink and settle into your chair for some research. Read several recipes that use some or all of the ingredients on hand, mark the pages and move to the next book. Absorb the pros and cons of each recipe. But beware. Look askance at and ask yourself if you can trust any recipe calling for:
Sea salt - All salt is sea salt. Salt from pristine ancient sea beds can be had without any additives for less than $.25 per lb. Faddish salt gleaned from evaporating current polluted sea water can cost up to $10.00 per lb.
Chile powder - Whose chile powder? There are at least 2000 different ones on the market and they vary widely in ingredients and intensity of heat.
Chilies - Pray which one? There are thousands and they range from the heatless bell to the super-heated Habanero.
Dried parsley - It bears no relation to fresh.
Fresh cilantro, substituting anything for - There is no substitute.
Cumin, substituting anything for - There is no substitute.
1/16th teaspoon of anything
Scallions, which are green (immature) onions for Shallots (a distinct member of the allium family).
Monosodium glutamate which adds sodium, 13% of the population is allergic to and the recipe writer doesn't know how to make the food tender and tasty otherwise.
Liquid smoke, a fugitive from the hazardous waste dump.
Cans of Cream of Something Soup
Consider the preparation method, time and seasonings required. Then narrow down to the favorites or the ones with most potential, have a drink, review and cogitate. Begin to see, taste and smell the vision that is forming in your mind. Keep working until you begin to drool, then get up and get after it. Pursue the taste and texture in the palate of your mind.
Decide your direction. Collect up the ingredients and begin preparation. Be aware of the deviations from the one or two recipes that you are using as a beginning point. Hey! This may be a masterpiece and you want to be able to reproduce it. You may want to make a note or two.
C. Clark Hale
8168 Hwy 98 E.
McComb, MS 39648
Smoky's 5th basic position for really great barbecue'n.
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