by Kate Heyhoe
Infusing foods with fresh herbs isn't usually done through smoking—most herbs are too leafy and tender. But if you can find fresh rosemary branches, or even thick, woody sprigs, with plenty of green leaves, you have the power to deeply infuse foods with the rustic flavor of smoke and the herby, earthy taste of rosemary—an irresistible combination.
We recently bought a house in the country that came with all manner of landscaping, including ample amounts of trailing rosemary, a bush that happily cascades down hillslopes, encircles tree trunks and whose errant sprigs even pop up between patio bricks just outside the kitchen (how convenient!).
If you're not growing trailing rosemary, invest in any decent sized rosemary plant and trim it down for an occasional smoke. Rosemary sold in markets will work too, but you'll need at least one or even two of those pricey little packages for a smoking recipe, and the stalks should be fairly thick and woody, lest they burn too quickly.
The Rosemary Smoking Process
Potatoes, chicken, turkey and salmon are my favorite candidates for rosemary-smoking. For each one the process is quite simple:
1. Season the food with salt and pepper and coat with fruity olive oil and a clove of two of minced garlic. I like to use red potatoes cut in half, chicken pieces, a halved turkey breast on bone, or salmon fillet with skin. Sometimes I drizzle soy sauce on the meats and fish as well.
2. Soak the rosemary branches in water for at least 20 minutes before smoking to keep them from flaming. Rosemary itself is an evergreen rich in natural oil and, if not pre-soaked, will ignite in the same way that forest fires do. You may need to weight the branches down if they insist on floating.
3. Next, heat either a gas or charcoal grill with a lid, keeping the lid down to retain the heat. The heat source should reach medium hot, but for best results, set aside a portion of the grill where food can cook indirectly. After the rosemary is consumed, you may need to finish cooking the food over indirect heat.
4. Remove the rosemary from the water using tongs and arrange as a loose bed on top of the grilling rack, over direct heat. Immediately arrange the seasoned food on top of the rosemary. Place potatoes cut side down, chicken and turkey skin side down, and salmon skin side down. Cover the grill and let the rosemary smoke. The rosemary bed will help keep the food from scorching, but not completely so you need to watch for flare-ups. How long you smoke depends on how much rosemary you have and the food you're cooking. The rosemary will smoke for as little as 5 minutes or as long as 20, depending on the amount and the heat. Don't open the lid for the first few minutes. After 5 or 10 minutes, if the food seems to be cooking too fast, flip it over and continue cooking—except for the salmon; don't flip it over, just let the skin buffer the heat and become crisp and crunchy.
5. If the rosemary dies out and the food isn't completely cooked, move it to indirect heat or a higher rack. Even after the rosemary has burned away, the flavor will now be in the food, so just cook the food until done.
6. Note that you can smoke two types of food at the same time using one batch of rosemary. For instance, I often smoke red potatoes directly on top of the rosemary, and cook a salmon fillet at the same time on the other half of the grill. (Salmon marinated in a sweet-ish marinade, such as one with crème de cassis or brown sugar, takes on a lovely deep golden glazed color, enhanced by the smoke.)
I have yet to try rosemary smoking on pork, tomatoes, or eggplant, but I suspect these would also lend themselves well to the process. And, with the fall season upon us, I may even try smoking squash or doing a grilled/smoked winter vegetable medly. with rosemary-smoking being so tasty, I've got yet another reason to keep the grill going all winter long.
Kate's Global Kitchen for September, 2001:
09/01/01 Scoring Points
09/08/01 Last Blast Gazpacho: Tomato and Watermelon at Summer's End
09/15/01 Smokin' Rosemary
09/22/01 Winners Announced: Haiku of Food Contest
09/29/01 The Misleading Curry Leaf
Copyright © 2001, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.
This page created September 2001