Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father's Day with the Big Chief

I've been a smoker for about as long as I can remember. In fact, my dad taught me the basics of smoking back when I was probably my son's age (nine). So, in observance of Father's Day, I figured it was only fitting that I fired up my new Big Chief smoker to make a family favorite -- beef jerky.
This recipe I found in while I lived in Atlanta, in American Game Cooking, a cookbook that a buddy gave me. Newly married and living in a small apartment, we didn't have a smoker, so I made it in the oven with great results. But nothing beats the flavor and depth of a piece of red meat done in a Luhr Jensen smoker. Actually, they're no longer labeled as Luhr Jensen smokers (yes, the lure company), but are now branded as Smokehouse.
No matter, it's the same exact device as it was 35 years ago. They're simple contraptions... a riveted aluminum box, layered with wire racks, and a pan that rests on an electric heating element. They're damned reliable, too. My dad gave me his Little Chief smoker nearly 10 years ago, and it worked admirably until last fall, when it finally bit the dust. That's 35 years of jerky and chickens in one little machine. So when the time came to replace it, I figured I ought to stick with this little silver wonderbox. Here's the recipe.

2-3 lbs. lean beef roast (I typically use a rump roast. Venison, duck, sharptails, and woodcock also work quite well)

1/3 cup dry sherry

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/3 cup chicken or beef stock

3 tbs rice wine vinegar

1 tbs brown sugar
2 tsp chopped ginger

2 minced garlic cloves

2 tsp black pepper

Sriracha or Tabasco to taste

Put the roast in the freezer for at least an hour. Partial freezing makes it much easier to cut thinly. Combine all ingredients except for the meat, and bring to a boil. Once it boils for a minute or two, remove from the heat and allow to cool. Trim any fat from the exterior of the roast (fat can turn rancid even after smoking). Slice the meat thinly -- 1/8 inch is about right -- but consistency is more important than thickness. If some pieces are thin and others thick, half your batch will either be overcooked or undercooked. Brine the meat in the fridge overnight, for at least 12 hours. Lay the pieces on the smoker's racks, ensuring that pieces don't touch. Doneness is really a matter of knowing your smoker. Dad's Little Chief took 10 or 12 hours, but the new Big Chief only takes about five. Let it cool, and store in the fridge in a ziploc bag. I'm not sure what the shelf life is -- it's always been eaten within a couple of days.

Like many of my recipes, this one is served best with beer. You can take it anywhere with you, but it's particularly tasty after a hard day of hunting, eaten while sitting on a tailgate with a Boulevard Stout, sharing the day's memories with a good hunting buddy -- like my dad.

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