Smokin' Lessons

My parents live in a remote, quiet part of the state. When I go to visit, it's peaceful and relaxing. My most recent visit involved lots of lilac-pruning and spoiling my dog, who is living with them for a couple of years while I'm wrapped within campus. The gardening work was fulfilling and something I miss from my house-owning days and the dog spent as much time as he could napping on my feet and suggesting we play with every toy he could find. It was definitely good for the soul.

Such visits also mean great food. While I was there, I got to enjoy fresh garden salads brimming with pea shoots, grilled salmon with teriyaki sauce, smoked sausage and toast with homemade blueberry-rhubarb jam and more. We work hard, laugh often and eat well. It's a good way to live.

One of the highlights of the weekend was making smoked chicken with my dad. His smoker is about as simple as they come. Heavy metal charcoal grill with a built-in drip pan with a metal rack above that. We soaked apple wood overnight and prepped the raw chickens. The cavities were emptied and cleaned. The outer skin was rubbed with a combination of poultry seasoning and a smoky spice rub. The cavities where then filled to the brim with large wedges of sweet onion and chunks of crisp celery.

The next day, the charcoal was started and a good bed of hot coals was formed and the soaked wood was added and allowed to slowly smoke. A pan of water was placed over the coals and the wire rack, complete with two large (about 6 pounds, each) prepped chickens. Then we went about our day. Lilacs were pruned, dogs were spoiled, laughter was shared. And, hours later, two beautiful smoked chickens were ready to be shared as well! We rounded out our meal with homemade potato salad and fruit salad. And it was every bit as fantastic as you might think it would be.

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