I think the husband who loves bacon probably thinks I'm crazy at this point. Luckily, he tends to put up with my crazy food escapades as long as he gets fed. About a week ago, a box appeared in our breezeway emblazoned with the Amazon logo. Hoping it was a treat for him, I had to inform him that no, it's not anything for him, but a stove-top smoker. Never in my life did I think I'd be purchasing a stove top smoker, but I opened that box like a kid on Christmas, throwing wrapping everywhere.
Inside, a shiny small Cameron stove-top smoker and a package of 5 different kinds of smoking chips. Seriously, there was no reason to buy so many smoking chips, but in general, I go overboard on things I'm excited about. Live to extremes, much? Anyhoo, it was all purchased for this month's Charcutepalooza challenge of smoking. I'd have to say it comes up as my second favorite challenge so far (I really loved making bacon). I love a good, smoky flavor to pretty much anything - pork, salmon, even cheese.
You know what else I like? I enjoy pairing foods with booze. Isn't that an eloquent way of putting it? I felt a good smoked pork would play very nicely with bourbon. Well heck, what *doesn't* pair nicely with bourbon? I also enjoy a little bit of kick to my food, so I needed something spicy for this. Not too spicy, however, and it also had to be a little sweet. A little sweet chili sauce ended up doing just the trick. So I had the beginnings of some kind of marinade going here. I tossed a few other things in a massive Ziploc bag (fear not, actual recipe to follow), and threw our friend, a small pork loin roast, in there.
This is a recipe best planned ahead for. Ideally, you want to let that piece of porky goodness marinate for 24 hours. In a pinch, 6 would be OK, but you really want that bourbon flavor to come through, especially after smoking. Once it's soaked up all that flavor, you want to pat it dry. It's very important what you smoke is dry, otherwise the smoke won't stick. I did all this, then I got my wood chips out.
Now you could go "double-bourbon" flavor here if you have bourbon soaked wood chips. I did not, so I went classic and chose hickory chips for this endeavor. The smell of those things is seriously intoxicating.
Here's where I diverged from the road more often traveled. Most recipes for smoking a pork loin will tell you to trim the fat off first. I've never done well with a piece of pork that didn't have the fat still on it. It imparts flavor and moistness. No worries about the smoke, it'll stick just fine, and permeate that entire roast. I'll give you the smoking time down below, but you'll have to finish this one off in the oven. Smoking simply won't get it done the entire way. I was, however, crazy impressed with the Cameron stove-top smoker. It smoked perfectly, was a breeze to clean-up afterward and worked just right. I highly suggest it if you think you'll be doing a bit of smoking. Just please remember to take that baby outside to open it up initially. Otherwise, your kitchen will smell like hickory for a good few days.
So what's your reward after all this hard work? Look at that beautiful caramel-colored crust on that pork. It's beautiful, and I promise it tastes WAY better than it looks. It's smoky, sweet and hearty. It ended up being a perfect Sunday dinner in our house. It also ended up convincing the bacon-loving husband that I'm not entirely crazy because the food, well, it usually turns out absolutely fabulous.
Spicy Bourbon Smoked Pork
1 2-pound pork loin roast
1 cup bourbon
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sweet chili sauce (Frank's has a version, there also a ton of Thai versions)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
hickory smoking chips
Combine all bourbon through cayenne pepper in a large Ziploc bag or container (large enough to hold your pork loin) and shake until combined. Place your roast in the bag and marinate in the fridge 24 hours (you can do 6-12 in a pinch), flipping a couple of times so the marinade covers the entire piece of meat.
Once the pork is marinated, take out of bag and pat dry and set aside. Get your stove top-smoker going. (If you don't have either, you can do this with a wok or grill, see an explanation here). Place 1 1/2 tablespoons of hickory smoking chips in the bottom of your smoker. Place your foil-wrapped (easier for clean-up) drip tray on top and then put your oiled up (again easier for clean-up) rack on top of the drip tray. You can now put your pork roast on the rack and close the smoker up (see your manual for specific instructions).
Set your stove-top burner to medium and place the entire smoker on top. Turn exhaust fan to high. You will notice a whisp or two of smoke escape as the chips start to smolder. If you're noticing a lot of smoke escaping, consult your manual as to how to "tweak" the smoker so its seal is a bit tighter. Smoke pork loin for 35 minutes.
While your pork loin is smoking, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Once the pork is done smoking, take your smoker outside (being VERY careful, it's hot) and open the lid to let the smoke escape. Transfer smoker, minus the lid, into the oven (make sure your version is oven safe, otherwise transfer to a roasting pan or dish), and bake until brown, about 25 minutes or until your thermometer registers 165 degrees.
Take out of oven, tent foil over the top and allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing. Serve over Mashed Maple Sweet Potatoes and with Spicy Mustard Cream Sauce (both recipes below)
Mashed Maple Sweet Potatoes
3-pound sweet potatoes (about 3-4 large)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
dash of pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream (you can substitute milk if you'd like)
Boil sweet potatoes until tender, about 35 minutes. Drain and set aside until cool enough to handle, but still warm. Peel sweet potatoes and transfer back into a large dutch oven. Over medium heat, add the rest of the ingredients and mash until you reach your desired consistency. Heat through until warm.
Spicy Mustard Cream Sauce
Adapted from: Taste of Home
1/4 cup sour cream (I use Cabot's)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl until well combined. Can be made ahead and refrigerated until needed.