I don’t do a lot of smoking. I won a smoker a few years back for a photo of some meat, and guess what – I never used it. It stayed in garage, unopened in the box. Well, honestly, that was mainly because it was one of those that used these dicey pellets of reformed wood and with me being the hippy that I am I didn’t want to smoke my food with a bunch of unknown substances that hold that reformed wood together. I imagined it to be kinda like smoking food using MDF. Nah, not for me.
One book, which shall remain nameless because honestly it isn’t all as bad as this, recommends smoking in a wok using sugar as the fuel if you want to smoke food indoors. Since it is winter and raining here in Seattle, that seems like a good idea. Guess what – it tastes like burnt sugar, and that is being polite.
Instead I decided to try my hand at using the wok smoking technique but with proper wood chips – apple wood chips to be precise – I thought that might be a rather nice way to cook delicata squash. Turns out it is, especially if you smoke for 10 minutes and then finish in a very hot oven or under a broiler to caramelize.
A favorite restaurant of mine here in Seattle, Sitka & Spruce (which unfortunately seems to have doubled their lunch prices and halved the portions of their oh so lovely food) does some great stuff with marinaded feta, and frankly I want some of that action too. I have been pairing feta with a lot of stuff recently and I really enjoy the sharpness of it with this smokey rich squash. Pair that with a lovely spice and herb tang from the marinade and I reckon this whole thing is a bit of a winner.
Smoked Squash with marinaded feta recipe
1 delicata squash
handful of wood chips of choice
1 packet of decent feta cheese
a few sprigs of rosemary
2 tablespoons fennel seed
2 tablespoons coriander seed
sherry vinegar – about 1 tablespoon
1 clove of garlic, peeled
small bunch of chives
salt and pepper to taste
24 hours ahead of time break the block of feta up into 1″ squares. Toast the fennel and coriander seeds briefly in a hot pan until fragrant. Yank the leaves off the rosemary stalks. Put the feta in a bowl with the coriander and fennel seeds and throw in the rosemary. Cover liberally with olive oil, and a few grinds of black pepper. Let this sit covered, in the fridge for a day or so.
Cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Cut these two halves across in to half-rounds about 1/2″ thick.
Toss with a little salt and pepper.
Soak your wood chips of choice in cold water for about 20 minutes. Line a good sized wok with a double layer of foil. Drain the wood chips and place in the bottom of the wok. Torch the wood chips with a blow torch (plumbers blow torches are the best for this, and lighting charcoal barbeques!) until they are smoking. Turn the heat up under the wok to keep the smoke going constantly. Put a small rack in the wok – making sure it sits an inch or so above the smoking chips. Carefully put the squash on to this rack in a single layer. Cover the wok and smoke the squash for about 8 minutes. Turn the squash over and smoke for 7 or so more minutes.
As the squash is smoking make the dressing. Smash the clove of garlic up with a little salt until it is paste-like. You can use garlic confit here, which will give a far superior taste (just gently simmer garlic cloves in olive oil for 20 minutes to confit them). In a small bowl whisk together 1 tablespoon of sherry vinegar with 3 tablespoons (roughly) of good olive oil. Whisk the garlic in to this. Season with salt and pepper.
Finely chop the chives.
Once the squash seem to have taken on a mellow smoke aroma, remove them from the smoker. Finish them under either a very hot broiler, or a hot oven – 450F or so until nicely browned – say 5 minutes for the broiler, 15 minutes for the oven.
NOTE: I have a very hot ceramic salamander style broiler that does a brilliant job of very even browning on food – it does in a few minutes what it takes an oven 20 minutes to do. I do a lot of root veg under it these days, cutting down my cooking time. If you broiler isn’t so even, I suggest sucking up the extra time and roasting them in an oven.
Take the feta out of the olive oil marinade. Worry not if some of the spices stay on the feta. Arrange the feta and squash in a bowl, and toss with the chopped chives. Pour over the garlic dressing, and finish with some good sea salt. You know, the British stuff.