Cold weather can’t keep a good cook down, so in Food today, Smoke Signals columnist Jim Shahin takes a crack at indoor smoking. His experiment begins with ribs, salmon and a homemade smoker contraption anyone can put together. Was it worth the effort? Read and find out.
Also in Food: On the heels of last night’s State of the Union address, Tim Carman examines the state of sushi in America. Bonnie Benwick peruses the pages of a new cookbook, “The French Slow Cooker,” and finds it magnifique. And Dave McIntyre tells us about the upcoming Year of the Dragon dinner at the James Beard House in New York, where Charlottesville chef Peter Chang will be in the kitchen and wines from Charlottesville’s Jefferson Vineyards will be on the table.
You probably weren’t invited to that one. But never mind; we invite you to spend time with us in today’s Free Range chat, beginning at noon. Bring your questions, your stories and your generally sunny attitude, and we guarantee you’ll be amused and edified. But only for 60 minutes. Not enough time, is it? That’s the raison d’etre (darn that French cookbook review!) for Chat Leftovers, wherein every Wednesday I take on an unanswered question from a previous chat. Here’s one from last week:
Is granulated garlic the same thing as garlic powder? I have a couple of BBQ sauce recipes that call for the former, but I’m not familiar with it.
Some spice vendors use the two terms interchangeably. But granulated garlic and garlic powder are different — in size only.
It’s kind of like sugar: You’ve got regular granulated sugar, which comes in large grains, and you’ve got confectioners’ sugar, which is a powder. Garlic, too, comes in larger granules as well as a fine, powdery grind. Both are pure dehydrated garlic, so they can be used in pretty much the same ways. (But folks who like to grill seem to prefer the powder, saying the granules are more likely to burn over high heat.)
Because the powder is so fine, it releases more flavor faster. The generally accepted theory is that the powder is twice as powerful as the granules. So when substituting powder for granules, use half the amount called for; when subsituting granules for powder, use twice as much.
Neither of them, of course, is the same as garlic salt, which is just powder (or granules) with salt mixed in.
Most cooks much prefer fresh garlic over dried, but the dried stuff does have its place in the kitchen. It’s used in meat rubs, for example, and in spice blends.
Here it’s put to good use in a recipe for fajitas from our archives.
“Grilling” the tortillas for several seconds on each side directly on a stove burner set to medium heat gives them a bit of a pleasant char. These fajitas will be juicy, so it is best to strain the slaw and the optional salsa fresca; use a good-quality store-bought salsa fresca.
Salmon or tuna would also be wonderful on these fajitas. The chicken and slaw can be made a day ahead. The chicken can be used at room temperature or slightly reheated.
From columnist and former restaurateur David Hagedorn.
For the chicken
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into 4 pieces
1 tablespoon light olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, such as Trader Joe’s brand
1/2 teaspoon onion salt
1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder
For the slaw
1/2 pound prepared slaw mix (cabbage and carrots)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon finely minced jalapeño pepper (not jarred)
1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
For the fajitas
8 to 12 5 1/2-inch corn tortillas
1 avocado, flesh only, cut into 1/2-inch slices
Salsa fresca (optional)
Chipotle-flavored hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco brand (optional)
For the chicken: Combine the ingredients in a medium bowl. Cover and let rest on the counter to bring the chicken to room temperature (no more than 30 minutes).
Heat a dry skillet over medium-high heat until it is very hot. Place the chicken pieces, top side down, in the skillet and let them blacken for 2 minutes. Turn them over, reduce the heat to low and cover. Cook the chicken for 5 to 7 minutes, or until it registers 165 degrees on a meat thermometer. Remove the skillet from the heat, cover still on, and let the chicken rest for at least 10 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a large bowl. Strain the pan drippings into a cup, discarding the fat. When the chicken has cooled, slice it into 1/2-inch strips, place them in a bowl and pour the drippings over them. Cover and set aside.
For the slaw: Combine the ingredients in a large resealable plastic food storage bag. Toss to combine them well and refrigerate until ready to use.
To assemble: “Grill” each tortilla over a medium flame for a few seconds on each side. Place each one on a dinner plate. Line a quarter of the chicken slices a third of the way down from the side of the tortilla. Top with avocado slices; 1/4 cup of slaw; a spoonful of salsa, if desired; and a few drops of chipotle-flavored hot pepper sauce, if desired. Roll the tortillas up and serve.