Smoke-Roasted Shrimp and Grilled Corn Salsa with Fresh Guacamole

Smoked food is one of my all-time favorites, and lately I have been doing a lot of experimenting and research on the topic. To avoid any burning, we start by soaking the wood which can be done in either water or a flavored liquid, like beer or wine. Smoking is also done in a covered environment to allow the smoke to penetrate and cook the food.

Different smoking methods
One type of smoking technique is called “hot smoking,” which involves a controlled heat ranging from 165 to 185 degrees. This will typically be done in the indirect method of grilling, meaning these foods are cooked through and normally reheated to eat. A couple of my favorite hot smoked foods are pulled pork and ribs.

Another technique is “smoke roasting,” which is when the smoker will reach over 250 degrees while a water pan is placed on the bottom of the oven or directly on the coals. A closed wood fire or barbecue pit is perfect for smoke roasting. The recipe that follows will smoke roast the shrimp and the ingredients for the salsa.

A final technique is “cold smoking” – one of my favorites. This offset fire burns in one box, then the smoke is piped into the other. The product is not cooked, just the flavor of the smoke penetrates the item being smoked. Then the food is cooked by a traditional method such as “searing,” mentioned in a previous article. This method is normally applied to more tender cuts of meat like chicken breast, pork chops, salmon and duck.

Which wood works?
Different types of wood to use are hardwoods, which have sugar molecules in the structural material. When burned, they caramelize, releasing color and sweet or fruity aromas, depending on the wood. Some woods to use while smoking are alder, apple, cherry, hickory and mesquite. Woods that should never be used in food smoking are soft woods like pine and firs. They have a lot of resin that will make the food taste burnt.

Using smoke for a preservative is not the norm in modern times. The main problem is that smoke only sticks to the outside surface of the meat and does not get far enough into the meat to cure. Smoke is used solely for flavor enhancing.

Smoked shrimp and salsa (serves 4)
• 8 large shrimp, cleaned and deveined
• 1/2 jalapeño
• 1/2 onion
• 1 Roma tomato, cut into quarters and seeded
• 2 Tbs. cilantro leaves, chopped
• 1 ear corn, grilled and seasoned,
kernels trimmed from the husk
• Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper, to taste
• Splash of Tabasco, to taste
• Smoking chips, soaked

Place a perforated pan into a larger pan filled with soaked wood chips. I like to put aluminum foil down so you don’t need to scrub the pot after the chips burn. Next, place the shrimp, jalapeno, onion and tomato into the makeshift smoker and cover tightly with another piece of foil. Turn the flame on high for a few minutes (this should be done in a well-ventilated area or outside on the grill to avoid setting off the fire alarm).

Smoke the shrimp and vegetables for about ten minutes; for more smoke flavor, smoke up to twenty minutes. Remove the vegetables, dice very small and mix well in a small bowl. Stir in cilantro, corn kernels and season with Kosher salt, fresh cracked pepper and a splash of Tabasco.

• 1 avocado
• 1 Tbs. sour cream
• Tabasco, to taste
• Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper, to taste

Cut the avocado from end to end around the pit, then spin in half, revealing the pit and remove with a knife. Using the tip of your knife, slice the avocado flesh thinly, then cross cut into a dice and scoop the avocado flesh from the skin into a small bowl. Mash with a fork. Mix in the sour cream and Tabasco and season with Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper

To Plate
Place a spoonful of the guacamole in the center of the plate. Surround the guacamole with the fresh corn salsa and gently put the shrimp (or any other fish that you have smoke roasted) centered on top of the guacamole and salsa mixture.

by Chef Eric K. Smith

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