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All Smoked: Spaghetti Squash, Brined Chix Legs, Cheese Manicotti w/Sauce: Q-view & Recipe

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 

Hey everyone! Thought I'd share today's spur-of-the-moment smoke. Just a slight hint of Italy here with some twists along the way from my twisted mind (LOL!!!). I have a couple items today which I hadn't seen or heard alot about, and had the chance to work some magic with, so come along for the ride!

 

I was digging in the freezer again today for some smaller items to smoke...something without the long wait, when I ran accross these...just starting a running water thaw here to get them unpacked):

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And some pre-made cheese manicotti...these will be an experiment in the smoker today...actually I've never cooked them before. My wife said the instructions (who reads them anyway?!?!?) said to boil for 4-6 minutes and add to sauce. Well, what do I know...let's smoke 'em instead, I say! LOL!!!:

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And, the spaghetti squash has been in the house for almost a week now...time to make use of it as well. My wife bought this for a dinner she was going to make several days ago and kept putting it off, wanting a recipe. I dug on the net a few days back for her and nothing seemed to lead me anywhere regarding prep, just some ingredients on what sounded like entirely too complicated of dishes for my liking. The ID sticker read that it was produced in Mexico. I prefer the KISS method, as you've probably read from me in the past. I said, why not just go for it? Go with what you think it should need? 3 or 4 days later I'm still looking at the squash, so, her loss, my gain..she had her chance...biggrin.gif... 'cause now, I'm going for it...no recipe, just my gut telling me what to do...so, experiment #2 for this smoky meal begins here:

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So, with all of the above looking me straight in the eye, what to cook today was too obvious to ignore...I just had to go for it again! Let's do Italian again, shall we?

 


 

CHERRY & RED BELL PEPPER CHICKEN BRINE (with a hint of Italy)


6 Tbls kosher salt
1/2 Tbls chili powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 Tbls rosemary
1/2 Tbls thyme
1/2 Tbls oregano
1 Tbls sweet basil
1 Tbls ground garlic
1 Tbls ground black peppercorn
2 Tbls ground dried tart cherries
2 Tbls ground red bell pepper
3 qts water
6 cups (approx) cubed ice, or refrigeration
4.5 lbs dark meat chicken pieces


Mix dry ingredients into 1.5 qts water as it is heating in a sauce pan.
Heat to simmer and remove from heat. Chill well, then pour into non-reactive container
with 1.5 quarts cold water (as needed to cover all pieces), mix and add chicken and ice
(or refigerate) to brine for 3-4 hours. If using the ice chill method, add ice as needed
to keep well chilled.

 


 

I ran water over the chicken legs to get them broke apart while the brine was chilling with ice.

 

Brine is chilled and ready:

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I actually had to stir in small amounts warm water to this as the legs brined because the thaw was inhibited from the cold salty water:

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OK, as I try to remember in all my q-views, here's your drool warning.................

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The sauce is started...recipe is found here. Today, I made a few modifications including omitting the dried red and green bell peppers, and I didn't grind anything except for the black pepper...the texture of the unground dried spices, onion and garlic should be nice, and I don't want to skew the texture of the spaghetti squash, not knowing exactly what it will be like:

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I used double the onion and garlic, so it's loaded...yeah, baby!!!:

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Time to smoke some cheese manicotti...no fancy treatment here...straight from the bag to the smoker grate, and still frosted from the freezer:

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Into the Smoke Vault 24 with a wet pan and cherry smoke @ 200*...I'll check them out after about 20-25 minutes and pull 'em to add to the sauce to finish cooking when they begin to show color changing to more of a nice tan...I hope they make it that far without loosing too much cheese:

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Time to prep the squash...spilt open with a large chef's knife...these are about 10" long:

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Quartered, seeded by scraping with a large metal spoon, rubbed with oilive oil, which reduces smoke penetration that can be harsh on more delicate veggies and also aids in binding of seasonings along with it's additional flavor, then dusted with the main spices of the sauce (minus garlic, pepper & onion) and a bit of kosker salt was used:

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Into the vault...oops, I had a feeling about the cheese manicotti...these don't seem to hold their cheese very well...I removed the manicotti and cranked the vault up to 275-285* for the duration of their smoke and for the chicken legs:

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They look like they took it pretty hard, but finishing in the pan of sauce while covered should do OK:

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This will soften up the pasta while they sit in the low simmering sauce for about 60 minutes covered up while I wait for the spaghetti squash and chicken legs...I waited about 5 minutes to place these into the sauce so the cheese which was oozing out would cool and firm-up a bit so I can salvage most of it and get it into the pot this way. The jerky grate held onto most of it, so the smoker didn't get trashed:

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Legs are out of the brine, no rinse, ready for some seasoning:

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Dusted with the same as on the squash:

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OK, manicotti aside, onto the heart of the smoke for tonight's dinner...legs are in...squash still firm after about an hout, but getting happy...still using cherry smoke wood:

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I waited to pull (literally) the spaghetti squash until it probed tender, but could have used another 20 minutes or so on top of the 2-1/2 hour ride they already had. It was sort of like trying to pull a pork butt that hadn't reached a high enough internal temp, rested long enough...you know what I mean. Well, it did pull pretty easily, it just left some of the meat of the squash on the ends behind, stuck to the skin. But, this is some pretty cool stuff to work with. The strands of the "spaghetti" run the circumference of the skin, not lengthwise as I would have thought, so being I quartered it up, the strands are shorter, but still a neat squash:

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Even with the reading I've done on these, it's much better than I expected. I've not seen it smoked, or steamed for that matter. It's about half way beween the size of spaghetti and angle hair pasta. Oh, the texture has a slight crispness to it, about like fine shreaded carrots. I love this stuff!:

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Isn't this just the weirdest, coolest thing?:

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Chicken legs are ready after nearly 3 hours...not a long smoke by any means, which I wanted today after a long challenging week at work:

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Honey (and SMF members), lets eat!!!


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Last chance to slide that key board out of the way and grab some napkins...LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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The flavor of the spaghetti squash is difficult to explain, but I'll try my best. The texture, as I mentioned above, is really a neat experience of slightly crisp and crunchy...it's actually a very, very nice contrast with the sauce and manicotti. A good pair for them, IMHO, and I'm glad I found all this stuff today to put it all into a dish while shooting from the hip, 'cause I don't think I could have planned it this way even if I had days to think it over..well, not knowing much about the squash was somewhat of a handicap, I guess. Anyway, I was able to easily identify the flavors from the spices and a hint of olive oil, mainly because I knew exactly what went into the blend, and there was the cherry smoke kind of bringing up the rear. The squash itself, is difficult to explain and I'm almost never at a loss for words...hmm, a slightly buttery, slightly bitter-sweet? The flavors seem so light and subtle that I had trouble tasting it at first, and then, it was like flicking a light switch...ah, there it is! And, then, after tasting it on my second plate (I was already full as that was a very filling meal), I got a hint of this sort of nutty flavor in the background. The smoke flavor was nice and light and seemed to compliment the overall flavor nicely, which I wanted, but then I'd been around the smoke for several hours carrying it on my clothing, so probably slightly stronger to the family...no complaints from them, though. The wife seemed to really like it and she's quite finicky about smoked foods with her recurring gut problems.

 

 

The manicotti yielded better results than I expected, but I thought I waited too long in between smoker checks when I went to put the squash in and found cheese oozing out of most of them...close call on that one. The cheese continued to come out slowly into the sauce pan, which worked out great, as the cheese melded into the sauce partially for an even better sauce without topping the dish with grated cheese, so that was an unexpected but delightful surprise. My main concern was that I lost too much cheese from the smoke, but using the jerky grate helped me to recover most of what came out the ends when I lifted them out and put into the sauce pan...no problem. Texture of the pasta was slightly aldente' for the most part, with portions being tender. If I'd been brave enough to attempt to turn them over gently with tongs/spatula, I would have gotten them cooked a bit more evenly, but I didn't want to risk having them disintegrate with handling, as they are rather delicate once they near the end of cooking. Glad I tried them though, and worth the effort to see how it would work out...maybe I'll make the time to do 'em again sometime...you just never know. All in all, when I was starting to think the manicotti was going south on me, it was doing just fine...a clever disguise it had going on there as it gave me warning signs of impending failure, when all was well. It just so happens that I got them out of the smoker about right on the money, just by sheer luck. Watch them close after 20 minutes and you'll catch them just in the right phase, is my guess.

 

 

The sauce is well-worth what little effort it takes to make it (from a rookie italian cook, anyway, meaning I know very little about italian other than I really like eating it). It's nothing like you'll get with a meal at an italian family operated eatery, as they pour their heart and souls into their family recipes just the same as I do with my smoking and grilling. If you like italian, this will put you close to that zone. I don't eat italian alot, but I really enjoy it when I do, and since I've recently started making pasta sauces and incoporating something smoked with the meal, I'm really getting into the flavor profiles you can accomplish. To put it into a more fitting context, let me just say that it's a very good basic pasta sauce. Wife and kids love it, so it can't be too bad...LOL!!!

 

 

The chicken, well, no heat in the spices, so fit for pretty much any palate. If you like a spicier poultry brine/dry rub with some heat, then I have another recipe for that found here. However, for this batch today, I wanted the italian flavor profile, and it was very tasty without having heavy flavors from the brine or dry rub, and the cherry smoke with poultry is a nice match as well.

 


 

And that, my good friends, was delicious!

 

Hmm, we even have leftovers from all portions of this...any takers? icon_wink.gif

 

Good eats and great smokes to all! Enjoy!!!

 

 

Eric


Edited by forluvofsmoke - 2/13/11 at 4:00pm
post #2 of 16

Looks awesome!!! We love spaghetti squash round here been growing them for years. my mother makes a great spaghetti squash casserole with cheeses and plum tomatoes.

 And as usual great post!!!!

post #3 of 16

Eric, As usual everything looks great. We love spaghetti squash here too. Sometimes we just steam it & serve with butter, salt & pepper. Also Judy makes a casserole with it with all kinds of mixed vegetables, topped with tomato slices & cheese. Now I'm going to have to smoke one then use in the casserole. Thanks for another idea. 

post #4 of 16

Outstanding post as usual Eric, everything looks fabulous. Personally, I can't thank you enough for taking the time explaining all you do and how you do it for the rest of us. Really appreciated here.

post #5 of 16
Thread Starter 



 

Quote:
Originally Posted by SmokinAl View Post

Eric, As usual everything looks great. We love spaghetti squash here too. Sometimes we just steam it & serve with butter, salt & pepper. Also Judy makes a casserole with it with all kinds of mixed vegetables, topped with tomato slices & cheese. Now I'm going to have to smoke one then use in the casserole. Thanks for another idea. 

 

Thanks, Al. Hey buddy, almost anything you would cook for veggies is great smoked. I will caution you on root veggies, as they can split open before they reach aldente' but if looks aren't an issue, go for it. I smoked some large carrots once, and had them split pretty deep, but they still tasted great. Oh, and smoked buttercup squash is excellent with a simple prep like I did with the spaghetti squash.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Porked View Post

Outstanding post as usual Eric, everything looks fabulous. Personally, I can't thank you enough for taking the time explaining all you do and how you do it for the rest of us. Really appreciated here.


Thanks, and you're welcome. I enjoy sharing my discoveries or new experiences with everyone here. And, I like to take a project and break it down so others will be more tempted to try it themselves. I don't think we'll ever have too many meat smokers in the world, so the more the merrier! Ha-ha-ha!!!
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by les3176 View Post

Looks awesome!!! We love spaghetti squash round here been growing them for years. my mother makes a great spaghetti squash casserole with cheeses and plum tomatoes.

 And as usual great post!!!!

 

Thanks, I (we) just lost our spaghetti squash virginity on this one right here. It's some pretty wild stuff to finish up, and a very unique experience to eat, IMO. I have never run accross anything like it. Glad I robbed it out from under my wife's tight grip to toss some smoke to it...man, that was good!

 

Thanks again, fellas! Been another fun ride!

 

Eric

post #6 of 16

Great looking meal Eric. Thanks for sharing it with us

post #7 of 16

Eric,

 

Great looking meal, many many moons ago I had a girlfriend prepare a spaghetti squash for me, she just steamed it and served with butter, man you have taken it over the top and great tutorial as usual.

 

I'm always looking for a good spaghetti sauce and yours looks scrumptious, I clicked your link for the sauce and it took me to a hot legs brine recipe, could you post the sauce link please.

 

Also, I read in your hot legs thread your were wanting to buy a dehydrator, you might want to consider building a solar, I have one and if works fine, one, two days and the veggies are dry enough to pulverize in a spice grinder.

 

Gene

post #8 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scarbelly View Post

Great looking meal Eric. Thanks for sharing it with us


Thanks, the wife and girls have been making sauces again these past couple nights, and tonight with cheese manicotti...I think I must have put up some kind of unspoken challenge to them. It's like they're trying to step it up and beat dad on something he's not supposed to know anything about, 'cause I'm a smoker, not a saucer...LOL!!!

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by JustPassingThru View Post

Eric,

 

Great looking meal, many many moons ago I had a girlfriend prepare a spaghetti squash for me, she just steamed it and served with butter, man you have taken it over the top and great tutorial as usual.

 

I'm always looking for a good spaghetti sauce and yours looks scrumptious, I clicked your link for the sauce and it took me to a hot legs brine recipe, could you post the sauce link please.

 

Also, I read in your hot legs thread your were wanting to buy a dehydrator, you might want to consider building a solar, I have one and if works fine, one, two days and the veggies are dry enough to pulverize in a spice grinder.

 

Gene


Thanks Gene, and thanks for letting me know about that link...just fixed it a minute ago. The sauce is a snap to make from dried peppers, onion, garlic, etc. Hmm, never thought about it, but dried tomatoes would be a great starter for the base if a person had some extra time to soak 'em and get 'em simmering a couple hours earlier...the whole sauce could be made from dried goods. Sounds like in your location, you probably dry alot of stuff.

 

I hadn't thought too much about a solar dehydrator, but then the weather is pretty touch and go around here. We probably only get about 2-3 days of sunny weather at a time during the summer, and nights can drop into the 50's and 60's when daytime highs are in the 90's, so it might be hit & miss on getting good results.

 

 

Thanks guys!

 

Eric

post #9 of 16

Squash is one of my favorites. That's a nice plate you put together with the manicotti on top and the chicken to go along. Man that looks good!

post #10 of 16
This is a great tutorial for the spaghetti squash, thank you so much for this! I can't wait to try this as soon as it gets a little warmer.

Thank you, and have a nice weekend!

Appwsmsmkr1
post #11 of 16
Thread Starter 

You're welcome, but, why wait? LOL!!! I've rarely let the weather stop me from smoking up the neighborhood. Back in the day when I was pounding out new methods and recipes on what seemed like a weekly basis, I was also fighting a little battle of some sort with mother nature as well. Just protect your rig from the wind as your first priority...precipitation comes second, if you can shelter that much.

 

ENJOY!!!

 

Eric

post #12 of 16

Great looking smoke, Eric.

 

We eat a lot of squash around here.  Miss Linda loves spaghetti squash, but I find it a little bland.  I really like buttercup and butternut squash, so thanks very much for the heads up on smoking them too.

 

Gary

post #13 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by forluvofsmoke View Post

You're welcome, but, why wait? LOL!!! I've rarely let the weather stop me from smoking up the neighborhood. Back in the day when I was pounding out new methods and recipes on what seemed like a weekly basis, I was also fighting a little battle of some sort with mother nature as well. Just protect your rig from the wind as your first priority...precipitation comes second, if you can shelter that much.

ENJOY!!!

Eric

Great minds think alike! You know I had to try it! It came out fabulous! Too bad I couldn't take any pics bc it basically started out as I wanted to see how hot my 22" wsm with 2 charcoal baskets and no water pan. as I was looking at the temp gauge I said to my self...hmm maybe I should try the putting the squash on. You were right the most difficult part was to cut the thing. (I did a very poor job lol) the temp held at like 325 then to 350 for a good while. I want to say that it cooked for an hour. (Company popped over so I did loose track of the time) I checked it I want to say at the 45 min mark. I put I like 2 pieces of applewood. At that point it had to go a little longer. When it was done....wow it was so good! I ate it plain. Thank you very much!

**in another post I mentioned that I have to have my gallbladder removed so I have to be on a low fat diet and I was kind of down bc of not being able to smoke, but this brought me back up!

Have a great weekend
post #14 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by appwsmsmkr1 View Post
Great minds think alike! You know I had to try it! It came out fabulous! Too bad I couldn't take any pics bc it basically started out as I wanted to see how hot my 22" wsm with 2 charcoal baskets and no water pan. as I was looking at the temp gauge I said to my self...hmm maybe I should try the putting the squash on. You were right the most difficult part was to cut the thing. (I did a very poor job lol) the temp held at like 325 then to 350 for a good while. I want to say that it cooked for an hour. (Company popped over so I did loose track of the time) I checked it I want to say at the 45 min mark. I put I like 2 pieces of applewood. At that point it had to go a little longer. When it was done....wow it was so good! I ate it plain. Thank you very much!

**in another post I mentioned that I have to have my gallbladder removed so I have to be on a low fat diet and I was kind of down bc of not being able to smoke, but this brought me back up!

Have a great weekend

 

Glad you liked the smoked squash!!! Hey, if you're just on a low-fat diet for now you can still smoke lean meats like beef round, pork loin center cuts/chops, chicken/turkey breast (just trim accessible fats prior to cooking, or separate the muscles for thorough trimming, if desired)...I could go on and on. Gall bladder issues...yeah, watch out for stuff that gases you up, like legumes, broccoli, etc.

 

Now, for the non-meat/dairy smoking projects, just about any potato or vegetable you can think of is a good candidate for a ride in a hot smoker. Sweet potatoes and yams have fats, so in your case, hold off with those. If you need help searching out the lowest fat foods, give a shout...I've stumbled across a few sites in the past that are a great sources for nutritional info.

 

 

Eric

post #15 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by GaryHibbert View Post
 

Great looking smoke, Eric.

 

We eat a lot of squash around here.  Miss Linda loves spaghetti squash, but I find it a little bland.  I really like buttercup and butternut squash, so thanks very much for the heads up on smoking them too.

 

Gary

 

Thanks, Gary!!! This was a long time ago, but seeing this thread rise to the surface again brought back some good memories. Spaghetti Squash does need a bit of coaxing to bring out the flavors, but it's pretty good if done right.

 

 

Eric

post #16 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by forluvofsmoke View Post

Glad you liked the smoked squash!!! Hey, if you're just on a low-fat diet for now you can still smoke lean meats like beef round, pork loin center cuts/chops, chicken/turkey breast (just trim accessible fats prior to cooking, or separate the muscles for thorough trimming, if desired)...I could go on and on. Gall bladder issues...yeah, watch out for stuff that gases you up, like legumes, broccoli, etc.

Now, for the non-meat/dairy smoking projects, just about any potato or vegetable you can think of is a good candidate for a ride in a hot smoker. Sweet potatoes and yams have fats, so in your case, hold off with those. If you need help searching out the lowest fat foods, give a shout...I've stumbled across a few sites in the past that are a great sources for nutritional info.


Eric

Thank you very much!!
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