Baby, it's way too hot in my outdoor kitchen for tending a charcoal fired dutch oven today. I wanted to revisit my DO recipe today (found HERE), but........................hey, wait a minute..................what about smoking it? DONE!!!
Let's build some chowder, shall we?
I mentioned ingredients in the thread title only because there's so many variables to consider when making a chowder. As long as you have the basic ingredients on hand, toss in whatever else you please to make it suit your liking and/or pantry/fridge/freezer stock items. I strongly dislike making a trip to the store for items called for in a recipe when they are not an absalute necessity. Baking and curing/drying sausages/meats are times when you must follow the recipe to the letter, but this is not the case. That's why it's such a versitile dish. Oh, and did I mention it's very tasty and relatively easy? Well, continue reading and you can be the judge of that yourself...
This is a bit different than my original, but the basic idea remains the same, other than I'll be smoking this batch, and I went for an easier version with dried onion & garlic instead of fresh. And a bit less condensed milk in the liquids for the base...it seemed just a tad heavy the first time around, but very good overall.
***for a double batch with two half size 4" deep steam table pans...serves approx 20-24***
5 lbs gold potatoes (approx 12 cups, large diced)
6 lbs frozen corn
1/2 lb butter
4 cans evaporated milk
4 cups water
3/4 cup chopped dried onion
1/4 cup minced dried garlic
2 cans (small) chopped green chiles
2 lbs pork breakfast sausage
2 lb bag frozen, cooked & peeled, medium/large large shrimp (61-70 count per pound) ***begin fridge thawing the night before***
Onion, garlic and butter into stainless steel 4" deep half-size steam table pans...love these, btw, and need to get a few more:
I quartered the taters lengthwise, then sliced approx 3/8" thick into the measuring cup. I dumped 4 cups of taters into each pan and had two large ones left to cut up, so I split the difference, with one per pan...:
...along with the condensed milk, green chilies...:
...and frozen corn. I folded this altogether, then hit the Smoke Vault 24 @ 275*:
Into the smoke @ 2:00 pm mountain time. After about 20 minutes in @ 275*, the butter has melted and has surfaced, so it's heating through nicely already without stirring. I'll wait until about the first hour (give or take) to let it begin to simmer (I can view through the top vent of the smoker) and turn the temp down to 225-235* for a slow simmer. The, I'll get the sausage crumbled on grill trays and into the Vault shortly after for about an hour of smoke. Then, I'll dropthe sausaget into the pans along with the base ingredients. Shrimp will get a 15-20 minute smoke @ 225* about 30 minutes before chow...er, uh...chowder time, then, added to the mix:
I was ready to catch a bit a flack from the wife when I carried this outside to teh smoker, cause I already said a dutch oven just was a bit more than I wanted to deal with in the heat today. She didn't give me the "you don't have to smoke everything, you know" line, so I figure I'm safe today...LOL!!!
Just a very, very light pecan/apple smoke going for this one.
Sausage is in @ 90 minutes (3:30 pm) with chamber temp of 225*...one pound per disposable aluminum grill tray (trays were part of a multiple item father's day gift...I guess the family likes my cooking if they're prodding me along with more and more gagets, gizmos and thing-a-ma-bobs. Heh, it's gotten to the point where they buy stuff just thinking "I bet Dad could use this"...anyway, today, I did use two of the 3 of these that came in the package...they wash right up with a nylon brush and hot soapy water for the next round, btw, so I won't toss 'em 'til they're destroyed:
The pans are almost 2/3 full without the 2lbs each of sausage/shrimp which will be added to finish it all up:
An ever-tantilizing aroma from the pecan/apple smoke woods and slow cooking chowder is venting out the top end already...can't wait to try a bowl (or 3) of this.
2 hours, 15 minutes (45 minutes for the sausage)...color check of the pork...still needs a bit longer for mild browning...gotta have some more color in that chowder:
Chowder base is coming along nice and slow, with a slight bubbling on the surface...may need to give it a gentle stirring here in a bit...hmm, seems as if it's taking on a slightly darker color, possibly from the smoke?:
1 hour, 10 minutes for the sausage, and it looked good enough to eat, so we will...I worked them gently with a spatula, and most lifted off clean with just a cou7ple that wanted to hold on tight to the tray...nice tool for these small items, I will admit:
The chowder, after it's first stirring...gotta wait for a couple hours now to smoke the shrimp and drop 'em into the mix. BTW, the aromas of the chowder base are really coming together already...the corn, garlic, and a bit of onion, with a slight hint of the green chilies, all marrying up for a great meal later when the smoked shrimp hit the mix...going back into the smoke @ 250*:
Oh, I rotated the pans from left to right when I put them back in after stirring in the sausage in case I have uneven grate temps form side to side. Even in the SV24, two of the half size pans fills a grate space rather tightly, with less than an inch of gap from chamber wall to pan on all sides as you've already noticed, so it definitely can change the flow of heat and smoke throughout the smoke chamber. I could place the pans in a sracked configuration as well, with a 4-8" gap between them, but there's a slight variance from top to bottom grate temps to consider then, too, so rotations would be in order no matter which route I go...it's a vertical smoker niche which I've seen on all three of mine, but is much easier to manage than grate temp variances with a horizontal.
4 hours in, and the weather is turning. Temp dropped from 102* to 92 at the 3 hour mark, and now I'm looking at 84* with a rise of relative humidity from 21% to 35%, so with the clouds moving in, there's got to be a storm getting ready to stomp on my parade. Unless a tornado comes of it, I have no worries, though. Carry on, my trusty smoker.
5 hours, 30 minutes in...it's time to smoke some shrimp...the chowder so far, untouoched since I added the sausage:
The shrimp de-tailing detailing..(ha-ha!!!) is over, and they went in @ 7:30 pm for a ~8:15 pm dinner tonight. Remember, these are pre-cooked, so I only want to heat them through while they smoke, then drop 'em into the chowder just a few minutes before serving so they don't get too leathery and tough. Pre-cooked isn't the best choice, but it's available to me at an affordable price, by comparison. Hey, why is it that most every raw, frozen seafood is so high priced when you go inland? (fresh is un-thinkable, btw)
Into the Vault @ 225* (dropped it back a pinch again):
6 hours in (30 for the shrimp), and the rest is history:
Toss it altogether one last time, and it's back in the smoke @ 250* for another 15 minutes to be certain the shrimp is heated through, then, let's dine, shall we?
OK, flavor and aromas are great, as you probably already know juast by looking over what went into this dish. A bit stronger garlic than the original DO recipe, and not quite as heavy either, so I pretty much nailed that part down. Smoke was light and a very good match all around. Liquids after the smoke cleared were just about dead on where I like it as well, with just a bit of free liquid among all the taters, sausage, corn and shrimp.
Wife said it's a masterpiece, and she's skeptical about somethings that I smoke (you don't need to smoke everything). Kids were filling their bellies with very little conversation while they ate, so, the absence of vocal cord excersize told me I had another hit for food to be more important than anything else...especially with 4 teens in the house...ha-ha!
Now, here's the part that confused me when I grabbed a tater for atexture check after the shrimp hit the chowder mix for 15 minutes: perfectly done taters...just enough time and temp to make it tender, yet not soft. You could mash them with some effort with a fork, but the chew is the same all the way through, no mush, no tough spots...what the heck did I do right this time??? Well, it's not like the first DO batch was a flop...it wasn't, just a slight bit aldente with the taters, if I recall...maybe 15 minutes longer over the fire with the DO would have put it in a picture perfect state. Today, I didn't even bother checking the taters until the time I specified that it would be ready, and nailed it...kind of makes me want to step back and take a breath while I ponder the possibilities of things to come...it can only get better, right? I digressed, but I do that alot...
Anyway, my confusion comes from using a rough guestimate on timing for the overall cooking of this dish today at a given temp...no calculations, no references, just some thought about the weight and depth as I plugged this recipe/method into the computer last night for note keeping. Crap, it can't be sheer luck, but I may need something more difficult to overcome again...I don't find taters that easy to cook for a dish like this...kinda like cooking rice, as there seems to be an art to it...but, that's just me.
It may have looked like I was pretty busy with this smoke, but I had plenty of leasure time to load and post pics and commentary along the way...a few minutes here and there after the taters were cut up and the pans went in, so, a nice, slow paced meal prep, just the way I like it most days.
You know, it's a different way of putting together a rustic dish (not using a DO where it's due), but man, with the smoke? Oh, yeah...this is a redux, IMHO. I checked the fridge thinking we still had celery after I started putting it all together, but the celery was history, otherwise, we had everything on hand that I wanted for this dich...simple, and easy to do is a big plus for me, 'cuz I seem to find myself buried up to my neck in cooking projects most of the time, and can things can get crazily complicated and hold a frenzied-pace for the majority of the project. I can hold my own just fine in that environment which I create for myself, but it was nice to slow down and take it easy today.
I just finished my second bowl of chowder while reviewing before submitting, and you can stick a fork in me now, 'cause I'm done.
Been fun, all! ENJOY!!!