This article first appeared in the Interiors 2015 issue of Ottawa Magazine.
By CINDY DEACHMAN
Typically, smoke is the unwanted and unloved by-product of fire. Unless, of course, you are smoking bacon, Laphroaig Scotch whisky, or sticky buns (as some have been known to do).
Know your wood, and know that breaking down its three main components — cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin — by fire will give you flavour. The sweet, fruity, buttery molecules in caramel are the same sugars found in the skeleton of a tree wall (cellulose), and the filling in that plant’s wall is hemicellulose. Lignin, the “glue from hell,” gives off phenols — aromas running from flowery to nutty to malty. (Another naturally occurring phenol, for instance, is the cinnamaldehyde in cinnamon.)
The chemistry of smoking is elemental. The method? Neanderthal.
Adrienne Courey, pastry chef at Brothers Beer Bistro, aims to recreate the iconic campfire treat with double-smoked s’mores. Here the classic roasted marshmallows on a stick with chocolate and graham crackers is deconstructed. Courey makes her own marshmallows with smoked German beer, then smokes them with apple chips. The final touch? Torching. As for the chocolate sauce, it takes guts to offer one that’s not too sweet. Courey used her mother’s 1970s recipe, which makes for an extra thick sauce. Who needs a cold, hard campground to appreciate such nostalgic pleasure? $5. Brothers Beer Bistro, 366 Dalhousie St., 613-695-6300.
Smoked Meat on Rye
“See Colonel Sanders there on top of the oven?” Jeremy McDonald of Meat in the Middle asks. The statuette serves, he says, “as a reminder to not do that.” McDonald and his business partner, Bruce Robitaille, certainly don’t want their joint to turn corporate. Because their food ain’t so fast. Smoked meat, one of their tastiest offerings, is brined for 10 days, encrusted with herbs, then smoked for an hour and slow-cooked for up to 10 hours. Slapped onto Rideau Bakery rye, slathered with hot dog mustard, and served with a dill pickle, the meat drips with flavour — just enough fat, just enough lean. Don’t worry — big corporate worlds can’t even come close. $8.50. Meat in the Middle, 311 Bank St., 613-422-6328.
Apple-Wood-Smoked Baby Back Ribs
If there’s any smoking happening, make it baby back ribs. Popular or what? Although Joseph Thompson, chef and co-owner at The Swan at Carp, has been smoking these puppies for 20 years, it’s only recently that he has done it to different meats and seafood. As for the ribs, the smoking is done with a light touch. “Nothing worse than chewing a cigar,” says Thompson. Afterwards, the meat is dabbed with barbecue whisky Dijon mustard sauce. Tender, juicy meat, falling off the bone — I’m at one with the majority, for once. $17.95. The Swan at Carp, 108 Falldown Ln., Carp, 613-839-7926.