It is the most frustrating of seasons: Its spring but it is still too cold to barbecue. Oh yeah, Pierre down the block has fired up his gas range all winter but real barbecue, the slow, wood-burning, beer-sippin kind ain't here yet. Fortunately, there is liquid smoke.
I can hear a collective gasp. There is no other flavour that provokes the alacrity and knee-jerk consternation of liquid smoke. Mentioning this around the manse gets weird reactions "the stuff will kill you." "It's carcinogenic." No, it is a simple food flavouring. Thats all. In Texas, I have been told, they pour liquid smoke onto ribs, into sauces, maybe some use it in coffee for all I know. Used copiously it is overpowering, but used carefully, a few drops at a time, it does wonders for marinades, soups, even salad dressing. It will give the same taste as good smoky bacon and is fat free.
Here are the ingredients: water, natural hickory smoke. The brand I am using these days is Woodland. Many Metro stores carry it. It has no other ingredients, no added caramel colour or flavourings. There is a little sediment around the neck. Its natural. The colour is red gold. The smell is of late night camp fires, more pungent than autumn, of old wood cabins and crushed leaves. Heaven.
The other week I brined a large chicken breast, with the skin still on, in a mixture of 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and 1 tablespoon of sea salt dissolved in a cup of water with a 1/2 teaspoon of liquid smoke. It sat, covered in the refrigerator for a few hours. Then I drained the liquid, wrapped the breast loosely in foil and heated it, skin side up, at about 180 in a toaster oven for an hour and a half. I served it at room temperature. Everyone at the table grabbed a forkful. I told them it had liquid smoke. It didn't seem to bother them a bit.