Chow Town

Grilling guru thinks ‘outside the box’ while in KC

Smoked Planked Camembert With Jalapenos and Pepper Jelly
Smoked Planked Camembert With Jalapenos and Pepper Jelly

You’d hardly expect a meatless meal from the best-selling author of “The Barbecue Bible.”

But recently, cookbook author and PBS cooking show host Steven Raichlen demonstrated how to smoke eggs, cheese, cocktails and ice cream.

“It’s an entirely meatless meal in Kansas City!” Raichlen told the standing-room-only crowd. Attendees paid $75 for a ticket for a cooking demo and dinner at Overland Park’s Smoke ‘N’ Fire, which stocks Raichlen-branded books, seasonings, rubs and grilling gadgets.

Raichlen made a stop in Kansas City as part of his 25-city tour for “Project Smoke” (Workman, $22.95). His latest cookbook features 100 recipes for smoked foods, including hot-smoking, cold-smoking, rotisserie-smoking and even smoking with tea and hay.

The day before, Raichlen and I met for lunch at Little Piggy’s Red Wattle, where we ordered several slow-cooked and smoked sandwiches, including the Whole Porkin’ Thing, featuring heirloom-bred Red Wattle pork; the KC Cheesesteak, with plenty of melted gouda; and the Smoke ’n Fungus sandwich, topped with curry slaw.

I also invited Michael Foust, chef/owner of the Farmhouse and Red Wattle, and Linda Hezel of Prairie Birthday Farm. Hezel supplies local chefs and bartenders with an array of cultivated heirloom and wild fruits, vegetables, nuts, honey, flowers and herbs, as well as fruitwoods and straws perfect for smoking.

Her list of untreated woods includes heritage apple, crabapple, cherry and pear as well as wild black cherry, persimmon, pawpaw and plum.

Hezel brought a dozen hard-cooked organic duck eggs to the demo and Raichlen smoked them with bluestem straw over wild persimmon wood. The result was a lightly bronzed smoked duck egg white with “a patina of smoke.”

“I hope you’ll think and smoke outside of the box,” Raichlen told the crowd.

Jill Wendholt Silva is The Star’s James Beard award-winning food editor, lead restaurant critic and Chow Town blog curator. Reacher her at, @kcstarfood or @chowtownkc.

These recipes are from “Project Smoke” (Workman, $22.95) by Steven Raichlen.

The author also has a television show of the same name, now in its second season. For more, visit


Craft bartenders have begun to explore smoked cocktails. Last year’s Food Issue, which has been nominated for an Association of Food Journalists award, featured local bartenders using a handheld smoker known as the Smoking Gun. At his demo, Steven Raichlen used a handheld Smoking Gun to make the Mezcalini. Look for handheld smokers at high-end cookware stores.

Makes 6 servings

1 cup mezcal

1 cup lime juice (it must be fresh)

1 cup simple syrup or smoked simple syrup

2 tablespoons Cointreau (or other orange-flavored liqueur)

1 medium-size cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 1 cup)

1 bunch fresh yerba buena, spearmint or peppermint, rinsed, shaken dry and separated into sprigs

1/2 cup smoked salt (use a good commercial brand or make your own, or Kosher salt)

1 lime wedge, for moistening the glass rim

6 jumbo ice cubes or 18 to 20 regular or smoked ice cubes

Combine the mezcal, lime juice, simple syrup and Cointreau in a pitcher. Cover and refrigerate until serving. You can do this several hours ahead.

Just before serving, place the cucumber and yerba buena in a mortar or bowl and lightly crust them with a pestle or muddler. Stir this mixture into the pitcher. If you make the Mezcalini right before serving, you can muddle the cucumber and yerba buena right in the pitcher using a long-handled wooden spoon.

Optional: For even more smoke flavor, smoke the Mezcalini with a handheld smoker. Cover the pitcher with plastic wrap, leaving one edge open for the smoker tube. Just before serving, load the smoker with sawdust, following the manufacturers’ instructions. Insert the tube and fill the pitcher with smoke. Quickly remove the tube, seal the pitcher with the plastic wrap and let stand for 4 minutes. Stir well with a bar spoon and repeat once more.

To serve: Spread out the smoked salt in a shallow bowl. Moisten the rims of 6 large glasses with the lime wedge, then dip them in the salt. Shake off the excess. Place 1 jumbo or 3 to 4 regular-size ice cubes in each glass. Pour the Mezcalini into the glasses. Spoon some of the cucumber and yerba buena into each glass, taking care not to drip on the salt.

To make a simple syrup: Combine equal parts sugar and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook until clear, 2 to 4 minutes. Let cool to room temperature, then transfer to a bottle or jar.

Per serving: 104 calories (1 percent from fat), trace total fat (no saturated fat), no cholesterol, 22 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram protein, 191 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.

Source: “Project Smoke” by Steven Raichlen

Smoked Planked Camembert With Jalapenos and Pepper Jelly

“This recipe uses planking and smoking. You will need 1 cedar plank, such as hickory, oak or alder, preferably 6 inches square, available at grill shops and most supermarkets. If you buy cedar planks at a lumber yard, make sure they are untreated.”

Makes 4 servings

1 Camembert or small Brie cheese (8 ounces)

3 tablespoons pepper jelly, tomato jam or apricot jam

1 large jalapeno pepper, stemmed and thinly sliced crosswise

Grilled or toasted baguette slices or favorite crackers, for serving

Set your grill up for indirect grilling and preheat to medium-high (400 degrees).

If you’re charring the plank (this step is optional, but it gives you a lot more flavor), place it directly over the fire and grill until singed on both sides, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Set aside and let cool.

Place the cheese in the center of the plank. Spread the top with pepper jelly, using the back of a spoon. Shingle the jalapeno slices on top so they overlap in a decorative pattern.

Place the plank on the grill away from the heat and toss the wood chips or chunks on the coals. Smoke-roast the cheese until the sides are soft and beginning to bulge, 6 to 10 minutes.

Serve the cheese on the plank, or off the grill, with a basket of grilled baguette slices or your favorite crackers.

Per serving: 228 calories (62 percent from fat), 16 grams total fat (10 grams saturated), 57 milligrams cholesterol, 10 grams carbohydrates, 12 grams protein, 368 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber.

Source: “Project Smoke” by Steven Raichlen

Smoked Eggs

Linda Hezel of Prairie Birthday Farm in Kearney, Mo., shared a batch of hard-cooked organic duck eggs and a bag of bluestem hay with Steven Raichlen, who used them in his cooking demo. The egg white quickly took on a “patina of smoke,” Raichlen said.

For a variation, you can turn the smoked eggs into deviled eggs topped with bits of smoked brisket or bacon.

Makes 12 eggs; can be more or fewer as desired

12 large eggs, preferably organic

Vegetable oil for oiling the wire rack or grate

To hard-cook the eggs, place them in a large saucepan with cold water to cover by 3 inches. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat and simmer the eggs for 11 minutes. Drain the eggs and fill the pan with cold water. Cool the eggs in the pan until they’re easy to handle but still warm. (It’s easier to peel them when they are warm.) Return the eggs to the cold water to cool completely, then drain well and blot dry with paper towels. The eggs can be cooked and peeled up to 48 hours ahead, store in a container covered with plastic wrap, and refrigerated.

Set up your smoker following the manufacturers’ directions and preheat to 225 degrees. Add the wood as specified by the manufacturer.

Place the eggs on a lightly oiled wire rack placed over an aluminum foil pan filled with ice (the eggs should not touch the ice). Place in the smoker and smoke the eggs until bronzed with smoke, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool to room temperature. Store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Eat as you would hard-cooked eggs or use to make deviled eggs or egg salad.

Variation: If you cold-smoke the eggs, you’ll need enough fuel for 1  1/2 hours of smoking time. Preheat the cold smoker to 100 degrees or less. Place the eggs in the smoker and smoke until they’re bronzed in color, 1 to 1  1/2 hours.

Per egg: 90 calories (68 percent from fat), 7 grams total fat (2 grams saturated), 216 milligrams cholesterol, 1 gram carbohydrates, 6 grams protein, 63 milligrams sodium, no dietary fiber.

Source: “Project Smoke” by Steven Raichlen