A couple twists in how I’m taking on the February Charcutepalooza challenge. I’m doing pancetta, but I’m using Ruhlman’s website recipe, which differs slightly from the book version. I’m simultaneously making smoked chicken wings on my Big Green Egg, both to liven up this blog post and feed my fiance and her friend after they’re done painting our bedroom. With that last sentence, I’ve given you behind the scenes insight into life at my house. While my fiance is driving screws into a brick wall to hang a flat screen TV, I”m busy making quinoa. I’m not even allowed to paint anymore, after my last foray taping for cut-ins, which left us with a unique lightning bolt trim pattern in our back bedroom.
I’m also toying with the notion that for every Charcutepalooza challenge, I’m going to add a separate smoked meat exercise. The Big Green Egg, for the un-indoctrinated, is the single greatest cooking implement ever created. I have never cooked anything on it that wasn’t good. You will hear me evangelize on this point regularly.
For the pancetta, the pork bellies I’m using are nothing to look at it and too small to roll the traditional way. But they’re from hogs I did myself, and Ruhlman’s blog recipe allows for air drying instead of chamber curing (mine’s full of spanish chorizo).
Simple salt cure – 2 cups kosher salt, 1 cup sugar, 10 teaspoons pink salt.
The spice mix includes crushed juniper berries (2tbspn), toasted/cracked black pepper and coriander (4tblsn/1tblspn), garlic (4cloves), crushed bay leaves (4), brown sugar (2tblspn), and thyme (sprinkle).
After dredging every surface of the belly with the salt cure, I split the spice mix in two and massaged it into both pieces. Bagged em up and in the fridge for a week, to be shaken up every day or so.
Meantime, I had a big batch of chicken wings dry rubbed with Willingham’s spice from Memphis, TN. A few worthwhile factoids about John Willingham, the company’s founder: he holds the patent for the nasal spray bottle, he played for the St. Louis Cardinals at one point, and his team won Grand Champion at the American Royal BBQ Contest in Kansas City twice. Cool as that last part is, his spicy dry rub is not. More on that in a subsequent post.
My chicken wing approach is as follows. With a Big Green Egg or another easily controlled smoker – plus the right rub – you cannot go wrong. Huge crowd pleaser. Trust me.
I dry rub the wings liberally and leave them overnight. About two hours before they go on the grill, I take them out of the fridge to get to room temperature. Closer to grill time, i take them out of the bags and dry them really well with paper towels. This is probably the single most important step in the process. It’s with your while to even try to rub off some of the excess rub as well. I soak some applewood chips for about 30 minutes, fire up the smoker to 250degrees, drop the chips in, and put the wings on indirect heat. One hour in, I turn the wings for even smoke. Two hours out, I pull the perfectly smokey, fall-of-the-bone tender wings off the egg. I’ve tried three rubs to this point: Smokin’ Guns from KC, Slap Ya Mama cajun rub, and the Willingham’s. They’ve all had their own character, but one really stands tall.
Later this week, I’ll post a verdict on the wings. More on the pancetta in a week.