Eat, Drink & Be Merry: Smoking Flavor Into Your Dishes


Hey y’all! I am Whitney Miller, season 1 winner of Fox’s reality cooking show, Masterchef. These days I am creating recipes for restaurants, magazines and cookbooks, mostly recently, New Southern Table. I moved to Franklin with my husband, Ryan and son, Miller in January. Ryan is the inspiration for my smoking flavor recipes because of his love for smoking and grilling.

Summertime is perfect for cooking outdoors. When the temperature rises, you can find me with a sweet tea in one hand and grilling spatula in the other. I love adding smoked flavor into dishes even as simple as smoking garlic cloves. The smoked garlic can be used to infuse flavor into mayonnaise to create a sweet and smoky aioli to slather on burgers and sandwiches to mixing into potato salad.

Chicken wings are one of my husband’s favorites. Smoking wings can be tricky because they can easily dry out. To ensure moist, flavorful chicken, I create a marinade by combining onion, garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper with chicken stock. After the chicken wings marinade, overnight, they are smoked until the skin is golden brown and crispy and the meat is perfectly cooked. The finishing touch of sweet caramelized onions puts these chicken wings over the top.

Smoked salt is one of my chef secret ingredients. You can find it in your local grocery or spice store in assorted flavors from hickory, alderwood and even pecan. Hickory smoked salt lends a smoky, pork flavor to cooked collard greens, without the fat. A sprinkle of alderwood smoked salt over a piece of salmon can elevate a simple pan-seared version. Combining pecan or hickory smoked salt with barbecue rub spices is the secret to my oven-baked pulled pork. Even my husband can’t tell the pork didn’t smoke for hours in the smoker.

Fire up your smoker or simply add a sprinkle of smoked salt this summer to add smoky flavor into your dishes. I hope you enjoy my smoked recipes all summer long.

Smoky, Sweet, Southern Burger

Smoked Garlic Aioli:
10 garlic cloves
½ Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup mayonnaise

Caramelized Onions:
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon salted butter
1 large sweet yellow onion

Hamburger Patty:
10 ounces ground round chuck
1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
4 slices Gruyère cheese
4 Tablespoons crumbled blue cheese
4 hamburger buns
1 cup packed arugula

Layer two 5-inch by 5-inch sheets of aluminum foil on top of each other. Fold up the sides to create a box. Place garlic cloves in foil box. Pour olive oil over top. Toss cloves in olive oil.

Place the garlic cloves in the foil box in the smoker. Smoke at 225°F for 1 ½ hours or until the cloves are soft and fragrant. Remove from the smoker. Cool slightly. Pinch each garlic cloves to release the smoked garlic pulp. Discard the outer garlic skin.

Place the roasted garlic pulp and mayonnaise in a food processor. Process until combined and smooth. The aioli can be made ahead and stored in a container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Halve the onion, peel, and cut into ¼-inch slices. Place the onion slices in an aluminum foil packet. Drizzle the oil over the onions. Bring the sides of the foil packet up and crimp to close.

Add the onion packet to the smoker or grill. Cook for about an hour or until the onions have caramelized and soft. Combine the ground chuck, ground round, salt, black pepper, and Worcestershire sauce in a medium bowl. Gently fold to incorporate the ingredients.

Divide the patties into 4 equal sizes about ½-inch thick. Preheat a grill to medium high. Add the patties to the grill. Cook for 4 minutes, flip the patties over and cook for another 2 minutes. Add both cheeses on top and cook for another 2 minutes or until cheeses melt. Add the buns to the grill to heat for 30 seconds to a minute. To assemble each burger, spread ½ Tablespoon aioli over each bun half. Add a hamburger patty to the bottom bun. Top with some of the onions, arugula and the bun top. Repeat with the remaining ingredients to create the additional burgers. Makes 4 burgers.

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