By Becky Billingsley
When Chef Mike Gadson is catering a small private function or cooking at home for friends and family, one of his favorite tools for adding a smoked flavor to many dishes is a smoking gun.
Recently Gadson, who is the executive chef at Springmaid Beach Resort & Conference Center in Myrtle Beach, S.C., used his PolyScience Smoking Gun to smoke an airline cut of chicken breast. However, meats are not the only smokable items in the pantry. Vegetables and even some fruits are ripe for the flavor infusion: Executive Chef Steven Musolf of High Hammock Maverick Seaside Kitchen in Pawleys Island, S.C., uses a gun to smoke honey.
To smoke two airline chicken breasts, Chef Gadson placed the raw meat on a dinner plate and tightly sealed it with plastic wrap, leaving a small hole. The smoking gun comes with a flexible rubber tube that fits onto the end of the gun where the smoke comes out. The chef attached the tube to the gun, and then inserted the tube's other end into the hole in the plastic. Then he firmly pressed the plastic wrap around the hose to create a tight seal.
"Make sure you have a good seal on the plate," he said. "That's the trick – you've got to have a good seal."
Two types of wood shavings – hickory and apple – came with the smoking gun. The chef took a pinch of apple and mixed it on a plate with loose leaf green tea. Then he took a pinch of that mixture and placed it in the gun's top-loading wood chamber.
"For just two chicken breasts, you don't need a lot of wood," he said.
He used a long barbecue lighter to ignite the wood and tea, pressed the gun's trigger and smoke shot into the plastic-covered plate. Within seconds the chicken was invisible under a smoky cloak.
"The gun works something like an AC unit," Chef Gadson said. "It sucks in smoke when you light it."
After approximately 10 seconds the wood and tea was burnt up and Chef Gadson carefully removed the gun's hose from inside the plastic. He pinched the tube hole tightly closed and let the chicken bathe in the smoke for 10 minutes before cooking it.
"The gun gives food a light smoky flavor," he said. "It's not what you would use to smoke meat for a big party of 400, but for small amounts it's great."
The chef offers his recipes for preparing a meal with the smoked chicken.
Green Tea and Apple Wood Smoked Airline Breast of Chicken
with mushroom and country ham risotto and sautéed green beans, finished with Herbes de Provence demi-glace
Executive Chef Mike Gadson, Springmaid Beach Resort & Conference Center, Myrtle Beach, S.C.
1 bay leaf
2 airline chicken breast
Apple wood shavings
1 cup Arborio rice
2 cloves garlic, minced, divided
1 shallot, minced and divided
1 cup sliced button mushrooms
2 ½ cups chicken stock, divided
½ cup white wine
½ cup country ham, minced
1 ounce Parmesan cheese
2 ounces butter
2 portions fresh green beans
Salt and pepper
Herbes de Provence demi-glace
Mix together brine made of salt, ½ lemon, bay leaf and parsley. Place chicken in the brine and let soak at least 1 hour. Place chicken on a plate and cover with plastic wrap, leaving a small opening for the smoking gun tube. Fill smoking gun chamber with wood/tea mixture and ignite. Fill the space around the chicken with smoke. Remove smoking gun tube and seal plate tightly. Let chicken bathe in smoke for 10 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat olive oil in a saute pan over high heat and sear chicken on both sides until browned. Place chicken in an ovenproof pan and place in preheated oven to finish cooking, about 10 to 15 minutes or just until chicken is cooked through. In a clean saute pan, heat olive oil and add rice, 1 clove minced garlic, ½ of the minced shallot and sliced mushrooms. When rice is toasted, add 1 cup chicken stock. Keep stirring and reducing, and add more chicken stock as the mixture reduces. You'll use a total of 2 ½ cups chicken stock. At the end add ½ cup white wine. When the liquid is absorbed and the risotto is soft and creamy, add minced country ham. Remove pan from heat and fold in Parmesan cheese and butter. In another saute pan, heat olive oil and saute the other clove of minced garlic, the other half of the minced shallot and two portions of green beans. Saute over medium-high heat until green beans are desired tenderness and temperature, about 3-4 minutes. Finish with salt and pepper, stir and serve. To plate, place a serving of risotto in the plate's center. Put a portion of green beans beside the risotto and place a chicken breast on top of the risotto. Drizzle the demi-glace on the plate around the food in a tight circle.