“Don’t Play With Your Food”

Growing up I was repeatedly instructed, like many others were, “Don’t play with your food.”  Of course, me being me, that made me want to play with my food even more….you might say I was something of a stubborn child.  Now that I’m a stubborn adult I still love playing with my food! Perhaps this is why I loved Alton Brown’s show Good Eats in which he showed the sciency side of food.

Anyway….I don’t know if notes like this show up in your house, but I recently put a sticky note on the kitchen counter that read, “Experiment – Please do not discard!”  The note is next to a plate containing my current food experiment!

I’ve been thinking a lot about smoking (no, not cigarettes or pot) recently and somehow the idea of infusing “coffee smoke” into foods has taken root in my mind.  The hamsters on the wheels in my brain have been working overtime and thoughts about how to execute this idea of coffee smoke have been tumbling around.  My first thought was to use whole coffee beans; but I decided that the oils would probably make them likely to burn and smoke in an unpleasant way.  Then I went to the idea of grinding the coffee; but that didn’t resolve the oil problem.  Finally, I thought about soaking some mild wood chips in brewed coffee, draining them and drying them on paper towels.

So that is what’s been happening in my food lab (a.k.a. kitchen).  And today is the day I executed the plan. Since chicken is relatively mild, I decided to use chicken breast in my first test.  Surely something as mild as chicken would allow me to see if the smoke flavor tastes at all like coffee.

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After work today I got out my stove top smoker, took off the lid, took out the rack and the drip tray and added my re-dried wood chips to the bottom of the smoker.  I also added a little bit of espresso powder to potentially boost the coffee flavor.  I reassembled the smoker, put the chicken breast on the rack and slid the lid into place. Over medium heat, I smoked the chicken for approximately 20 minutes and then allowed it to cool in the smoker.

When I took the lid off, I was greeted by a beautifully smoky brown chicken breast.  The aroma was wonderful and the color was enough to get my mouth watering.  When I sliced into the breast I could tell the meat was wonderfully moist.

But the question was, “does it taste like coffee?”  The answer is, “No.”  It is delicious and smoky and will make a wonderful addition to the chicken quesadillas we’re making for dinner; but it does not taste like coffee.

Now, this doesn’t mean I’m abandoning the idea of using coffee/espresso in my smoking….I still have some ideas up my sleeve that I’ll try!  And it also doesn’t mean I wouldn’t use this method for smoking again.  The results, although not what I expected, were still yummy!

So was this experiment a success or a failure.  Resoundingly I’d say it was a success.  I was able to test my theory and produce a good result, even if it wasn’t the result I expected.  Trial and error – that is how we learn, not just with cooking but with many things in life.  So the next time someone tells you, “Don’t play with your food,” smile politely and promptly ignore them!

Please share some of your food experiments in the comments below – particularly if you’d had experience smoking with coffee!!!