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Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of liquid smoke is how it’s made. It may seem like some magic potion corked inside a bottle, since how could smoke ever become a liquid? But in fact, the process is so sensible and straightforward that I am not surprised by how inexpensive the product is, but rather by how obscure it remains.
Liquid smoke starts with wood. The two most popular varieties are mesquite and hickory, but apple and pecan woods are also used. The wood is heated to a slow smolder until smoke begins to waft from the hot wood. The smoke, and its flavor, is trapped in tiny particles of water vapor. Once cooled, the water vapor condenses back into liquid form, still containing all the flavor. Liquid smoke is then aged, and finally filtered before being bottled.
I have been raving extensively about the benefits of bison meat, and in this recipe, I marinate the bison in liquid smoke, then crust it in spicy black pepper. Then, I simply roast the steak, slice it, and place it in a French roll with horseradish crème fraîche and baby arugula.
The result is, as with last week’s experiment, fascinating. The peppery spice comes through from the black peppercorns and the arugula leaves, while a cold heat comes from the horseradish crème fraîche.
But in that background of the meat is this sweet, subtle smokiness, and yet the meat has the tenderness of just being roasted high and fast in the oven, not crusted on a grill. The whole sandwich takes on a delicacy and complexity that I know you’ll admire, and will have those you feed demanding, “what’s in there?”
- ½ pound buffalo/bison top loin steak
- 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
- 1 tablespoon chunky-ground black peppercorns
- Vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons crème fraiche
- 1 teaspoon prepared white horseradish
- 2 French rolls, sliced in half horizontally
- Baby arugula
Place the bison steak in a baggie with the liquid smoke, and marinate in the fridge for 2 hours.
Preheat the boiler.
Season the bison steak with salt, and then crust it with the smashed peppercorns. Drizzle with vegetable oil, and place on a small baking tray.
Broil the bison 5 to 6 minutes per side, right up under the boiler. Allow to rest 10 minutes, then slice about 1/8-1/4 inch thick.
While the bison is broiling, whisk together the crème fraiche and the horseradish.
To assemble the sandwiches, slather both sides of the rolls with the horseradish crème fraiche. Arrange the sliced bison on the bottom of the roll, and top with a smattering of baby arugula leaves. Top with the top of the roll.
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