Serious Eats: Recipes

The Secret Ingredient (Liquid Smoke): Smoky Bison Sandwiches

Note: Throughout October, Kerry's secret ingredient is liquid smoke.

[Photographs: Kerry Saretsky]

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?"

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Smoky Bison Sandwich

About the author: Kerry Saretsky is the creator of French Revolution Food, where she reinvents her family's classic French recipes in a fresh, chic, modern way. She also writes the French in a Flash series for Serious Eats.

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