Most everyone who follows me on social media knows that my three-month-old, $3,000 refrigerator crapped out completely after nearly a half-dozen repairs and, thanks to the most discombobulated customer service system from LG Electronics, I am now in my fourth week without a working refrigerator and freezer. After the fifth repair and the second meltdown that left only the water dispenser in the door working, I salvaged what little food that hadn’t gone the way of the dodo bird and stashed it in the old refrigerator in the garage. You’d think everything would be fine with that, but, due to Polar Vortex No. 972, my garage is just cold enough that the old refrigerator isn’t really functioning, especially the freezer compartment, so I’ve kept a close eye on the little food I had in there, trying to use it before it thawed for a third time. And this brings me to this little recipe I concocted the other night.
The weekend my LG refrigerator took its permanent dive to become what is now a really big stainless steel knickknack sitting in my kitchen, but before I knew it was headed that way, I’d visited my butcher. That particular Saturday, he has some thin-sliced ribeye. I immediately thought “Philly cheesesteak sandwiches and bought two pounds of the meat, sliced about like thick-sliced bacon. I managed to get it frozen when I discovered on Sunday that the fridge was toast again, but the following Friday we made it up to 40 degrees, and the goods in the garage freezer started to come undone. I wasn’t about to waste nearly $20 worth of ribeye, so here’s what I came up with:
The Bacon Maven’s Smoked Ribeye and Sweet Pepper Fajitas
For the Smoke
2 pounds of thin-sliced ribeye
1 stick of butter
2 teaspoons of cumin
2 teaspoons of chili powder
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 gallon-sized Ziploc plastic freezer bag
4 cups of mini sweet peppers
For the Stove and Kitchen
2 cups of uncooked Basmati or Jasmine rice
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 teaspoon of cumin
1 teaspoon of chili powder
¼-cup of light olive oil
2 generous tablespoons of crushed garlic
¾-stick of butter
Working with one pound of meat at a time, separate the slices, just like you would a pound of bacon, and put them in a Ziploc bag. Melt half the butter and pour it in the bag along with half the spices. Massage the bag so that the meat gets evenly coated with everything, then spread it out on one-half of your smoker’s jerky rack. Repeat for the other pound and spread the treated meat on the other half of the rack. Yes, you could organize these neatly in rows of flat strips, but you’ll likely need two racks for that and your smoking time will be reduced. My way I use one rack and my rather un-neat methodology allows for a little more smoking time; the meat is still evenly smoked, but it’s got more character, if you will, all jumbled up like this. Just make sure your layer of meat is evenly distributed and arranged so that all of the meat is getting some smoke (i.e., you don’t want a ball of meat covered up that’s never going to get a hit from the smoke.
For the sweet peppers, well, they were another casualty of the great refrigerator debacle and the bag I had in the garage refrigerator had vacillated between just right cold and freezing just a little too often. Most were still fresh and usable, but much longer and that majority was going to go the way of its frost-bit brethren. I didn’t do anything to them but chop the stem heads off and distribute them evenly across the ventilated bottom plate of a William-Sonoma beer can chicken cooker. It’s about the size of a medium sauté pan, and with small, rolly things like these mini peppers, it makes getting them in and out of the smoker trouble-free.
Meat and peppers went into the smoker with mesquite. I set it for 235, but the 20-degree day kept it at about 225. I doused a little more smoke at the hour mark, the meat coming along very nicely.
I let the smoker run for two hours, but I should have pulled the meat at 90 minutes. A little overdone for me; if you prefer your meat medium to medium-well, you’d have been quite happy. I prefer mine more rare, but I didn’t sweat any of this because I wasn’t done putting the meal together. Rare or medium-well, the taste was excellent, it’s just a matter of texture.
During the last half-hour the smoker was running, I got busy in the kitchen. I started the rice in the rice cooker, adding the sea salt, cumin, and chili powder to the water in the cooker. My rice cooker works quite fast, but I took the 15 minutes it was working to caramelize the garlic.
In a large All-Clad saucier, I heated the olive oil on medium low, adding the garlic once the oil was warm. With an occasional stir but no rise in the burner temperature, this low and slow approach absolutely transforms garlic from its almost bitter raw state to something nutty and sweet. I’ve done it at very low temps and gone up to 30 minutes for just a couple tablespoons of garlic with results so good you can spread it on a good slice of bread and never want for anything else.
Just before I pulled the meat and peppers out of the smoker, I took a large braising pan and melted the half-stick of butter on a medium temperature. Once the butter was melted, I quickly added the smoked meat, stirring quickly, then reducing the heat and putting the lid on it. I then added the smoked sweet mini peppers to the caramelized garlic, stirring quickly to coat, then stirring in most of the cooked rice. I left the burner a bit less than medium, slapped the lid on this pan, too, and let both the peppers and the meat kind of settle in for a bit, about 15 minutes or so with a stir every now and again. Finally, I added the rice and peppers to the meat, stirred to combine, then a lid again for another 10 minutes, as the flavors married. A pile of warm tortillas, a little sour cream with some sliced green onions, and a beer I’d made cold by sticking it in the snow in the backyard were all that was needed for to put the finishing touches on this highly flavorful dinner. In the end, I patted myself on the back and said to myself, “Refrigerator? I don’t need no stinkin’ refrigerator!”
By The Bacon Maven